New Mind: The Benefits of Thinking Impersonally

  • An Angelic Mindset

    This video takes a look at “thinking impersonally” in a positive sense. Often we focus too hard on the people involved in situations, which can lead us to competitiveness or unnecessary judgment. It includes a few examples of practical application of this concept, which Swedenborg wrote was essential to the “angelic” or higher mindset.

Excerpts for Exploration

  • And there was no one interpreting them for Pharaoh means that it was not known what would happen, as the following shows: To interpret means to know what will happen, so no one interpreting means not to know. No one negates whatever the inner meaning is talking about, so it means not. The concept of person changes into the concept of some attribute in the inner meaning. For instance, the idea of a man, husband, woman, wife, son, daughter, young man, or young woman turns into the idea of something true or good; the idea of a magician and sage turns into the idea of deep and shallow facts. The reason for the change is that in the spiritual world, or heaven, the inhabitants focus on attributes rather than people. Personalities narrow and limit the mind to something finite; but attributes, rather than narrowing and limiting the mind, widen it to the infinite and therefore to the Lord.

    It is for the same reason that when the Word mentions a person, heaven never perceives the person but rather the attribute the person represents. Heaven also never perceives a people or nation but the character of it. In fact heaven knows nothing whatever of any narrative detail in the Word about a person, nation, or people. Its inhabitants accordingly do not know who Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelite people, or the Jewish nation were. Instead they perceive what Abraham is, what Isaac is, what Jacob is, what the Israelite people are, what the Jewish nation is, and so on. Angels’ language as a result is unlimited and almost universal.

  • For a man understanding and wise means for the influence of truth and goodness. This can be seen from the symbolism of an understanding man as truth and of a wise man as the goodness that goes with it. It is important to know that in an inner sense, a man understanding and wise does not mean some man like this but the quality of an understanding, wise person abstracted from the person. So it means truth and goodness. In the other life, particularly in the heavens, everything the inhabitants think and therefore everything they say is in terms free of personality. Consequently thought and speech there is universal and relatively unlimited. The more one’s thought and speech focuses on individuals and their particular qualities, and the more it focuses on names and words, the less universal it grows. It grinds to a halt in the subject at hand and stays put there. However, the more it focuses on subject matter abstracted from individuals and words instead, the more it uses that matter as a starting point and reaches outside itself. It becomes a higher and therefore a more universal point of view.

    This is obvious from the way our minds work. The more we concentrate on the words a person says, the less we concentrate on the meaning. Inside our own selves, the more we concentrate on trivial information in our memory and bog down in it, the less we perceive the true nature of things. Above all, the more we concentrate on ourselves at every turn, the more we constrict our thinking and deny ourselves a broad overview of a given matter. As a result, the more we love ourselves at the expense of others, the less wise we are.

    These considerations now show why anything that applies narrowly to individuals in the literal sense symbolizes something abstracted from individuals in an inner sense.

    The Word in places distinguishes among wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Wisdom means what comes of goodness, understanding means what comes of truth, and knowledge means both of these on our earthly level. In Moses, for instance:

    “I have filled Bezalel with the spirit of God as to wisdom and as to understanding and as to knowledge and as to every kind of work.” (Exodus 31:2, 3; 35:30, 31)

    And in the same author:

    “Give yourselves men wise and understanding and knowledgeable, according to your tribes, so that I may make them your heads.” (Deuteronomy 1:13)

  • The horse and its rider he has cast into the sea means that as a result of his mere presence, falsity in the spirits’ faith and evil in their way of life plunged into hell. This can be seen from the symbolism of a horse and rider as falsity grounded in malice, and from the symbolism of casting something into the sea as casting it into hell.

    The reason I say falsity and evil plunged into hell is that falsity and evil themselves are what are cast into hell, dragging along anyone to whom they cling. When people live evil lives, they come to embody malicious falsity, so when malice with its falsity is sent below, these embodiments to which it clings are drawn down with it. Falsity and evil are influences wafting from the hells that affect people whose evil way of life has shaped their inner depths into something receptive of that influence. Everything we think or want comes as an outside influence—from heaven if it is good, from hell if it is bad. This is the reason for saying that falsity in the spirits’ faith and evil in their way of life plunged into hell.

    When angels think and speak about the hells, then, they think and speak about falsity and evil in the abstract, separate from hell’s inhabitants. Angels always set aside any thought of the person, staying with the thought of the thing itself.

  • And if the slave says firmly symbolizes the thinking inspired by this seminal truth. This is established by the symbolism of saying as thoughts and from that of a male slave as truth devoid of a corresponding goodness. Here the slave symbolizes such truth confirmed and inseminated, because the verse is talking about the slave upon his departure from servitude.

    I am saying that a male slave stands for truth, but I mean that it stands for a person who possesses truth devoid of a corresponding goodness. The reason for referring to a slave as truth rather than as a person who possesses this kind of truth is that the angelic manner of speech is abstract, or impersonal. In heaven they think about the quality apart from the person.

    When they think in personal terms, the community possessing that quality comes to their mind, which limits their thinking to that community and fixes it there. In heaven, thinking about a place means being present there, and the presence of others would draw the thoughts of community members off to those others, which would interfere with the Deity’s influence there. The situation is quite different, though, when angels think about a quality in the abstract. Their thoughts then spread far and wide, tracing the heavenly pattern created by influence radiating from the Deity, without disturbance to any community. Angelic thinking injects itself into general atmospheres shared by a number of communities, with the result that it does not touch or affect any particular member of a community. So it does not deprive anyone of the freedom to think in accord with the Deity’s influence. In a word, abstract thinking can pervade the whole of heaven without stalling anywhere, but thinking that focuses on a person or place is fixed and static.

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