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In this special episode, host Curtis Childs interviews Gary Lachman, author of twenty-one books on wide-ranging topics—including biographies of Aleister Crowley, Carl Jung, and Emanuel Swedenborg, as well as studies in existentialism and the philosophy of consciousness. Oh, and he was a founding member of the pop group Blondie and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
While Curtis and Gary touch on some of these topics, their focus is on eighteenth-century scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Questions and answers are summarized below, but follow the links for the full discussion.
Gary had been interested in the occult and metaphysics for a long time—it even helped to inspire his music when that was the focus of his career. When he started writing full-time, it was natural to continue his esoteric studies.
At the time when he started working, there was an occult revolution that came along with political and musical changes. Now, supernatural topics are much more mainstream than they were at that time.
Many occult ideas have always been in the mainstream, but they are just ignored or airbrushed out when they make people uncomfortable. In fact, one branch of the occult, Hermeticism, was extremely popular even in the Renaissance—inspiring many classical artists to create work we know today.
Gary’s fascination with the occult and esotericism moved from reading more sensational and fun books to researching more serious historical material. In the course of researching a book about literary figures influenced by mysticism and the occult, one name that often popped up in that context was Emanuel Swedenborg.
Swedenborg himself was clearly more serious, but he’s also frequently referenced in more popular types of books, such as, for example, in Colin Wilson’s The Occult.
As he heard more and more about Swedenborg, Gary had the opportunity to write an article about the Swede for Gnosis magazine. From there he was asked to write a short biography of Swedenborg, which gave him an excuse to immerse himself in Swedenborg’s writings.
Gary didn’t know much about Swedenborg’s life before he started on his book, but he was delighted to learn about a true Renaissance man who studied both science and theology. Since Swedenborg’s work inspired so many others, Gary felt like more people ought to know about it.
The more Gary learned, the more he realized how much of Swedenborg’s writings predicted modern science and inspired other writers and scientists. So much of Swedenborg seemed to hold true for so many.
Gary agrees. He came across references to Swedenborg practicing techniques like meditative breathing, which we associate with occult or mystical ideas. And we see from Swedenborg’s scientific studies that one of the things that drove him was a search for the seat of the soul. He wanted to find the connection point between the spiritual world and the physical world.
In many ways, the one led naturally to the other—when Swedenborg hit the limits of science, he started practicing his spiritual research.
Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump is coming out May 2018. It examines how the power of positive thinking and creating reality through visualization may have influenced the November 2016 US election. Did so many people visualize Donald Trump (or their mental image of who Trump is / could be) becoming president that they actually created that reality?
It’s not uncommon for political leaders in any era to subscribe to these types of beliefs, whether it’s fairly common beliefs, like positive thinking or astrology, or something deeper, like the Nazi Party’s more explicit connection to occultism. This does seem especially true for far-right parties and politicians, but there are progressive examples as well.
In the past, people could discuss occult and esoteric ideas fairly freely, so it wasn’t such a stigma to speculate on and explore esoteric topics. Now, rationalism is a dominant force.
Many thinkers are open to new evidence and to studying all kinds of truth, no matter the source. Stay critical, but be open to the idea that you live in a world where anything is possible.
What matters is that no matter who you are or what you believe in, you should just talk to each other. Learning and staying open-minded is the best way to seek at truth.
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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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