by Shannah Conroy
For this installment, Shannah Conroy, an intern with the New Century Edition (NCE), was asked to give her impression of working with the NCE editorial team.
At first I saw a major obstacle to describing the work of the team that translates, edits, and prints the New Century Edition. I undertook this writing assignment in mid-March 2020, while large areas of the nation and the world were in lockdown. Workers everywhere, not just members of the NCE team, had just been separated for what felt like forever (even if it was promised to last only a couple of weeks). How, I thought, could I report on how the NCE works as a group when we had more or less been disbanded to hide out in isolation?
But then I realized that the really important features of our teamwork are still in place to be described. Thanks to technology, even though our physical gathering in a single place may be put on pause for a time, our work community is still intact; and because of the flourishing of our work community, our spiritual community continues to thrive. And this is very much in line with what Swedenborg reports about how the universe operates. “Angels engaged in similar activities,” he says, “form a single community” (Heaven and Hell §41). Throughout his works, he repeatedly says that angels are united in a spiritual community by what they love and by the useful functions they serve (Heaven and Hell §§64:2; 387, 391; Divine Love and Wisdom §§141, 143, 368, 431; True Christianity §447; and many other passages).
And that’s true not just of the angels. Through the same means each of us is connected to a spiritual community “even while we are living in our bodies” (Heaven and Hell §438; see also §510). As Swedenborg says:
Heaven is differentiated into communities, and so is hell. Every spirit is a member of some community, is sustained by an inflow from it, and therefore acts in harmony with it. This is why we are united with heaven or hell just as we are united with spirits. We are actually united to some community there, the community we belong to in respect to our affection or our love; for all heaven’s communities are differentiated according to their affections for what is good and true. (Heaven and Hell §294)
So, even if I can’t be in the same place as Chara Daum, Jonathan Rose, Lisa Hyatt Cooper, the folks at offTheLeftEye, and all the others I work with, our spirits continue on together, united by our common love of creating a modern, accessible translation of Swedenborg’s works and making it useful to as many seekers as possible.
So at this moment in time, this is the key report I need to make about the NCE team: we are spirits together, working on a shared goal. Through e-mail, video conference, texting, etc., we are all able to commune in mind and spirit and continue our useful work. I continue sending translated Swedenborg quotations to Karin Childs, who continues her research in Swedenborg’s works for upcoming offTheLeftEye programs, and I continue prepping translations for Jonathan’s edit, who continues working with Lisa on the new volumes of Secrets of Heaven,and so on. We all continue toward our shared goal of conveying Swedenborg’s message in ways that people can easily understand—we continue working together, even if from afar.
But our little group working on the NCE is just one example of such spiritual connections. In the same way, the world at large is able to form and maintain communities of like-minded individuals regardless of the separation of its physical human bodies. Whether you love technology or have reservations about it, you have to admit that it’s wonderful to live in an age in which a spiritual community is able to find expression via the physical system that supports the world-wide web. Though interpersonal dynamics over the internet presents many new challenges, there is something very beautiful about our natural world evolving in a way that resembles heavenly, affection-based geography so closely.
That is the reason that for now, from this vantage point in March 2020, I’m looking on the bright side—the spiritual side—of our current working arrangement.
Shannah Conroy graduated from Bryn Athyn College in 2019 with an advanced interdisciplinary degree in math and religion. She started working for the Swedenborg Foundation in July 2019.