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In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose dig into what eighteenth century philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg discovered about the true meaning of love.
What’s a topic in spiritual life you wonder about?
Jonathan has always wondered about the usefulness of feeling clueless. It’s a common human experience to wonder why we’re here, or why events happen the way they do. Would it be so bad to have the answers to life’s big questions once in a while?
Similarly, Curtis wonders why accidents happen. Of course, divine providence plays a role in events, but some small things seem so purposeless. What purpose does it serve if you hit your head on something by accident? What cosmic good does it do to lock your keys in your car? It would be great to have a guidebook to understand why those tiny frustrations happen and to guide us toward better decisions.
Weekly Swedenborg Keywords
In this section, Curtis and Jonathan tackle only one of Swedenborg’s favorite words—love. Even in its commonly accepted meanings, love can mean a whole lot of different things. For Swedenborg, its meaning is clear.
People know that love exists, but they do not know what love is. . . . People cannot piece together any idea of [love] through study and therefore cannot place it in the light of knowledge, because it belongs to heat, not light. . . .
Heat, not light? This relates to Swedenborg’s system of correspondences: heat relates to things of the heart, and light to things of the mind. Something that is of heat can only be understood emotionally, not intellectually. To better understand what Swedenborg meant by heat and light, you can check out this episode: “What Light and Heat Can Tell You about God.”
They are completely unaware that love is actually their life—not just the life that belongs to their whole body and all their thoughts in a general way, but also the life of every single part of them. (Love in Marriage §34)
Love is who you are and what you want—it’s what defines you in a fundamental spiritual sense. It even defines where you live within heaven.
A great deal of my experience has testified to the fact that we are our love or intention after death. All heaven is differentiated into communities on the basis of differences in the quality of love, and every spirit who is raised up into heaven and becomes an angel is taken to the community where her or his love is. When we arrive there we feel as though we are in our own element, at home, back to our birthplace, so to speak. . . . I have also seen that our spirit is our dominant love from the fact that every spirit seizes and claims whatever suits her or his love and rejects and repels whatever does not suit it. Our love is like a spongy, porous wood that absorbs whatever liquids prompt its growth, and repels others. It is like animals of various kinds. They recognize their proper foods, seek out the ones that suit their natures, and avoid the ones that disagree. Every love actually wants to be nourished by what is appropriate to it—an evil love by falsities and a good love by truths. (Heaven and Hell §479:1, 5)
Comparing love to a sponge doesn’t seem very flattering, but the concept is an important one: love absorbs and draws strength from the ideas that support it.
Whatever you love, wherever your focus, you eat it up like a sponge with water. You seek information that supports what you already think and care about. That’s what Swedenborg would call wisdom—to him, the love and wisdom really are one.
Love alone is like a reality with no manifestation, since love makes itself manifest in wisdom; and wisdom without love is like a manifestation with no reality, since wisdom is the manifestation of love. (Divine Love and Wisdom §139)
If love is a sponge, wisdom is the water. But you can’t have one without the other. Let’s visit the spiritual world to learn how that works.
Spiritual World Road Trip
In heaven, what you love is what unites you to others. In one journey through the spiritual world, Swedenborg stumbled upon some spirits who had lived their entire lives without knowing about God. He found them to be very cold. They spoke without vitality, like statues forced to speak.
Certain angels were tasked with infusing love into these spirits, and did so without hesitation or fatigue. To do this, they moved the cold spirits back and forth in a strange sort of dance, which resulted in a colorful infusion of love.
Since these cold spirits had only wisdom and no love to interfere, the angels were successful.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Here’s what they asked—just click a question to see the answer:
- What happens when somebody really hurts you just like Emanuel Swedenborg was hurt? How did he react to this, and how did he find help from the other side?
- Is love a substance or energy or quality or combination of those or even something unique on its own?
- Do celestial and natural angels feed off of our positive emotions here and in the World of Spirits as evil spirits feed off our negative ones? Did Swedenborg learn ways to escape and be free of such feedings?
Continuing our interviews with viewers, we have a video sent in by Jeff McReynolds of Cincinnati, Ohio. Jeff was working for a better relationship in his marriage, and knew there was more to know about divine love. He searched for five years, and eventually found Howard Storm, who got him interested in near-death experiences, which led him to Swedenborg.
After watching the show, his spiritual perspective has completely shifted. Some of Swedenborg’s work is tough to accept, but other parts include things he’s felt like he knew all along. He found a lot of hope in Swedenborg’s view, but he had trouble sharing with people around him.
When he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he at first abandoned hope—until a three-year-old prayed over him and encouraged him to be brave enough to live. He also learned he could not judge anyone, and that he needed to be patient enough to learn people’s intent.
Thanks to Swedenborg’s message and offTheLeftEye, he has felt more equipped to handle chemotherapy and to better relate to his wife.
At the beginning, we asked viewers which topic in spiritual life they’ve been wondering about. Here are some big questions that came up:
- How do I brighten the light I use while stumbling around in the dark?
- What is the real truth of what happens to us after we die, and/or is Jesus the only way to know such truth?
- What is the nature of what some may call “spiritual initiation.” What does it entail?
- I wonder if any technique will help me be useful to others without even a fleeting thought of self in the process.
- Have I received the Holy Ghost? Have I always had it?
- Do any of Swedenborg’s ideas coincide with synchronicity?
- When is the soul actually created? Where were we before we were born? Did we plan our earth life at all?
- We seem to have no control over how we feel about things. Why can’t we change our own feelings most of the time?
- I study a good deal of history and I’ve always wondered how this contributes to my spiritual life. How is this useful spiritually?
- Why do we have to be so worried about what others think about us?
- Why could Elisha heal others but died of an illness?
- I wonder about all the Rapture dreams peeps are having.
- The consciousness of stars and planets
- What can I do that would serve others the most?
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
Related Swedenborg and Life Videos
“The Universal Categories of Love” (short clip)
“The Four Kinds of Love”
“How to Love”
“3 Simple Ways to Love Everyone”
“Who was Swedenborg?”
Free E-Book Downloads
Divine Love and Wisdom
Heaven and Hell
Love in Marriage
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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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