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In our last episode, we put together a simple toolkit for analyzing the validity of any spiritual idea. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose go live to learn more about spiritual truth from eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.
For any concept, Jonathan asks how it aligns with what he knows to be true from his own experiences or from other sources he trusts. Sometimes, something can be so beautiful and profound that he is emotionally moved and just feels that it’s right.
Ideas resonate for Curtis when they grab his attention and give him those “aha” moments. According to him, for something to feel true, it should feel like it was written by the same author who wrote the rest of reality—like it came from the same mind.
Whole and Upright
Many truths are not complete in and of themselves—they’ve got to be useful.
Truth can originate in many other places, but truth that grows out of the good embraced by charity and received from the Lord—this truth is called whole or upright. (Secrets of Heaven §612:2)
For life to exist—to be “whole”—it needs warmth to some degree. This is true throughout nature, with both plants and animals.
But it’s also the case for truth. Truth is useless without the warmth of love.
When hatred displaces charity, the darkness is so deep that we lose any awareness at all of the presence of evil. Still less do we see that the evil is bad enough to send us to hell in the next life. When people hate, they sense a certain pleasure and a certain energy in their hatred, and the pleasure and energy themselves make it nearly impossible for those people to see hatred as anything but good. (Secrets of Heaven §1860)
According to Swedenborg, truth governed by love and charity has to take priority over truth based on judgment and accuracy. It’s not really true if it’s not rooted in the loving God that authored the universe.
Swedenborg often talks about the various churches, or mindsets of human culture, throughout spiritual history. The earliest, most ancient church knew truth through simple intuition, or direct perception, but the ancient church that followed had to acquire truth through knowledge. And they valued one kind of knowledge above all else.
Since the ancients used representative images and symbols to stand for the Lord’s kingdom, where nothing but heavenly and spiritual love exists, they also had doctrines that dealt exclusively with love for God and charity for their neighbor. These doctrines too gave them a reputation for wisdom. . . . [It] showed them what charity was (a desire to serve others without any thought of repayment) and what the neighbor they were to treat charitably was (everyone everywhere—although in a different way for each neighbor). (Secrets of Heaven §3419:3)
For the ancients, then, every single person, each with their own particular needs, was a neighbor to be helped.
The ancients divided “the neighbor” into categories and named the categories after those people in the world who seem more in need of aid than others. They also taught each other how to exercise neighborly love to the members of one category and to the members of another. That is how they organized the teachings and brought their lives in line with the teachings. This meant that the teachings of their religion contained rules on how to live. (Secrets of Heaven §6705)
For more on the different categories of the neighbor, check out our episode “How to Love.”
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- How do we know what our life’s purpose is? If we are here for lessons why do some die so young? Have they completed their purpose?
- Do loved ones know when we are going through a hard time? Are they aware?
- I understand why we need God, but why does God need us?
Our guest this week is Brian O’Neill, psychologist and author of Swedenborg and Jung. He first encountered Swedenborg through Wilson Van Dusen’s books and then became very interested in Swedenborg’s thought. As a Gestalt therapist, Brian was particularly attracted to Swedenborg’s discussion of his direct experiences, and he’s found Swedenborg’s principles to be very helpful in his practice.
At the beginning, we asked what makes a spiritual concept “ring true.” Here are some of the answers.
- I get a Feeling that it’s right and when it’s wrong I get a Feeling. -Mary Richards
- Does it come from love. -Dawnabrat
- Two or more different sources. -mtp358
- Comparing what the Bible says. -Laura Domek
- It has to point to a God worth worshiping. -ubizmo
- Gut feeling. -Mel Dyl
- If the idea or “truth” makes me feel good or doesn’t make me feel guilty, then it rings true. -Lisa
- If it makes sense to me and goes with the moral that my heart believes in. It just feels like I already know it. -Miss D
- It has a secular correspondence and has long term mutually good effects. -Mr. Binkers the cat
- A spiritual concept rings true to me when it makes sense, and when it is rational, and devoid of circular babble. -Carolyn Norton
- When something comes up 3 or more times, I figure I’m supposed to at least pay attention. -Virginia Dare
- It feels right! Makes sense within! -Krystalight 7
- When a concept has love I feel it is true. -Vicky Miller
- Intuition over curiosity. -Soul Mirror33/6
- Whether it questions if I’m being loving to someone else, especially if I disagree with them. -michele33 S
- If a concept gives you a feeling of peace! -Kendall M.
- The logic of it and quality of transcendent love. -Preliminimal
- If it aligns with being useful and helpful, then I know it is true. -Sheila Montgomery
- It rings true to me when I feel it deep in my psyche. You just know it. -Martha Cates
- Interesting question. I think something rings true for me when I feel the speaker is speaking from the heart, from her/his own experience—and when it matches something in my experience. -EarInn
- The new spiritual concept calms my spirit; opens a new pathway of thought for me that piques my interest to learn more. -PlasticSurgery Beth
- Jonathan is right. When truths are in line with others’ truths. -Eternal Spring
- I discern the genuine motive for selfless love for both individuals and the universe. -Melanee Evans
- The consistency of Swedenborg made me a believer. -Jen Blossom
- When I ask Spirit for three confirmations and they come out of the blue without me expecting them. When that happens I just “know” that the concept is true and valuable for me. -Pete Dawson
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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