In my most recent book Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing links (Anti-intuitive Essays for Personal Transformation) I challenge the notion of human goodness in the context of most contemporary religious traditions.
Both Emanuel Swedenborg and George Gurdjieff stated that sincere goodness is not just a state of the heart and mind ruling one’s actions, but the biological fabric of our innermost reality. Spiritual love not only takes form in our actions, it also weaves our spiritual/angelic organs. Without this rarefied organic structure we would lack the proper form for perceiving and acting in heaven’s holy biosphere. Swedenborg and Gurdjieff each insisted that God’s heavenly realm is a real living environment with its own special ecology.
This idea is certainly anti-intuitive to most people who faithfully attend church, hoping to do God’s Will, because they give such a seemingly non-theological notion no thought. This causes worshippers (even in the Swedenborgian church) to concentrate on goodness rather than on the actual steps required for personal regeneration.
Evidence for this, is the lack of discussion and grasp of the topic of “remains.” Swedenborg described the “remains” as a plane deep in the human psyche where God’s heavenly influences have a place to take root. Without such a plane for spiritual forces to flow into, the human race would not be human and would quickly perish (this is another anti-intuitive thought for those who do not realize our true condition).
(George Gurdjieff commented on a similar psychical plane containing sacred data within the human subconscious mind—Swedenborg called it the internal natural human mind).
The point is that genuine spiritual growth depends on the evolution and maturity of the “remains” to develop into a fully organic inner (spiritual) body. Overlooking this potential bio-structure causes even those worshippers with authentic hopes of becoming angels of God to miss a couple of important steps, and rather, to focus directly on goodness and acts of charity itself.
This flawed strategy of worship provides a calming effect (including self-affirmation) rather than the potentially painful dealings with our unflattering inner flaws. Unfortunately, good actions do not bring about spiritual purification—without personal inner combat and temptation. Such purification from one’s intentional inner conflict promotes an angelic state of innocence and allows the “remains” to develop organically into a full and complete spiritual body (which clothes the soul).
The Lord’s spiritual combats and glorification symbolize the process of regeneration that the human race must voluntarily engage in to make goodness spiritually genuine.