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Our viewers often bring challenging questions, and the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg brings many answers. In this installment of our “Spiritual Questions Answered” series, host Curtis Childs and his panel of (one) expert, Dr. Jonathan Rose, series editor of the New Century Edition of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg, share their insights on good and evil, being Swedenborgian, the afterlife, God’s gender, the Kabbalah, and much more!
Questions and answers are summarized below, but follow the links for the full discussion.
God stops a tremendous amount of evil, but he allows some through only when he’s sure good can come of it. Evil is only permitted if it’s the best path to a much greater good—a concept called providence. God’s perspective is incomprehensibly huge and his goals are much larger than we could easily understand.
If you want to learn how to join a church or Swedenborgian organization, you can do so easily—they’re all welcoming people. Check out this list on Swedenborg.com for a few places to start.
If you’re more interested in what makes a person spiritually Swedenborgian, Jonathan suggests that each person can decide for themselves whether or not that label applies, according to what’s in their hearts. Curtis says that for him, you become a Swedenborgian when the principles that Swedenborg taught change the way you live your life.
It’s worth noting that Swedenborgianism is not incompatible with other faiths—there are people who define themselves as Catholic and Swedenborgian, Mormon and Swedenborgian, Buddhist and Swedenborgian, and so on. Swedenborg didn’t form a church, but rather presented a way to view God and spirituality.
If you sometimes feel spiritually isolated, don’t miss Jonathan and Curtis talking about what it means to be a church of one.
According to Swedenborg, Jesus was not born knowing he was God. He learned in his childhood as he was reading scripture, and at the same time realizing that he understood it better than most of humanity could. Swedenborg describes in his writings the moments and the process by which Jesus became more and more fully aware of his own nature and role in the world.
4. Two questions from different viewers about the gender of God:
- If there is a [gender] balance that earth reflects, is there a Mrs. God?
- Are you confirming that “God” is in fact male by using “he”?
Curtis does try to avoid using pronouns for God because he doesn’t want to assume to much about the nature of the Divine. However, on the show he uses the pronoun “he” because it occurs that way in translations of Swedenborg’s books. Why does it occur that way? Fortunately, our panel of expert also happens to be a professional translator of Swedenborg’s works.
It turns out that in the original Latin, the issue of God’s gender is not so clear-cut. When Swedenborg has a choice (grammatically speaking), he always chooses a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to God. But the most accurate English translation of that is “it,” which seems inanimate in a way that doesn’t reflect Swedenborg’s view of divinity.
In a way, trying to attach human gender identity to God is working backwards—all humans reflect God, not the other way around. At the end of the day, God contains all people equally.
Swedenborg’s brother-in-law studied and taught Kabbalah, so it’s likely he was aware of the general principles, but there’s no direct evidence of influence. It’s also possible that both Swedenborg and Kabbalah were influenced by the same spiritual source.
Swedenborg found that we do get a lot of hands-on guidance when we enter the afterlife. He writes that we are constantly taught and guided by angels and spirits after we enter the afterlife—we are never alone unless we want to be.
See also: “How Angels Take Care of Us When We Die”
Some people seem to dream all the time and be very receptive to the spiritual realm, while others seem to barely dream at all. No one really knows how, why, or when it happens, but it’s almost always for a useful purpose. And sometimes the laws of the spiritual world don’t allow this communication to happen. If you’re not one of the people who have these kinds of dreams or visions, it doesn’t mean that nobody on the other side cares about you. Curtis likens it to cell service or tech issues—everything has to be just right for it to work.
Swedenborg describes the World of Spirits as a place midway between heaven and hell that we all enter first when we pass from the physical to the spiritual world. From there, we go to either heaven and hell, but that only happens after we become completely clear about who we are and what we truly love. Hell is a choice that you make—you have to hate God and his people so much that you’ll dedicate your entire being to attacking them. It’s not a judgment that happens if you make the slightest misstep; it’s the result of a person’s deepest convictions.
See also: “The Good Thing about Hell”
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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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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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