I have scanned this booklet because it provides clear descriptions of how 'synchronicity' was almost certainly experienced
and defined in his time by Emanuel Swedenborg. Of course he did not use that word, he wrote about a 'hidden sense'
in the stories in the Bible.
The authors of the booklet are Wilson Van Dusen and George Dole. Wilson Van Dusen's book
The Presence Of Other Worlds was critically important to me although that factor was not obvious to me when I first read it,
because I didn't understand anything he wrote about! I had just read Steppenwolfe by Herman Hesse, which is about
a man who believed he had an animal in him. The very strange experiences that were described in this book were
incomprehensible to me also, but after a period of time and after reading other books and having experiences that
were very uncomfortable and confusing to my mind, I began to grasp a connection between the books: In 1993 I wrote
to Wilson Van Dusen asking him if my hunch that the kinds of almost 'thought content' I'd noticed in my mind were
what Swedenborg referred to as 'influx'. I wrote a 20 page letter wanting to find validation for what I understood then,
which he read and responded to, validating what I had come to understand about the relationship of 'coincidences' to
certain symptoms of delusional thought. and that those symptoms were the same experience as 'meaningful coincidences'.
A copy of his letter to me is in this link:
GOD MAN COMMUNICATION
MODERN FINDINGS ON SWEDENBORG'S CORRESPONDENCES, by Wilson Van Dusen
The great eighteenth century English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, wrote, "Language is the dress of thoughts." Words, gestures, and other actions, are garments which clothe man's communications with fellow members of the human race. But beyond human interaction, God Himself reveals to mankind something of His thought and purpose in His created universe.
If any one characteristic stands forth in the theological thought of Swedenborg, it is the theme of complete harmony between nature and spirit. In this brochure two scholars, Dr. Dole, a trained theologian, and Dr. Van Dusen, an experienced, practicing psychologist, look at the world and human experience, each from his respective stance, and contribute to the enhancement of our understanding of the language which symbolizes for earth bound man the creative dynamism of Divine love and wisdom. The result is a panoramic view of the relationship between the outer world of nature and the inner world of the mind. The picture presented is dimensional; it has depth, width and height, because both science and religion are harmonized into one great truth, namely, that God and man, both express themselves in symbols, which are an integral part of creation.
Those who admire the works of Emanuel Swedenborg may be pleased to learn that his doctrine of correspondences is not only known among scientists, it is widely accepted and used, though under other terms. Unfortunately contemporary psychologists do not know that the symbolic language of the unconscious was well worked out under the term 'Correspondence' by a Swedish scientist two centuries ago. Similarly, few Swedenborgians are likely to know of the modern findings and uses put to correspondences. It easily happens that we become strangers to each other, separated by different bodies of knowledge and words, even though we are dealing with essentially the same knowledge and beliefs. In many respects, Swedenborg's position on correspondences is now amply confirmed, accepted and put to daily use.
All of the orders of existence correspond to each other. A reality on one level has a reality corresponding to it on another level, just as man's inner feeling usually corresponds to the expression on his face. The idea of correspondence was something of a conceptual breakthrough for Swedenborg, for it permitted him to bring all orders of existence into meaningful relationships.
The whole natural world corresponds to the spiritual world—not just the natural world in general, but actually in details. So anything in the natural world that occurs from the spiritual world is called a correspondent. It is vital to understand that the natural, world emerges and endures from the spiritual world, just like an effect from the cause that produces it.
The natural world means all the expanse under the sun, receiving warmth and light from it. All the entities that are maintained from this source belong to the world. The spiritual world in contrast, is heaven. All the things that are in the heavens belong to that world.
Since man is both a heaven and an earth in smallest form, on the model of the greatest (see n. 57 above), he has a spiritual world and a natural world within him. His spiritual world comprises his more inward elements, belonging to his mind and having to do with discernment and intention. His natural world comprises his more outward elements, belonging to his body and having to do with its senses and behavior. So anything that occurs in his natural world (his body, its senses, and its actions) (mm his spiritual world (his mind, its discernment and its intention) is called a correspondent. (HH 89,90)
Correspondence exists from the Lord, through the three heavens, through man and the natural world. By this means all levels of reality are "a kind of theater representative of the Lord’s glory which is in the heavens" (AC 3000). "...Natural things were created to clothe spiritual things as skin clothes the bodies of men and animals..." (TCR 78). "The reason why each and all things in the spiritual world are represented in the natural world, is because what is internal assumes to itself a suitable clothing in what is external, whereby it makes itself visible and apparent" (WH 12), The correspondent in the natural realm is sometimes referred to as a representation.
Correspondences was no minor doctrine to Swedenborg. It was the key to the meaning of the Bible (AC 12 vols., TCR 194, 201). It was the primary and most prized knowledge of the ancients that was later lost (AE 375, TCR 201). It is the means by which the Divine is conjoined with the church and the whole natural world (TCR 238).
Because science does not really deal with spiritual matters, the correspondence of God through the heavens to man is not dealt with. The aspect of correspondence accepted by science is the one between the inner man and the man's external. Some of Swedenborg's examples are as pertinent today as when he wrote them.
The nature of correspondence is visible in man in his face. In a face which has not been trained to pretend, all the mind's affections stand out visibly, in a physical form as in their imprint. This is why the face is called the index of the mind, a person's spiritual world contained within his natural world.
In much the same way, the elements of discernment are represented in speech and the elements of intention in bodily attitudes. So these things that happen in the body—face, speech, or attitudes alike—are called correspondences. (HH 91)
This is pretty much common knowledge. Today, in many different disciplines, those who try to understand an individual personality observe gestures, speech and actions. A few clinicians have made a very detailed study of gesture, the play of feeling in the face, how the body is held and moved. What Swedenborg spoke of as dissembling is now further elaborated. Clinicians who have studied the matter most closely distinguish between gestures that are under conscious control (and hence reflect the impression the person intends to make) and gestures that are less conscious and hence reflect more of the underlying true disposition. One example that comes to mind was a man who spoke lovingly of his children and was not aware of the fact that he also bit and gritted his teeth hard as he spoke of them. More than love was being portrayed. Or a young woman is describing how she will search for a job and she
shifts position to a rigid left arm braced against the chair arm. The position looked tight and defensive, the feeling underlying the job search. Cart Rogers has spoken of the person who conceives of himself one way and actually presents himself that way as congruent.1 In Swedenborg's terms, the congruent person is truthful. Psychologists would also call him integrated; his internal and external correspond or match.
Swedenborg spoke of subtle emotional qualities in voice (DLW 280) which he says angels are more aware of than men. A few clinicians have made a study of this voice quality. The book by Moses, Voices of Neurosis, is an example. The most common quality ordinary persons notice is the over-inflected voice whose unnatural and exaggerated tones suggest someone is trying to make a strong dramatic impression or sell us something! If angels can read the whole of life's love in the voice, then most clinicians would very much like to have this skill! There is another group of clinicians who are very aware of the way that attitudes become written into the posture and muscle tensions of the body.2 They diagnose personality problems through areas of tension and rigidity in the body. We have a long way to go in learning to fully read and understand the language of the body.
The most impressive examples of correspondence come when one examines the natural symbolic processes of the unconscious. There is an ancient belief that the Messiah would speak in parables (TCR 199) because this is spiritual language of correspondents. Would the reader be surprised if I said there is a part of him which gives him an average of four to eight parables a day to use or throw away? Dreams are essentially in a language of parables. Just in this century dreams have been examined in considerable depth and from many approaches. For instance, science can now tell when one is dreaming from random eye movements in sleep and EEG brain waves. When people have been given sufficient sleep but not permitted to dream, it is found they become rapidly disturbed and even hallucinate. It is necessary that one dream. But most impressive of all is the symbolic language of dreams. Even a simpleton with no interest in symbols, dreams symbolically rich dreams. Clinicians, and especially psychoanalysts, are aware that the dream is a symbolic portrayal of the pattern of life of the individual. This parable-message is given several times a night, whether one is interested or not, with a host of symbolic thought fragments between the dreams. Clinicians often use the dream as a more critical and accurate portrayal of an individual's inner situation than the individual's own conscious estimation. Whatever creates this symbolic language is wiser than the individual. The dream is the language of correspondences.
It appears that the internal of man must speak in this language of correspondences, now termed the symbolic language of the unconscious. Too much is known of this language to outline it here. It is dramatic language which condenses essential issues of the individual's life into terms borrowed mostly from his own experiences. In dreams the internal man comments on how well it sees the external man functioning. These comments give constructive criticism or guidance—a guidance one is free to accept or reject. Can one use ancient symbols in dreams that are in the experience of mankind, but not in the individual's experience? I am convinced some people do. At about the time Swedenborg was changing from a scientist-philosopher to a theologian, he recorded and interpreted his own dreams. This was possibly his first major contact with correspondences. He interpreted his own dreams well, even in terms of modern canons of interpretation. One major accomplishment for this man, working two centuries ago, was his realization that all parts of a dream reflect one's own psyche.
Another curious area of correspondences is the hypnogogic state—the state between sleeping and waking. Most of Swedenborg's early spiritual experiences were in this state. By a serious exploration of this world, as shown in the Spiritual Diary, he explored and intensified these experiences until they began to occur in the waking state too. The most sensitive and useful training one could get on correspondences would be through work on one's own dreams and hypnogogic processes. In the hypnogogic state one can watch the formation of symbols and how they fit your life. This is, in part, how Swedenborg was trained. This is a better training than going at correspondences dictionary fashion.3 The power and reality of correspondences is much more apparent when it is yourself that is involved.
Whatever is in us cannot help but represent itself in correspondences. In my opinion this is the most primitive, given, untrained, natural faculty the mind has. Herbert Silber, only in this century, noticed this process and called it autosymbolic.4 That is, in dreams and in the hypnogogic state our inner-most processes automatically symbolize themselves. The key to the hypnogogic process is that whatever one is thinking or feeling at the moment is represented by this auto-symbolic correspondent. For instance, in this state I heard someone say "My liberal arts course." This doesn't mean much until I mention that I was meditating on the richness of inner processes—which then are referred to indeed as "my liberal arts course." It should be a little remarkable to some readers that the mind has this primitive capacity to represent itself this way, in spite of all the logical, rational, materialistic tendencies given to the external mind. Consider these examples:
I think of human understanding probing into the Foggy and difficult problems of the 'Mothers' (Faust, Part II).
Inner experience: I stand alone on a stone jetty extending far out into a dark sea. The waters of the ocean and the dark and mysterious heavy air unite at the horizon.
interpretation: The jetty in the dark sea corresponds to the probing into a difficult problem. The uniting of air and water, the elimination of the distinction between above and below, would symbolize that, with the mothers, as Mephistopheles describes it, ail times and places shade into each other...4
In a vision it seemed to me as if something was torn to pieces in the air. It may signify that my double thouqhts will be torn asunder. As I was awakening there were heard the words "all grace" which signifies that everything that has taken place is grace and for my best.
Sometimes the hypnogogic is transparently clear, as my following experience shows:
I awoke from a dream and while still relaxed saw some kind of fusion of God and man. I heard this said: you do not presume, I will answer.' This said to me I could not put upon God's freedom in any way but an honest appeal without presuming anything of God would be answered."
Modern psychology has taken this matter of mind's ability to shape correspondents and put it to work in the field of projective tests. Projective tests are a special kind of personality tests designed to discover an individual's major propensities, anxieties, potentials, attitudes and dispositions. In these tests a person is presented with something amorphous (like an ink blot) and asked to structure it. The way he handles this amorphous material reflects him. The most famous and widely used on the projective tests is the Rorschach Ink Blots. The person is asked what he sees in them. What he sees reflects him. Looking at the same area of a blot one person may see a cute sleeping lamb and another may see a ravenous wolf tearing at a body. These reflect different kinds of people. In other projective tests one is given a picture and asked to attribute a story to it (the TAT), or is given blank paper and just asked to draw a person, or copy geometric designs from memory, or a variety of other tasks. In all of these an individual is presented a partly structured situation and is asked to show how he would handle it. In this he projects himself. This projection is a correspondent to his inner disposition. For instance, in the drawing of a person, unknown to himself he may project an aggressive, dominating, hostile person, or an image of a repressed, dependent, anxious person. In projective tests psychologists get around conscious attitudes. A person doesn't usually know how the test is interpreted.
Regardless of what he thinks of himself, the projects itself in an accurate correspondent which a skilled person can read to understand the man. Even the Rorschach of a skilled Rorschacher reflects the person.
This is like dreams: the inner cannot help but represent itself. In these tests psychologists bypass the limited understanding of consciousness and look at the underlying tendencies in the inner processes. This is done to understand a person, facilitate treatment, and predict behavior.
Much of what Swedenborg says of inner processes can be checked by projective tests! For instance, Swedenborg says the internal can be closed, leaving a hard external man (AC 5423). With projective tests clinicians can recognize and examine in detail those whose internal is closed. On the Rorschach test they would be persons with high F + %, low M, low color, constricted, literal persons with little warmth or imagination. These are the hard-necked (AC 10429). The worst cases of closed internals I've seen are in chronic psychotics. They were like lifeless shells.
The idea that we can see and measure something of the inner spiritual truth of individuals has, unfortunately, been little used by the religious. For instance, it might be useful to look at the projective tests of those who aspire to be ministers.
There are a number of innovations in psychotherapy which attempt to reach and loosen inner processes in order to improve the external adaptation. One of the more impressive of these is the guided day dream. In a relaxed state with eyes closed the person is encouraged to go on one of several symbolic journeys, i.e. to meet a monster at the bottom of the sea. The subject fantasizes the trip and in so doing shapes the details of his own journey. These daydreams are guided by a therapist and often release intense feeling and become very meaningful to the subject. The person who feels trapped is imaginatively put in a prison. They then describe the nature of their imprisonment and imaginatively work on their release. With increased freedom in imagination their corresponding outer behavior is also freer.
Swedenborg makes many important statements on the relationships of inner and outer experiences. The internal can see the external (AC 1914) and conscience comes from this (AC 1953). In most of the above examples the internal is making its comments on the external. The external cannot see the internal unless it is in correspondence. This is equivalent to the person in therapy who has a poor, dim sense of any inner processes. Where there is no affection the internal appears strange to the external (AC 5423). This is true in repressed neurotic persons who find their dreams harsh and frightening. The closing of the internal cuts a person off from an inner process that leads, guides, and gives meaning. With this closed, life can become meaningless, shallow and useless. What we consider 'insight' in psychology is probably the openness of correspondence of the internal to the external. Then the source of one's life, values, and loves can come into play in one's life, giving insight so the external can speak accurately of his internal (AC 5427). The practice of uses,6 one of Swedenborg's most powerful ideas, is a way of opening up the correspondence between the inner spiritual and outer activity.
Swedenborg has much to say on the correspondences of bodily organs to the spiritual and this led to the conception of the Grand Man.
Science has also found a correspondence to these organs, in psychosomatic medicine7. Here the comparisons of present science to Swedenborg are more difficult. In many respects psychosomatic medicine is still in its infancy. In this branch of medicine some organic disorders have been found to reflect emotional disorders. The bodily disorder represents or corresponds to an emotional one. Psychosomatic concomitants have been found for a host of disorders, i.e. peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, cancer, essential hyper-tension, asthma, ulcerative colitis, and many others. These can be treated both medically (to help remove symptoms) and psychologically (to remove the pre-dispositon to the disorder). Swedenborg says the heart corresponds to love or will (DLW 374). Psychosomatic medicine says heart disorders correspond to strong feelings that aren't expressed. Are these the same? A look at Worcester's Physiological Correspondences6 suggests he is trying to reconstruct a psychosomatic medicine based on Swedenborg but it would only check at some points with present feelings. Partly there are differences of terms, i.e. 'will' is not a commonly used idea in psychology today. Partly the frame of reference is different; psychosomatic medicine is trying to read the bodily language of organs in distress. This branch of medicine, incidentally, is not widely accepted even by physicians. At least this much may be affirmed: medicine is beginning to find that physical organs do speak a language that corresponds to inner states. One needs to bear in mind that Swedenborg wrote on these matters two hundred years ago when the physical functions of the internal organs were still being worked out. It is remarkable that he would draw the rough guidelines of a branch of medicine still new, incomplete and not fully accepted even today.
I hope the reader gains from this the sense that Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondences makes much sense to us today. It is still a central way of understanding the relationship of innermost processes and the outer man. To psychotherapists, who must understand the inner man, correspondences, or the symbolic language of the unconscious, is still the major key to translating this curious, natural contribution from within. We have developed techniques for examining or understanding these processes, but the conception enunciated by Emanuel Swedenborg is still true, still central, still a major key. We have elaborated much in detail of this language and have become accustomed to using it. Yet the vast sweep of Swedenborg's conception of correspondences is still the best presentation of the scope of what is involved. Why is this language of correspondences the most innate and given capacity of humans? Because correspondences is the only language that can link the inner spiritual and the world of outer circumstances.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Wilson Van Dusen
Dr. Van Dusen earned his A.B. and M.A. from the University of California and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Ottawa, Canada. He worked for many years with the most serious of the mentally ill in a state hospital and taught at the college and university level. Certain parallels between his own personal explorations and Swedenborg's first interested him in the writings. He has since become a scholar of the writings that brings to them an unusually fresh and creative outlook. He is now in busy retirement with three books and over 100 articles to his credit.
In this article, references to Swedenborg's works are keyed as follows:
AC Arcana Coelestia
AE Apocalypse Explained
DLW Divine Loue and Wisdom
HH Heauen and Hell
TCR True Christian Religion
WH White Horse
The numbers in the keys refer to paragraphs rather than pages, which was Swedenborg's system, and they are uniform in all editions of his works.
THE LANGUAGE OF CREATION
ABOUT THE AUTHOR George F. Dole
Dr. Dole earned his M.A. in Hebrew at Oxford and his Ph.D. in Assyriology at Harvard. He was ordained after graduation from the New Church Theological School (now the Swedenborg School of Religion), Newton, Massachusetts, where he is now serving on the faculty. He holds a number of offices in his National Church organization and is currently engaged in an effort to translate Swedenborg's theological Latin into contemporary English. Dr. Dole also wrote the script for the film "Images of Knowing."
THE LANGUAGE OF CREATION
Introduction to Swedenborg's Principle of Correspondence) George F. Dole
When we think of "language" we immediately think of words and sentences. But if we take seriously the statement that "actions speak louder than words," we realize that putting ideas into words is only one form of language. More broadly, we can regard as "language" any more or less systematic means of communicating through symbols, with words as particularly arbitrary symbols. Pictures often do better; gestures and deeds transcend "language barriers." In everything we do, we put our thoughts and intentions into a kind of code which another person can perceive and interpret—or mis-interpret.
Every event we witness can convey meaning to us. Even the so-called "impersonal" events, such as storms, sunrises, ripening fruit, or falling leaves, can occasion warmth of affection and the light of understanding in us. We often acknowledge this. When we encounter an apparently inexplicable event, we ask the same question we ask about an incomprehensible sentence—"What does it mean?" And when we look at all we know, at the earth we live in and the space it moves in, and ask "What does it all mean?" we are longing to understand the language of creation.
The Psalmist looked with awe at the size and complexity of the heavens, and asked, "What is man?" Today, when our grasp of this size and complexity is vastly increased, the question is even more acute. For this growing grasp at once enlarges our universe and expands our own powers, heightening the intensity of all aspects of the question. We can scarcely avoid asking it now, when we hold our physical survival in our own hands. Has technology made us giants, or has it dwarfed us? What are we, and what are we doing to ourselves?
Above all, we need to know what we are here for. The powers at our disposal, and our fears of these powers, are such that we cannot live aimlessly. We must ask both "Whither?" and "Why?" More and more people on the technological frontiers are finding it impossible to rest content with regarding their disciplines as ends in themselves, with every discovery automatically good for mankind. Our society shows increasing evidence of discontent with the life we are making for ourselves. How can we, as we must, put together the mass of information our analytic procedures are yielding into a coherent whole in which we ourselves have an acceptable part? How can we find ourselves?
It is not turning back the clock to consult Emanuel Swedenborg on this subject. For he, in the eighteenth century, went far ahead of his time; and the direction he took is one that few have followed since, and none so far or so ably. His descriptions of man and the universe in terms of purpose remain ahead of our own time.
What did he discover in his unique research?
He found that the ultimate reality of this universe is purpose, or more precisely, purposeful love, united with infinite wisdom as its means. This love 'projects' itself into forms envisioned by its wisdom, at distances—or 'levels' —increasingly remote from itself, with the resultant creations hence increasingly inert or decreasingly receptive of life; and in this process a certain representation of the source is maintained on each successive level of spirit, mind, and body.
Thus the substantiality of the universe, and its awesome mass, or energy, reflect the reality and the vitality of infinite love; while the order of the universe, on cosmic or atomic scales, reflects the scope and perfection of infinite wisdom. The central purpose of this creation, which is the source of all lesser purposes, is self-giving—the sharing of love with beings capable of receiving it willingly and being blessed by it. This purpose is not just a surface characteristic of love. It Is love Itself.
We live in a universe, then, that reflects Its source both as the last of a series of increasingly remote creations, it reflects its source only dimly We need not concern ourselves here with the number and kinds of steps in this progression; there is no lack of detail in Swedenborg's exposition, It Is enough to say that every step, every level, bears a necessary resemblance to the one preceding it. Every level is the expression or embodiment of the purposes of the one immediately preceding It. and all these purposes relate finally to the central purpose, which is love. Every level is the effect of the preceding one and the instrumental cause of the one that follows, with Infinite love as the first cause of them all.
The level immediately underlying the physical is that of our own minds and hearts. Conscious thought and will impel physical action in our own lives, and the actions therefore represent the thought and will. So the whole world of mankind ‘s thoughts and loves finds Its embodiment in the material world, and that world is a representation or a symbol, if you will, corresponding to the total Inner state and process of the human race.
Each physical entity, be it a structure or a process, an object or a "law," reflects something within mankind: and is caused by that something. This world has substance and form because our loves are real and our thoughts are structured.
Heat and light correspond to—are expressions of love and truth respectively, and the sun, as our source of these, corresponds to our Creator. The earth is an image of us as individuals—the vegetable kingdom of our mental life and the animal kingdom of our affectional life in all their varieties and interdependences. The functions and laws of survival, the principles of ecology, picture the realities of change and constancy within us in all their complexity and subtle order.
The human body is the nearest and most perfect Image of the human soul. Its senses correspond to modes of spiritual perception: its functions of nourishment, metabolic change and growth picture the way In which we as spiritual beings take in the content of dally experience and make It part of ourselves. Its functions of locomotion and manipulation are expressions of our spiritual conduct and usefulness.
Thus, nature—all its phenomena perceptible to our bodily senses, all Its expressions in our material environment—is the language by which the infinite expresses its self to the finite, the language of creation. Particularly in his ARCANA COELESTJA and THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED, Swedenborg deals at length with the specific meanings of the basic entities of the physical universe. He does this in the course of an exegesis—an explanation—of portions of the Bible for he sees the Bible as the Word of God. and as therefore written in the vocabulary of this, language of creation. It is inwardly the story of the inner process of being human, beginning in the innocence of ignorance, and growing through Inner conflict and decision to the innocence of wisdom.
We are intended to be self-giving, but nothing compels us to be so. In fact, we must accept this purpose freely if it is to prevail within us. So in all the very ordinary situations of our ordinary days, we are given the option of perceiving the bearing of this central purpose, and of deliberately representing it in our conduct, so that we may receive it in our will.
This is a lifelong process which pervades all the diverse appearances of the world and which is intended to lead deeper and deeper, from the early external choices to the later more perceptive and profound ones.
In the Bible, Swedenborg sees our own developing faculties and the decisions we face imaged in narratives and laws and prophecies. He sees symbolically portrayed our bondage, our deliverance, and our wanderings, which he describes in considerable detail. He deals in many places with our becoming established, with our becoming divided against ourselves, and with our becoming alienated; also with the Lord's advent to us—our personal reception of the personal purpose of creation. Finally, he treats in detail the final sorting out, the climactic and complete decisions that herald the cessation of conflict and our wholeness for self-giving or against it. By the conclusion of this exegesis, Swedenborg has set forth with remarkable clarity and consistency the spiritual processes and structures which material processes and structures express and to which they correspond. Research by students of Swedenborg's thought has gathered and analyzed some of this wealth of material, and the system remains impressively coherent and provocative.
Why, then, do not more of us see this world as representatives of the spirit? If all the things our senses present to us are images of realities and events within us, why do we not understand these images?
If there is a single ruling purpose of love, what is the source of disorder and of the denial of love?
We may offer an answer in two related parts. The first is that this central purpose is not directed to any mechanical response on our part, but only to our free and witting response. Infinite love is, by nature, totally non-compelling.
When we look at a house, we know that it has been designed and created by men for a purpose. When we look at a tree, we know that no man built it, that it grew. But when we look at our world as a whole, or at the universe, we find no such unavoidable conclusion. There are those at all levels of education who 'see clearly' that it is purposefully designed and made; there are those on all levels of education who see just as clearly that it 'grew' by chance. It is strange that the idea of creation could originate in a chance universe, and just as strange that the idea of evolution by chance could originate in a purposeful universe. From birth, our world impresses itself upon our senses, and its more profound characteristics, such as extension and substantiality, impress themselves most constantly and persuasively. How could we think contrary to reality on such a fundamental matter; a matter involved in our every perception?
In Swedenborg's view, this indeterminacy, this ambiguity, is a necessity for the very purpose of creation. If we are freely to receive the Creator's love and to be blessed by it, we must have the option of refusing it. This option cannot be merely a theoretical one; we must be placed in such a situation that we cannot avoid making the choice, so that our own preference rules. The world compels us to accept its being, and leaves us free to believe what we will of its meaning.
The other part of the answer is simply that the perception of spiritual realities in real physical images is not in fact rare. It is no further removed from us than is the absence of that perception. We need only look at our language to see how constantly we describe our inner, non-physical events through physical images—as in the word "see" in this sentence. A major part of our endeavor to understand and express ourselves is called 'the arts,' and is made up of attempts to make visible, tangible, audible images of the human condition, our hopes, our joys, our fears. Psychology recognizes the universality and power of symbols, and psychiatry recognizes that much of its work—perhaps all—involves the manipulation of symbols. A popular magazine once presented a 'character test' based entirely on individual senses of affinity or dislike for different animals, recognizing clearly that these animals represent to us qualities within ourselves.
Few people in our own era have been as alive in both the inward and the outward worlds as Helen Keller. In The Story of My Life she wrote:
Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music, and sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is still undisciplined and passionate; but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul.
Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetful ness." So 1 try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others lips, my happiness.
Surely this is real. But take away the images, and there is no life left. To say that companionship is sweet, words bitter, that hope comes, that joy is in self-forgetful ness—all these are images, and there is no sharp line between the meaning and the image.
Does not this inseparability itself convey something true? The physical world and the world within us correspond to each other, and the more closely we look at this correspondence, the more perfection in detail we find. Were we to check ourselves every time we use such an image, we should soon cease to be human beings toward each other, for all our words and all our deeds are images of what moves within us.
We have, then, three basic alternatives, with no possibility of proof or disproof of any. We can believe that this correspondence is entirely coincidental and purposeless. We can believe that it exists because purposeless physical forces somehow create coherent and apparently purposeful events within us. Or we can believe that purpose is at the heart of all, and that human loves are the direct reason for the existence and nature of our world.
Swedenborg affirms the last-named belief, as a man of faith, as a scientist, and as a scientist of faith —one who has explored the realm of the soul with extraordinary discipline and clarity of mind. What is offered is of real value in today's world. For we do have need of a sense—not an illusion—of personal belonging in a whole, significant, and beautiful universe, and we do have need of a view of our own purpose as processes of life related to the central purpose of creation. Swedenborg presents us with the opportunity to see profound and constructive reasons for our nature and being, and to find a place and task in a comprehensible cosmos.
Catalog will be sent free upon request from:
SWEDENBORG FOUNDATION, INC.
139 East 23rd St. New York, New York 1
GEORGE F. DOLE
Swedenborg's Theological Works (partial listing)
DIVINE LOVE AND WISDOM—a philosophical treatise on creation. "'•
DIVINE PROVIDENCE—reveals the law abiding and merciful means of God.
FOUR DOCTRINES—The Lord, The Sacred Scriptures, Life, Faith-restated by Swedenborg
HEAVEN AND HELL—Swedenborg's detailed experiences in the spiritual world.
SPIRITUAL LIFE/THE WORD OF GOD—symbolic meanings of Divine precepts.
TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION—massive presentation of all important doctrines of Christianity.
CHARITY—Swedenborg (translated by Wm. F. Wunsch)— a practical treatment of the problems of social order, government, and daily life.
DIGEST OF TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION— Arthur Wilde—a summary of Swedenborg's work of this title.
DREAMS, HALLUCINATIONS, VISIONS— Ernst Benz—explains the psychic and religious significance of these three types of phenomena.
ESSENTIAL SWEDENBORG—Sig Synnestvedt— presents the basic elements of Swedenborg's thought.
COMPENDIUM OF SWEDENBORG'S THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS—Warren—presents the chief points of Swedenborg's teachings arranged under 36 topical headings.
MY RELIGION—Helen Keller—a personal account of a great woman's faith.
THE NATURAL DEPTH IN MAN—Wilson Van Dusen—exploration of man's inner state, the limits of consciousness, and other realms of the psyche.
THE PRESENCE OF OTHER WORLDS— Wilson Van Dusen—a fascinating account of Swedenborg's inner journey of the mind with spiritual and psychological findings.
SWEDENBORG EPIC—Sigstedt—a thorough and engrossing biography of Swedenborg
USES—Wilson Van Dusen—A guide which demonsrates in practical terms our Individual way to personal and spiritual growth.
6, W. Van Dusen, Uses, A Way of Personal and Spiritual Growth, Swedenborg Foundation, 1961.
Flanders Dunbar, Emotions
and Bodily Disease, Columbia, M.V.,
Physiological Correspondences, Massachusetts.
Mew Church Union, Boston, 1569.