Swedenborg and Life Live Recap: The Inner and Outer Self — 1/22/2018

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With the help of our viewers, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose work to study what eighteenth-century philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg learned about the inner and outer self.


If you were to create a motto that encapsulates the “New Church” perspective, what would it be?

“New Church,” for both Curtis and Jonathan, represents not a specific church or organization, but the philosophy that Swedenborg conveys in his writings.

Curtis would encapsulate the Swedenborgian perspective with this motto: “Everything is better than you think it is.” This is true of life, the universe, the Bible, and even our own minds. Another thing he might say is “God’s got everything handled; you just need to love.”

Jonathan would build on Curtis’s first motto to say, “Everything is better than we can even imagine in the future.” In movies and television, the future seems like a dark place, but Swedenborg shares a brighter vision.

Weekly Swedenborg Keywords

In this section, Curtis and Jonathan look at Swedenborg’s unique definition of the inner and outer self. But first, Jonathan explains why understanding keywords are so important to understanding Swedenborg: if you were to create a graph of all the words he uses in his lengthy writings, there are about sixty words that he uses the most—more than 10,000 times each throughout all of his writings.

You can visualize inner self versus outer self in a lot of ways. Here’s how Swedenborg describes them:

We are created in such a way that we are in the spiritual world and the earthly world at one and the same time. . . . And since that is how we are created, we are given . . . an inner nature that allows us to be in the spiritual world, and an outer nature that allows us to be in the earthly world. Our inner nature is what we refer to as the inner self, and our outer nature is what we refer to as the outer self. (New Jerusalem §36)

It’s important to understand that the outer self is not our physical body, but our earthly mind. This is the part of us that places all value on earthly possessions and ideas.

The inner self is the part that’s in touch with the spiritual world. In good people, the inner self receives light from heaven, but evil people are so focused on this world that they’re completely ruled by their outer selves—in effect, they have no inner self.

The more we derive our thoughts and intentions from heaven, the more our inner spiritual self opens and takes shape. . . . In direct contrast, the more we derive our thoughts and intentions not from heaven but from the world, the more our inner spiritual self closes and our outer self opens. . . . The inner and outer levels we have been dealing with are the inner and outer levels of our spirit. Our bodies are nothing but a shell in which these inner and outer levels reside. . . . Bear in mind that after it is released from the body our spirit keeps right on thinking and intending and speaking and acting. Its thinking and intending constitute the inner level of our spirit, while its speaking and acting constitute its outer level. (New Jerusalem §§43, 46)

We can see a parallel in nature: A seed might look like nothing more than a brown husk, but when you shine a light on it, you begin to see new life unfolding. A seed that is kept in a lightless situation won’t sprout and grow. In the same way, if we focus only on the material, we put ourselves in a lightless situation and deny ourselves the chance to grow.

We’ll see that loud and clear when we dive into Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences.

Spiritual World Road Trip

Even in the afterlife, we need to get used to seeing through the inner-self perspective. This week, we look at the story of the nine wives from Spiritual Experiences §4688.

A spirit who in life hadn’t understood the nature of the inner and outer self passed into the afterlife and went looking for his wife, who had died before him. A group of malicious spirits took on his wife’s physical appearance and challenged him to pick his wife out of the group. He tried to guess, but he couldn’t see past the superficial appearance, and so he chose wrong. Then, the outer appearances were removed, and he could see she was an angel—made stunningly beautiful by her inner goodness—and the others became monstrous. The man and his wife were reunited.

Because of his experience, he realized everyone’s appearance—their outer self—was just a distraction from the real beauty of love.

Chat Q&A

During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Here’s what they asked—just click a question to see the answer:

Guest Story

Curtis takes a moment to interview a viewer, Ilana Moss from Oregon. She discovered the program because she writes on metaphysics, and a friend of hers encouraged her to research Swedenborg.

The message of spiritual freedom really resonated with Ilana’s understandings and teaching. She saw an instant corroboration between what she learned across years of research and what Swedenborg learned years ago coming from a different background.

Ice Melter

At the beginning, we asked viewers what motto they’d create for the Swedenborgian worldview. Here are some examples:

  • Bringing Heaven to Earth
  • Keep Your Eyes on the Lord and He Will Lead You to All Good
  • God Is in His Heaven and All Is Right in the World
  • You Are Doing Great—Better Than You Think You Are—and the Best is Yet to Come
  • Love, Heal, Enjoy
  • God Is Nicer Than We Think
  • Welcome Home
  • We All Matter

Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

“Our Inner and Outer Selves” (short clip)
“Your Expansive Inner Self” (short clip)
“Sensing Your Spiritual Body”
“How to Find Your True Self”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”

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New Jerusalem


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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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