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Continuing our journey through the basic nature of everything, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose explore eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom.
What is a way that you picture God that is comforting?
Jonathan used to picture God as a physical presence that held his hand, but now he feels much more comforted by knowledge of God’s sense of humor—that he has a human perspective. He also appreciates that God is playing a “long game.”
Similarly, Curtis feels a real connection to the idea of God as a person. Knowing that we are created in God’s image, Curtis likes imagining that every song he hears is some version of God’s voice.
Swedenborg Book Club
Spoiler alert: Divine Love and Wisdom is all about God’s love and wisdom!
But if you had to sell someone on this book, the headline would be something like this:
“Scientist discovers what lies behind everything.”
Swedenborg takes the reader through the creation of the universe, of humankind, and of the basic structure of reality.
So what’s inside?
Published in 1763, Divine Love and Wisdom stands out among Swedenborg’s four shorter works published that very same year.
This book takes a very philosophical approach to the material—while Swedenborg wrote within a Christian lens, he didn’t focus on that here, as he included almost no scripture at all. He opens Divine Love and Wisdom with the bold declaration that no one really knows what they’re talking about when they talk about love:
Love is our life. For most people, the existence of love is a given, but the nature of love is a mystery. As for the existence of love, this we know from everyday language. We say that someone loves us, that monarchs love their subjects, and that subjects love their monarch. We say that a husband loves his wife and that a mother loves her children, and vice versa. We say that people love their country, their fellow citizens, their neighbor. We use the same language about impersonal objects, saying that someone loves this or that thing. Even though the word “love” is so commonly on our tongues, still hardly anyone knows what love is. (Divine Love and Wisdom §1)
To get a sense of the scope of the material in this book, we’ll take a look at three relevant passages.
In the Divine-Human One, reality and its manifestation are both distinguishable and united. Wherever there is reality, there is its manifestation: the one does not occur without the other. In fact, reality exists through its manifestation, and not apart from it. Our rational capacity grasps this when we ponder whether there can be any reality that does not manifest itself, and whether there can be any manifestation except from some reality. Since each occurs with the other and not apart from it, it follows that they are one entity, but “distinguishably one.” They are distinguishably one like love and wisdom. Further, love is reality and wisdom is its manifestation. Love occurs only in wisdom, and wisdom only from love. So love becomes manifest when it is in wisdom. (Divine Love and Wisdom §14)
Said another way, if love is art, then wisdom is the painting. You can’t have one without the other—wisdom embodies love; it’s the technology of love.
The grand purpose, or the purpose of all elements of creation, is an eternal union of the Creator with the created universe. This does not happen unless there are subjects in which his divinity can be at home, so to speak, subjects in which it can dwell and abide. For these subjects to be his dwellings and homes they must be receptive of his love and wisdom apparently of their own accord, subjects who will with apparent autonomy raise themselves toward the Creator and unite themselves with him. In the absence of this reciprocity, there is no union. We are those subjects, people who can raise themselves and unite with apparent autonomy. (Divine Love and Wisdom §170)
Everything comes from love, and everything moves toward love. So the purpose of the universe is our union with God.
The Lord from eternity, or Jehovah, could not have created the universe and everything in it except as a person. If people have an earthly, physical concept of the Divine-Human One, they are utterly incapable of understanding how a human God could create the universe and everything in it. They think to themselves, “How can a human God wander from place to place through the universe creating things?” or “How can God speak the word from one place, and things be created as soon as the word is spoken?” Things like this come to mind when people say that God is a person if people are thinking about the Divine-Human One the same way they do about earthly people, and when their thought about God is based on nature and its attributes, time and space. On the other hand, if their thought about God is not based on earthly people, not based on nature and its space and time, they grasp clearly that the universe could not have been created unless God were a person. Focus your thought on the angelic concept of God, of a human God, and as far as you can, eliminate any concept of space, and you will be close to the truth in your thinking. (Divine Love and Wisdom §285)
Since we’re talking about the whole universe, it’s also important to understand humanity and what it means to understand God as being human. If you break free from the shackles of time and space as we understand them and just think of the idea of human essence, you can see that we have more in common with God than you might think.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- If God is divine wisdom and he loves everyone, does that mean he also loves the Devil?
- Why does life have to be a big mystery?
- Is there any way to get out of hell, if one has landed there after the judgment?
- How do the more extreme aspects of mysticism tie into Swedenborg’s concept of “modern” Christianity?
- I would love to hear Swedenborg’s take on gardening.
At the beginning of the episode, we asked what about God comforts you. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- As Our Father, My Shepherd. – Joy Borazjani
- Warm, safe, sure, present. – Gooey Stranger
- I picture God as my home. – Sean Smith
- I picture Jesus as my best friend. – michele33
- God as a feeling. A feeling of freedom flight. – Sheryl Smith
- That God is love and God is everywhere, providing guidance and wisdom in my life. – mtp358
- I picture God as a shepherd with a lamb in his hand. – rov li
- God is a radiant Jesus. – Robert Bush
- God cares about the details of my life and works on working things out for me. – Jon Childs
- I envision a fatherly being looking down over a fish bowl, with compassion and care, love. – Robin Evolved
- I picture a warm, golden light that surrounds me with deep, powerful love. – Rebecca Rowles
- I picture God as a pure white force field constantly surrounding me. – Josta356
- I cannot picture God… but i feel comfort in laying all decisions at God’s “feet” and trusting that decisions fall into place being made for me. – great grandfather
- For me it’s remembering His hand making my path in the past, making me know He is making my path now. What pure love for someone like me! 🙂 – bryan taylor
- I picture God standing behind me guiding me through life. – Ellen Potter
- As pure love energy and as a loving smile through Jesus Christ. – Krystalight 7
- I picture him as a constant love with a perfect loving solution to every problem and he’s old and gold in color. – Bonnie Gates
- I picture Her/Him as my parents. – Katrina Marshall
- God’s voice of reassurance and constant presence. – Kendall M.
- The ultimate father figure. Someone I can rely on no matter what, and just pure love. – Daffodil
- Remembering Meister Eckhart’s words, “It is a LIE! ANY talk of God that does not comfort you.” – The Salvation Navy
- I picture God as a man like me, with dark curly hair, short beard and deep violet eyes. He has a quick smile, sharp sense of fun and a loving, compassionate, forgiving heart. – Pete Dawson
- I envision myself being held in giant hands. – twistedangel966
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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