In the wake of the tragedies that led up to weeks of international protest against racial violence—the death of George Floyd being only one in a string of injustices too long to list here—people everywhere have had the opportunity to confront their own relationship to race. As an organization whose mission is based in the teachings of a white man from the eighteenth century, we have some challenges.
Emanuel Swedenborg wrote many beautiful things about people whose race, culture, and religious background were different from his own. When writing about Africans in particular, he generally described them in the context of his encounters in the spiritual world. For example, he wrote about the spiritual wisdom of Africans in True Christianity §§835-840 and in the short work Continuation on the Last Judgment §§73-78, among other places. But he also made deeply problematic statements about the spiritual correspondences of having dark skin.
Different types of people interpret Swedenborg’s writings in different ways. Some are looking for teachings that lead to love and understanding, while others seek support for their own prejudices. When we translate and publish Swedenborg’s writings, we include everything—even the pieces we wish he hadn’t written—so that people can engage honestly with what he wrote. But we need to be clear: we as an organization condemn racism unconditionally. We do not support any type of judgment or aggression against people based on their skin color, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, or other identity factors. We do not support anyone who would take those actions. If any reader of Swedenborg attempts to use his writings to support prejudice or violence, we can say unequivocally that that person does not stand for us or with us.
What we hope you will take away from Swedenborg is the importance of loving other people unconditionally; the urgency of doing good in this world, whether in large ways or small; and the hope that no matter what dark places we find ourselves in, the Divine is always working to help lead us out. We hope that you will be inspired to listen to other voices, and not to judge. We hope that if you find yourself in a position of power or influence, you’ll see it as a platform to help those who are powerless and in need of help. We hope that you’ll see all people, including yourself, as a spiritual work in progress, and approach every situation with all the love you have in that moment.
Thanks for reading, and listening, and making this journey with us. Blessings to all of you, and especially to the people who are suffering right now.
The Lord’s life is mercy, which is that of love towards the whole human race. Those people cannot possibly be drawing on the life that is the Lord’s who, although they profess the truths of faith, despise others in comparison with themselves. (Secrets of Heaven [Arcana Coelestia]) §2261