How I Would Help the World
By Helen Keller
Introduction by Ray Silverman
This essay by Helen Keller expresses her deep gratitude to Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish seer who had a profound influence on her spiritual life. Read more
Paperback or e-book, 112 pages
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Helen Keller’s life was deeply changed when she began to read the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg in braille. Referring to him as “one of the noblest champions true Christianity has ever known,” she said, “Swedenborg’s message has been my greatest incitement to overcome limitations.”
Certainly, Helen Keller did much to help the world. But she felt she could help the world most by sharing with others the inspiration that came to her through reading Swedenborg’s books. “Were I but capable,” she said, “of interpreting to others one-half of the stimulating thoughts and noble sentiments that are buried in Swedenborg’s writings, I should help them more than I am ever likely to in any other way. It would be of such a joy to me if I might be the instrument of bringing Swedenborg to a world that is spiritually deaf and blind.”
Her essay How I Would Help the World is her attempt to do this. It is accompanied by an introduction by scholar Ray Silverman elucidating Helen Keller’s spiritual process. This glimpse into the spiritual life of Helen Keller provides inspiration for those who may have wondered how she was able to find the strength and the courage to overcome her triple handicap. Pictures of Helen Keller are direct quotations from the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg accompany her poignant words.
“The life and writings of blind and deaf activist and humanitarian Keller (The Story of My Life) are well known. Less known are the role of Swedenborgian Christianity in her life and her important essay on the subject. This book includes that out-of-print piece as well as a substantial essay by Ray Silverman, editor of the 1994 edition of Keller’s Light in My Darkness, which made clear for the first time Keller’s faith in Swedenborg’s beliefs. Keller’s writing is always a marvel of lucidity, and Silverman adds to the store of our understanding of her and her faith. VERDICT: Keller’s example continues to inspire many, and this brief treatise and its apparatus help to explain her inner strength and continuing appeal; excellent for school groups, church groups, and all interested readers.”
—Library Journal, March 1, 2011 issue
“In the first part of this paperback, Ray Silverman describes Helen Keller as the world-renowned champion for blind and deaf people, a noble crusader for human rights, and a gifted writer who inspired those with limitations to rise above them . . . This glimpse into Helen Keller’s spirituality is fascinating and shows what an adventuresome person she was!”
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice
“‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.’ This opening quote by Helen Keller sets the tone for what follows on the pages of this concise little book. Ray Silverman superbly introduces us to the inner dynamic of this remarkable person, Helen Keller, who carried the banner of social reform to all, and who foresaw a more spiritualized civilization ahead. Her own insight and spiritual vitality was nurtured through reading Christian Scriptures, as interpreted by the Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg. She fully embraced Swedenborg’s teachings of a loving God, and that our purpose in life consisted of manifesting God’s love in the world through service.
“When I reached the end of Helen’s essay, ‘How I Would Help the World,’ I marveled at the wisdom it contained. And I could truly echo Ray Silverman’s inspired caption to his introduction, ‘Helen Keller: Seer of a New Civilization.’ Although we know her as an inspiring writer and social reformer, thank you, Ray, for showing us more of the inner life of Helen Keller that motivated and sustained her to carry out her perceived mission in life in spite of her disabilities.
“I highly recommend this beautifully rendered gift book to everyone, especially to people of vision who want to make a difference in the world through the increment of love and wisdom they have to offer to others.”
—Ann V. Graber, Author of The Journey Home
“Imagine Jesus as divine love; Christ as divine truth. Imagine people of all faiths, color, creeds–or not–practicing the love of the sacred toward themselves and others. Imagine a God no longer created in our image, hating the same people we hate, but valuing every human equally. Imagine the clergy, like Swedenborg, gleaning the truths of our sacred mythology and teaching this love. Imagine not having to know the creeds to know this sacred entity. Imagine a world where we respect the divine in every human and reach out to help them. Imagine doing unto others as we wish others to do to us. Imagine a world where people are not judged by their creeds, etc., but my their service.
“This god of total love, who is not capable of hate or anger, calls us to serve, and this is the God Helen Keller wants us to know. Imagine how our world would be different if everyone heard and acted on this message. Imagine! A book for everyone.”
—Jola Royer, Wild Women Book Club, Michigan
“Helen Keller realized that the spiritual insight that she was granted was far more important than the physical sight and hearing that she lost. The help that she would wish to offer the world was that more people might come to have this insight as well. This small book (6 inches square and only just over 100 pages) conveys a powerful message. Originally published as a slim pamphlet, Helen’s words are fleshed out photographs and explanations that give a setting and context to her sentiments.
“Helen’s inspiration was a Christian world view, but one that was informed by the understanding of the Christian Scriptures and the nature of God as explained in the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. One of the unique features of this little gem is the appendix that it lines up the statements of Helen Keller with parallel passages in the works of Swedenborg expressing the same ideas. It reveals what a deep and thoughtful student Helen was of Swedenborg’s writings.
“The book begins with an introduction by Ray Silverman. The text by Helen Keller that follows comprises three chapters: 1. A Great River of Light; 2. A Noble Conception of God; 3. A Love that Embraces All. The book concludes with the appendix and suggested further reading.
“Helen Keller’s prose is vivid and masterful. Ray Silverman’s introduction is very helpful and also embodies the work of a craftsman of the English language.
“The book is a delightful contribution to the often neglected spiritual side to Helen’s powerful story.”
—Stephen D. Cole, Bryn Athyn, PA
“This is a wonderful little book where Helen Keller concisely and clearly explains why her Christian faith and spirituality are grounded in Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings. It is wonderfully designed and illustrated as well. It makes a fine book to keep by your bedside or give to friends and family.”
—Herbert Ziegler, Cambridge, MA
“A concise statement of Keller’s faith and hope for the world. In particular the application of that faith as action in daily living. No boundaries, no limitations of a particular doctrine; ‘a life of useful service.’ A model to strive toward.”
“Highly Recommended. I can only describe this as a tiny book with a huge message. The words of both Helen Keller and Emanuel Swedenborg will haunt readers long after the book is done. You will either find it confirming and reassuring or begin to rethink your core beliefs, depending on your own present view of spirituality and religion.
“Helen Keller requires no introduction. More than fifty years after her death, she remains an inspiration to us all. Ray Silverman, College Chaplain and Asst. Professor of Religion at Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania, is an editor/author. How I Would Help the World is his assembly of little known information based on Helen Keller’s essay and her spiritual autobiography.
“The beautiful photographs of Helen add a personal connection to this fascinating human being. Without sight, hearing, or speech she conquered her darkness and emerged a bright shining inspiration to the world. Her words are as important today as they were when they were written. Ray Silverman has recognized this and brings us an empowering gift.
“The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are timely, and insightful. The format of the book compares Swedenborg’s writings with Helen’s and emphasizes their mutual understanding of our universe and our life’s purpose here on earth.”
—Shirley A. Roe, Allbooks Review
“Excellent to inspire yourself or a friend. My heart is warm every time I read something written by Helen Keller. Few things could be as inspirational as a person who could find so much beauty in life without being able to see or hear. This little book is based on an essay that Helen Keller wrote, expressing her fervent desire to share the love she felt for the works of Emanuel Swedenborg.
“The introduction by Ray Silverman briefly tells Helen’s story, with a special emphasis on her introduction to Swedenborg’s works by John Hitz, a friend of Alexander Graham Bell. Annie Sullivan had brought Helen the tools for a mental awakening, and John Hitz brought the tools for a spiritual awakening that would give Helen the basis for her amazingly positive and hopeful viewpoint.
“Helen was only 14 years old when she was first handed a copy of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell, but she could immediately feel that this was a work of great significance. As she grew to understand the text more and more, she found increasing amounts of joy and wonder. In How I Would Help the World, Helen uses her poetic, affectionate style to tell us why she finds the concepts in Swedenborg’s works to be so useful and wonderful. This small book provides an excellent way to inspire yourself or a friend to realize the treasures that lie in those writings. With respect and warmth, the Swedenborg Foundation has taken on the task of helping Helen Keller to help the world.”
—Karin Childs, Oak Arbor Church Bookroom and Fountain Publishing
“Exemplifies the lasting influence of Helen Keller’s thoughts on the world. How I Would Help the World showcases Keller’s extraordinary intelligence, her compassion, her thirst for knowledge, and her remarkable ability to see without sight. As she is so eloquently quoted in Silverman’s introduction, ‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.'”
—Hilary Daninhirsch, ForeWord Reviews, May 2011
“This beautifully formatted little gem is an ideal introduction to the mystical side of Helen Keller. It is a wonderful blend of HK’s thoughts, with quotations, commentary, and evocative photographs. It will serve well those readers who want to learn more about the inner Keller, apart from the heroic historical figure of popular culture.”
—Rick Leskowitz, MD, Harvard Medical School