In The Design of Existence, Wilson Van Dusen offers spiritual explorers a guidebook for mystical experience, describing the inner landscape in detail. Though considering himself a scientist, Van Dusen approaches reality as a mystic, using the writings of 18th-century visionary Emanuel Swedenborg as a lens. For Swedenborg and Van Dusen, our interior realm reflects the external cosmos, which makes a mystical sense of oneness possible: “We are in a massive order, far greater than we can see. Yet we are not alien to this order. We are created out of it.”
For Van Dusen’s mysticism, Swedenborg is the exemplar of universality. A scientist who mastered fields as varied as chemistry, physiology, optics, and metallurgy, Swedenborg turned inward to investigate the psychological and the spiritual. He affirmed the value of other religious cultures and even wrote in gender-inclusive Latin. He had startlingly contemporary insights: he saw that the spiritual must inform everyday experience, that feelings must aid the intellect in seeking the spiritual, that the quest for the soul leads to understanding the cosmos and vice versa.
Van Dusen uses Swedenborg’s ideas as the basis for a true universal mysticism. In The Design of Existence, he invites each of us to confront mystical experience as proof that we and the cosmos share a spiritual design, which orders our lives as surely as it orders the universe itself.