Watch the full episode here!
In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs introduces a panel to answer viewers’ spiritual questions. This is the fifth episode that is entirely devoted to answering the questions that the audience brings to the table each and every week.
The expert panel members are:
- Chara Daum, Latin consultant for the New Century Edition of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg
- Dr. Dan Synnestvedt, associate professor of philosophy at Bryn Athyn College
- Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborg Foundation writer
Does everyone remember the “Spiritual Fermentation” episode of Swedenborg and Life? In it, the Swedenborg and Life team bought a wine-making kit to learn more about the chemical process of fermentation; and to kick off the show, they showed off the fruits of their labor: a bottle of “Diwine Providence.”
Throughout this episode, the expert panel worked together to answer questions from their viewers. We’ll give a quick version of the questions and answers below, but follow the links for the complete discussion.
Yes! Our sense of self, or ego, is essential for life on earth. It is designed to help us grow and develop into happier and better individuals. Human beings improve as they put their ego in order below loving the neighbor and the Lord.
For more on this topic, see our previous episode, “The Infinite in You.”
Delving into the Swedenborgian concept of cause and effect helps answer this question. The natural and spiritual worlds need each other—every spiritual idea must touch the ground in some way. Physical action provides a root for all spiritual concepts, and this corresponds to the spiritual world as well. The physical world puts love into expression in a different and essential way; it is a necessary basis, container, and support for the spiritual world.
Love is the most real thing, so our connection with our loved ones is lasting because of the lasting nature of that love. Loved ones who have passed will probably have a different perspective on our suffering. Angels, including loved ones who have passed, are able to understand and love us through the mourning process with much greater wisdom and perspective.
Here are some of the responses:
- Swedenborg talks very little about ecology in the spiritual world. Considering the depth of the animal kingdom on earth, it makes it sound like earth has some cooler things going on than does heaven.
- In his work, Swedenborg writes about some tough ideas about gender roles, parental heredity, and the passing down of evil tendencies.
- Swedenborg has many negative things to say about the field of philosophy, which is especially distressing for someone like Dan who loves the field.
- Swedenborg is, as Chara points out, “an equal opportunity offender.” He makes many generalizations about entire races, religions, nationalities, and categories of people. It’s hard to read that and actually understand what ideas he’s asserting.
How do they get through it?
- Chelsea says, “Ride loose in the saddle” and remember that everything should be seen in context. Sometimes there’s hidden wisdom in the things Swedenborg says that directly contradict what we know about the way nature works.
- Curtis notes that you have to look at the whole picture instead of the particulars, and you need to be willing to give the ideas the benefit of the doubt.
- Knowing the main principles of Swedenborg’s theology helps remind everyone of the focus and intent behind the more complicated concepts.
- When thinking about the way that he makes generalizations about types of people, it’s important to remember that this was the way that everyone wrote at that time—he was simply expressing himself in the way that he learned to do so. Putting Swedenborg in context helps some of his difficult passages make sense.
Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Swedenborg describes heaven as working like the human body—just as things connect and serve purposes in the body, angels connect and serve linking purposes in heaven in a similar way. It takes community to make heaven work, because everyone is working toward a common goal.
For more on this topic, you can also watch the past episode “The Different Kinds of Angels.”
Swedenborg says that anyone can go to heaven—people of any faith that live a good life according to their beliefs can choose to go to heaven because they love the real, loving ideas that the spiritual world relies on. As a tangent to that idea, if you believe that people of any religion can go to heaven, it might encourage you to try to work through your personal prejudices while still here on earth.
There isn’t any direct commentary in Swedenborg’s writings about use of mind-altering substances. Sometimes Swedenborg gets lumped into the “New Age” category of spiritual thought, where it is often the case that people use drugs to help achieve spiritual experiences. However, when Swedenborg describes regeneration (the process of spiritual rebirth), he emphasizes actions that take place in normal, daily life and making conscious choices, which is a very different type of spiritual experience from a mind-altering journey.
Thanks for watching, reading, or listening! Watch the discussion in its entirety to see more of the insights and ideas brought forth by this spunky group.
About Swedenborg and Life
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 in a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format.
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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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