Swedenborg and Life Recap: Spirals of the Spirit — 10/2/2017

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Scientists have observed the spiral pattern across the universe, hidden in everything from artwork to the galaxy itself. Writer George Gantz discusses how these spirals appear throughout nature, whether it’s in the motion of a bird’s descent or in a strand of DNA.

Naturally, eighteenth-century scientist and spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg noticed these spirals as well, learning that they occur just as frequently in the spiritual world. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose study and share what spirals could mean for us.

The Shape of Thoughts and Feelings

Swedenborg tell us that there are literal spirals in the spirit, and this energy is reflected in our own bodies.

The mind is an organism consisting of continuous spirals. (True Christianity §578)

What could that possibly mean? In order to really understand the motions of the spirit, Curtis takes us on a journey through the body, specifically the motion of the heart and lungs. He invites us to meditate on the sensations of blood moving through our body and the expansion and contraction of our lungs.

This motion, Swedenborg says, gives us a clue about how our spirit moves:

Much the same happens in the organic forms of the mind . . . The difference is that their expansions and compressions, their alternating motions, are relatively so much more perfect that there is no way to describe them in the words of ordinary language, but only in words of spiritual language, which indicate by their sound that these changes and variations are vortex-like inward and outward gyrations, after the manner of perpetually circling spirals wonderfully combined into forms receptive of life. (Divine Providence §319)

In other words, the motion of our mind and spirit is similar to the motion of our heart and lungs, but it is infinitely more complex—and resembling spirals.

Curtis and Jonathan discuss the fact that this same pattern can happen in our lives, too. Sometimes when it seems like we’re going around in circles, we’re actually moving up or down at the same time, gradually transitioning into a different state of mind.

The Grand Spiral of the Mind

In the spiritual world and in our interior lives, almost everything is a fractal of spirals growing on spirals. According to Swedenborg, each of us forms our own small world, with heaven and hell inside us; and our love of the material world is constantly fighting against our heavenly impulses.

The earthly mind, with everything in it, turns in spirals from right to left, while the spiritual mind turns in spirals from left to right. So the two minds are turning in opposite directions—a sign that evil is resident in the earthly mind and that on its own, it resists the spiritual mind. Further, turning from right to left is turning downward, toward hell, and turning from left to right moves upward, toward heaven. (Divine Love and Wisdom §270)

These spirals have levels: at the extremes, the emotions that drive us, whether it’s love of self or love of God. Those emotions shape our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our actions. But in the intermediate zone where we’re choosing which action to take, the right path isn’t always clear.

The good news is that by changing our actions, we can also change our spiritual direction, even if our thoughts and feelings don’t always follow.

Swedenborg describes the effect on spirits as so dramatic that it even affects the way they move:

I have been shown this by the experience that evil spirits cannot turn their bodies from left to right, only from right to left, while good spirits find it hard to turn from right to left and easy to turn from left to right. Their turning follows the flow of the deeper levels of their minds. (Divine Love and Wisdom §270)

You can think of this as a description of a state of mind: the evil spirits are so locked into a particular way of thinking that they can’t change their direction even if they want to, while good spirits are at least self-aware enough to make a choice.

Spiral Reversal

The two opposing spirals in our mind—one up toward heaven and social good, and the other toward hell and selfishness—are powered by the things we love.

In good people, the spirals face forward [toward the Lord] and in evil people they face backward [away from the Lord]. When they spiral forward they are turned toward the Lord and are open to the inflow from him. When they spiral backward they are turned toward hell and are open to its inflow. It is important to realize that to the extent that they are turned backward they are open behind and closed in front [front being toward the Lord], and that conversely, to the extent that they are turned forward they are open in front [toward the Lord] and closed behind [toward hell]. (Divine Providence §319)

If your spiral is going up (our forward) toward heaven, then the very center is the Lord, and that’s how divine love and wisdom can flow into us—we’re constantly moving on a path that takes us closer and closer to the center. The reverse is true also.

Swedenborg talks about our “loves” as the things we spend our lives doing and thinking about. Those loves determine the orientation of our spiritual spiral.

After death we all follow the path of our love—to heaven if we have loved what is good and to hell if we have loved what is evil. We find no rest until we arrive in the community where our own dominant love is; and strange as it may sound, we all know the way. It is as though we were following a scent. (Divine Providence §319)

There is always a spiral pulling us toward heaven, and it will always be more powerful than the one pulling us downward—especially if we open our minds toward heavenly loves.

In the wrap-up, we look at how spirals appear in nature and reflect the Lord’s divine providence leading us toward heaven.


Evil exists . . . Did God create evil? Is evil sometimes useful? Like an evil lawyer used for a good case?

Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

“Conscience: How to Build Heaven in Your Mind”
“Regeneration: How Radical Love is Born”
“The Spiritual Meaning of Numbers”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”

Free E-Book Downloads

Divine Love and Wisdom
Divine Providence
True Christianity


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  • About Swedenborg and Life


    In a lighthearted and interactive live 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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