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Does God exist? Does God not exist? This argument has replayed constantly throughout history, as well as in each person’s day-to-day life. How often do we ponder this question? In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs takes viewers through three conversations between angels about the nature of God, marriage, love, and wisdom according to the written adventures of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg.
Swedenborg was well known in his time for being able to communicate with angels. When he first started writing about his experiences, people always wanted to know more about his experiences with angels. In his writing, he went through his experiences in detail, describing views and visions he had of the spiritual world.
The Form of Feelings
In this video, we start off by referring back to a previous episode, “The Different Kinds of Angels,” in which Curtis talks about Swedenborg’s description of two angels meeting, even though they come from different parts of heaven: one focuses on love, while the other focuses on wisdom, and they begin to debate which is better. In this episode, we pick up where the last one left off and find out what they decided.
The angel from the heaven of wisdom asked the other angel, “What is love?” The other angel replied, “The love that originates from the Lord as a sun is the vital heat that angels and people have—it is the underlying reality of their lives. The derivatives of love are called feelings. Feelings produce perceptions and therefore thoughts. It flows from this that wisdom starts out as love, and therefore thought starts out as the feeling related to that love. Looking at the derivatives in sequence makes it possible to see that thought is nothing but the form of the feeling. This is not generally known, because thoughts exist in light but feelings exist in heat, and therefore people reflect on their thoughts but not their feelings.” (True Christianity §386:2)
First, Curtis reminds viewers about the Swedenborgian language used here in the ideas of light and heat (to help illustrate this idea, watch another previous episode called “Spiritual Light”). In the previous episode, Dr. Jonathan Odhner says that light is much more than our perception of it; light is more complex and varied than our brains can understand, because it exists in more than just our experience of light. From this, we can see that light and heat are more than what we experience—their influence on the physical world extends over a much broader spectrum. Swedenborg uses the imagery of light and heat to illustrate the connection between the natural and spiritual worlds.
Curtis uses a short animation to explain how feelings can be transformed into thoughts inside us.
From here, the angel continues:
The fact that thought is nothing but the form of a feeling related to some love can be illustrated by the fact that speech is nothing but the form of sound. In fact, sound corresponds to feeling and speech corresponds to thought. Feelings make sounds, and thoughts speak. (True Christianity §386:2)
Curtis explains the way that love interacts with thoughts—feelings and thoughts connect a continuous relationship. In the world, we know that feelings come out in the sound of speech and thoughts come out in the words we speak. Curtis proves this to viewers by playing a game: Guess That Emotion!
Here’s how the game works: Curtis listens to the same phrase read by someone else and tries to guess the emotion behind each variation based only on the tone (as the game demonstrates, it can be harder than you think!). As the game demonstrates, there is much more to communication than the words you use.
Now, on with our angel’s story:
This point would become crystal clear if someone were to say, “Take the sound out of your speech.” Would there be any speech left? Also, “Take the feeling out of your thinking.” Would there be any thinking left? Clearly then, the most important ingredient in wisdom is love. (True Christianity §386:2)
This dynamic is repeated on a number of levels: sound is to speech as feeling is to thinking, and in the same way, goodwill is to faith as love is to wisdom. Each of these pairs works in a similar way, with an inner substance leading to an outer manifestation.
Now, this isn’t the end of the story. See how it comes together at this point in the episode when an angelic spirit tells Swedenborg about wisdom and shows him around a beautiful garden.
Within the garden is a temple of wisdom, where you cannot enter unless you are humble enough to know that you need to know more and learn more. Swedenborg describes the temple like this:
It had an amazing form: it stood extremely high above the earth; square; walls made of crystal; a roof made of translucent jasper elegantly arched; a foundation made of different types of precious stone. There were steps of polished alabaster so that people could go up into the temple. At the sides of the steps there were images of lions with their cubs. Then I asked whether it was all right to go in. I was told that it was all right, so I went up the stairs. As I went in, I saw something like angel guardians flying near the ceiling, but they soon disappeared. The floor I was walking on was made of cedar. With its translucent roof and walls, the whole temple was built to be a form of light. The angelic spirit came in with me. I mentioned what I had heard from the two angels about love and wisdom, and goodwill and faith. The angelic spirit said, “Did they not also mention a third element?” “What third element?” I asked. (True Christianity §387:2–3)
The third element, as always, completes the ideas of love and wisdom: good, useful action. Everything good and true must be contained and expressed in action, which means that love can’t be love, and wisdom can’t be wise, unless they are doing something.
This triad appears throughout all of life, even in business, where you hear about ideas like purpose, means, and results—you must have all three to create an effective idea. It is the same with concepts like:
- Goodwill, faith, action
- Feeling, thought, work
- Will, intellect, body
In each of these concepts, you must have the desire to do something, the way to make it happen, and the ability to actually do it. The angel tells Swedenborg that love and wisdom—or any of the dualities mentioned above—have no meaning unless put into action.
That is the end of the first conversation! If you were expecting drama and arguments, you are about to enter the right place . . .
Curtis begins this section of the video by discussing thunderstorms in the physical world and the atmospheric reasons they occur. But in the spiritual world, thunderstorms are different: as Curtis says, “They arise for spiritual reasons.”
For this section, Curtis leads viewers through a story in which he plays the role of Swedenborg and watches a fierce debate between angels and devils about God vs. Nature.
This debate centers on the idea that God is at the center of life vs. the idea that nature is at the center of life. Devils say that nature is really the one in charge—after all, it’s stupid to say that you believe something you cannot see, or hear, or taste, or touch. Angels say that relying on your senses to tell you the truth holds you back from seeing real truth—believing only in your senses makes you no better than an animal. The angels make comparisons between the world of nature and the spiritual world, pointing out that the things that the devils are “naturally experiencing” in the afterlife are entirely spiritual things, because they are no longer in the natural world. Everything in heaven has a correspondence—nothing is natural or material.
The angels then take the devils into heaven to see everything there, and the devils see that truth is more than just sensory experience. However, once they went back down into hell, they saw everything that their bodies enjoyed and went straight back to loving hell.
This debate showed the limits of thinking that the only true things are things you can experience with your senses. The angels saw and understood much more than the devils because they accepted spiritual truth.
The Silver Age
This section begins with a story originally told in Swedenborg’s book Love in Marriage (also translated Conjugial Love) about the people of the Silver Age, the second spiritual age of humankind.
In the story, an angel asks Swedenborg if he would like to meet the people of the Silver Age (all of whom have long since passed into the spiritual world). Swedenborg says yes, and off they go. On the way, he notices a number of carvings and statues and asks, “Are they idols?” The angel responds that each person, animal, bird, and fish actually represents a spiritual virtue or truth, and these symbols were called hieroglyphics in Egypt.
Swedenborg wasn’t focused only on Christianity. In fact, he studied many other cultures and found truth in many different places. He even offered to write an explanation of the correspondences of hieroglyphics for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, although that project never came to fruition—much to the disappointment of later Swedenborg fans!
As Swedenborg and the angel continued on their way to meet the people of the Silver Age, they saw horse-pulled chariots in all different types of animal shapes: whales, eagles, unicorns, and many more. But as they got closer, they saw the chariots and horses were actually pairs of people talking. They continued walking and saw a city with beautiful houses and temples.
When Swedenborg meets a couple from the Silver Age, they tell him that in their time, their chief spiritual concern was the study of truth, including the knowledge of correspondences. This gave them a special insight into marriage, saying that to them, marriage is the joining of good and truth, or love and wisdom.
If you’d like to find out more about Swedenborg’s experiences learning about spiritual marriage, watch the previous episode “Spiritual Marriage.”
Next, the couple takes Swedenborg into their house to see depictions of marriage through objects in their home that represent greater ideas, as shown in the picture to the left. But to find out what they represented, you’ll have to watch that section yourself!
This story shows a small window into the way correspondences create heaven—everything is symbolic, important, special, filled with meaning. Curtis reminds viewers that everything that Swedenborg describes has meaning. The important thing throughout all of these conversations is that each place in heaven, each part of the spiritual world, is filled with meaning. Nothing exists just to exist. Everything has a purpose.
- Did Swedenborg interpret other books than Genesis, Exodus and Revelation? If not, why?
- Do angels have more feelings [than people on earth]? Like in Heaven there are more colours?
- You guys say that when you cross over that you don’t grow, so how would you go to a different level of heaven? Or maybe you’re not an angel right at first. I was listening to something earlier today and you seemed to be saying when you first crossover you’re in the land of spirits and that’s like 30 years. I’m confused.
- So we still have a “wisdom ego” and can’t see the temple of wisdom when we crossover?
- What’s the difference between intelligence, rational, memory knowledges, and sensory?
- ES says we are to turn away from sin as if on our own but believe it comes from the Lord. Are we to believe that we turn away from evil using the power God is giving us Or that God causes us to turn?
- What is the spiritual symbolism of south and east?
- If what we see around us is a correspondence to spiritual things, what do cars zooming around suggest? Especially if I don’t drive, but ride a bicycle and walk.
- Did Swedenborg always go to the world of spirits or did spirits come to him as well?
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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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