The Seven Days of Creation (Continued)

Before this process begins, a human being is completely in the dark about spiritual things. The earth of his natural mind is a great void, and empty, devoid of spiritual thoughts and affections. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2)—covered the lusts and false ideas of the unregenerate person. However, God in his mercy is working to stir up whatever remains of our childhood innocence. From this come the first rays of spiritual light. It dawns on us that there must be a God, so that we distinguish between light and darkness. This is day one.

In this new state (the “morning” of Gen. 1:5) we can make this distinction more often and more clearly. We begin to realize that our thoughts come from two different sources. Some come from our worldly mind, but others come from our newly discovered heavenly or internal mind, which is in the light of heaven. “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven” (Gen. 1:7–8). This is day two.

On the third day, the insights from the internal heavenly mind are thought about much more often. We recollect them more often. This is what is meant by the “waters under the heavens” being “gathered together [collected] into one place” in Genesis 1:9. This causes the “dry land” of our natural mind to appear—because we have earnestly examined ourselves. The spiritual aridness of our natural mind is exposed. By this we are somewhat humbled, and we begin our first works of repentance, the amendment of our lives. These are the good works being done at this stage. They are comparatively inanimate, being only of the immobile vegetable kingdom in the scale of spiritual creations. The reason is that we do not really believe yet that any good we do is from the Lord. We only believe this because we are taught by others that this is so. Our human nature is still in everything we say and do. It is the earth—our natural mind—that brings forth “grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11). Thus day three is complete.

No further progress can be made until we acknowledge the Lord, that he is the source, the only cause, the Father of everything good and true. As we make this acknowledgement, our humility increases. A new love begins to rule our mind, represented by two great lights that appear in the heavens—the light of love (the sun) and its offspring, the light of faith (the moon), coming down from the heavenly or internal mind. When there is some love, some delight, in doing the Lord’s will, then there is also something of real faith, genuine belief; just as the light of the moon is but a reflection of the light of the sun. When this warm sunlight of the internal mind begins to shine upon the earth of our natural mind, then for the first time the person is spiritually alive. This explains why the creation of the sun and moon is so long delayed. So ends day four.

In the fifth stage of the Lord’s creation of a clean heart inside us, we really begin to make a habit of thinking from the true things that are to be believed. They are now continually in the deepest level of our thought as our standard of judgment, the principles by which we evaluate, set in order, and govern everything that comes into our mind. Note that the Lord is in these true things that are a part of faith. He causes us to recall them and think from them. They are his creations, in general and in each particular instance. This is what is meant by “every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind” (Gen. 1:21). Here we see the first animate, living, spiritual states of mind. This is day five.

In the sixth stage, our chief delight and ruling love is in fostering and enhancing the good received from the Lord by the various forms of the neighbor—an individual, a group of individuals, a church, a country as a whole, the human race. These are the ascending levels of the neighbor, and helping them is love going out to others, or charity. The good in them is what we love, and that good, strictly speaking, is the neighbor. (This is why Swedenborg always says “the” neighbor rather than “one’s” neighbor.) This goodwill toward others is what is meant by the “living creature” created by God on the sixth day—the animals of the earth (Gen. 1:24–25). The creation of human beings is the final dominion of the spiritual kind of love of the neighbor. We are the image and likeness of God’s love and wisdom. This is the lesson of day six.

These are the six days of the Lord’s labor in regeneration of a human being. It is purely the Lord’s work, although it requires our cooperation, and it may appear to us as if we are doing it all ourselves. But there is still another state: the seventh day, the sabbath of our Lord, his day of rest. This is the state in which the person’s mind is ruled, not merely by love of the neighbor, but by love going up to the Lord, the noblest and most exalted love that a human being can aim at and attain. It is the fulfillment of the first and greatest commandment, as revealed in Matthew 22:37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” During the first six stages, the Lord has to fight for us in our battles of temptation. But when our ruling or predominant love has become love for the Lord, the fight is over, and the holy day of rest from temptations is at hand. The Lord can then rest. This is day seven.

from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness by Douglas Taylor

The Seven Days of Creation

In the literal account of the days of creation there are some obvious intellectual difficulties. For instance, there is light on the first day and the separation of day and night, and vegetation on the third day, but no sun or moon until the fourth day!

It is easy to accept that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. I:I). How could the heavens and the earth create themselves? But it is equally clear that in the literal sense the details of how this was done contain such obvious impossibilities that no intellectually honest person can accept them as literally true and reasonable. Our discussion of regeneration in the preceding chapters can now shed a new light on the details of this familiar story.

While Swedenborg constantly affirms in page after page that the Lord is creator of the universe, he points out that “since the Word is the Lord’s and comes from him, it could not possibly exist unless it held within it the kinds of things that have to do with heaven, the church, and faith. Otherwise it could not be called the Lord’s Word, nor could it be said to contain any life” (Secrets of Heaven, Section 2).

Accordingly, he then goes on to demonstrate verse by verse that the Creation story is not about cosmic creation but about the seven stages in the process of regeneration—the spiritual creation of an angelic kind of person. This is the kind of creation meant in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

from The Hidden Levels of the Mind, Swedenborg’s Theory of Consciousness

Goodwill and Good Actions Are Two Distinct Things: Wishing People Well and Treating Them Well (Continued)

These things enable us to see how we are to understand the statement that goodwill and good works are two distinct things: wishing people well and treating them well. That is, they are formally distinct, like the mind that does the thinking and willing and the body through which the mind speaks and acts. In fact, they are essentially distinct as well, because the mind itself is divided into an inner region that is spiritual and an outer region that is earthly, as I said just above.

Therefore if the things we do come from our spiritual mind, they come from wishing others well, or goodwill. If, however, they come only from our earthly mind, they come from a form of wishing others well that is not genuine goodwill. It can appear to be goodwill in its outer form and yet not be genuine goodwill in its inner form. Goodwill that exists in an outer form alone does indeed present the look of goodwill, but lacks its essence.

This point could be illustrated by an analogy with seeds in the ground. Every type of seed gives rise to a shoot, but those shoots are either useful or useless, depending on their species. The same is true for spiritual seed, that is, for truth in the church that comes from the Word. A body of teaching grows out of this truth–a useful body of teaching if it is made out of genuine truths, a useless one if it is made out of truths that has been falsified. The same thing applies to goodwill that is exercised as the result of wishing our neighbors well, whether we wish them well for our own sake or for a worldly reason or for the sake of our neighbor in a narrower or broader sense. If we wish our neighbors well for our sake or for a worldly reason, our goodwill is genuine. If we wish our neighbor well for their sake, our goodwill is genuine. See many statements that address these topics in the chapter on faith, especially in the discussion showing that “goodwill” is benevolence toward others; that “good works” are actions that result from benevolence (Section 374); and that goodwill and faith are transient and exist only in our minds unless, when an opportunity occurs, they culminate in actions and become embodied in them (Sections 375-376).

from True Christianity, Section 421


Sections 374-376: Published 1/10/2021-1/12/2021

Goodwill and Good Actions Are Two Distinct Things: Wishing People Well and Treating Them Well

All people have an inner level and outer level. Their inner level is called the inner self and their outer level is called the outer self. Nevertheless, someone who does not know what the inner and outer selves are could believe that our inner self is the source of our thinking and willing and our outer self is the source is our speaking and action. These are indeed inner and outer aspects of us, but they do not constitute the essence of our inner and outer selves. The human mind is indeed commonly held to be the inner self, but in actuality the mind is divided into two regions. One of the regions is spiritual; it is higher and farther within. The other is earthly; it is lower and farther outside. Our spiritual mind focuses principally on the spiritual world. It deals with the things in that world, whether they are the kind that exist in heaven or the kind that exist in hell. (Both kinds are in the spiritual world.) The earthly mind, on the other hand, focuses principally on the earthly reaim. It deals with the things in this world, whether good or evil.

All our action and speaking emanates from the lower region of our mind through a direct route. Ultimately, however, it comes from the higher region of our mind, although the route is indirect because the lower region is closer to the senses in our body, while the higher region is farther away from them. This division within our mind exists because we have been created to be spiritual and earthly at the same time, and therefore to be human, not animal.

These points make it clear that people who focus primarily on themselves and worldly things are external people. They are earthly not only in body but also in mind. People who focus primarily on things that relate to heaven and the church are internal people. They are spiritual in both mind and body. They are spiritual on body as well because their actions and words come from their higher mind, which is spiritual, through their lower mind, which is earthly. (As people generally know, effects come from our body, while the causes that produce those effects come from our mind; the cause shapes every aspect of the effect.)

It is obvious that the human mind has been divided in this way from the fact that people are able to pretend, to flatter, to be hypocritical, or to playact. They can agree with what someone else is saying and nevertheless view it as ridiculous. They do the former in their lower mind, the latter in their higher one.

from True Christianity, Section 420

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person (Continued)

People who love what is good because it is good and love what is true because it is true have supreme love for their neighbor, because they love the Lord who is goodness itself and truth itself. Love for goodness, love for truth, and love for our neighbor come from nowhere else. Love for our neighbor, then, has a heavenly origin.

It is the same thing whether you say “goodness” or “usefulness.” Therefore doing good things is doing useful things. The amount and quality of usefulness that a given good thing has determines the amount and quality of its goodness.

from True Christianity, Section 419

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person (Continued)

The reason goodness is our neighbor is that goodness belongs to our will and the will is the underlying reality of our life. Truth is our neighbor, too, but only to the extent that it emanates from something good in our will. Goodness that belongs to the will takes shape in our intellect and visibly presents itself there in the light of reason.

All our experience shows that goodness is our neighbor. We love people for the quality of their will and intellect, that is, the goodness and justness in them. For example, we love monarchs, princes, generals, officials, consuls, civic leaders, and judges for the judgment they show in their words and actions. We love church leaders, ministers, and their assistants for their knowledge, integrity of life, and passion for the well-being of souls. We love army generals and commanders under them for their fortitude and prudence. We love retailers for their honesty. We love workers and servants for their faithfulness. For that matter, we love a given species of tree for its fruit; the soil for its level of fertility; a stone for its preciousness; and so on.

Strange as it may seem, it is not just honest people who love goodness and justness in others. Dishonest people do too, because they do not fear losing reputation, respect, or wealth at the hands of honest people. The love that dishonest people have for goodness is not love for their neighbor, however–dishonest people do not inwardly love any others outside themselves unless those others serve them somehow.

Loving goodness in another person from goodness in ourselves is genuine love for our neighbor. In that situation the two goodnesses embrace and form a partnership.

from True Christianity, Section 418

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person

Surely everyone knows that people are not people because they have a human face and body–they are people because they have wisdom in their intellect and goodness in their will. The higher the quality of this wisdom and goodness, the more human the people are.

When people are born they are more brutish than any animal. They become human through being instructed. If they are responsive to the instruction, a mind forms within them. People are human because of their mind, depending on its particular nature.

There are animals that have faces that are close to human, but they have no faculty for higher understanding or for taking any action on the basis of that understanding. They act on an instinct that is activated by their earthly love. One difference between animals and people is that animals express in sound the feelings belonging to their love, while people speak their feelings as transferred into thought. Animals turn their faces downward and look at the ground, while people look at the sky in all directions, their faces lifted up.

From these points we can draw the following conclusion: the more we base what we say on sound reasoning and the more we focus on the time we will spend in heaven, the more human we are. Conversely, the more we abse what we say on twisted reasoning and focus only on the time we are to spend in the world, the less human we are. In the latter case, we are still human, but only potentially rather than actually, since all people have the power to understand things that are true and to intend actions that are good. Even if we have no intention of doing what is good or understanding what is true, we nonetheless retain the ability to ape and mimic human qualities on the outside.

from True Christianity, Section 417

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

According to Swedenborg’s description, there are two gates that people open. One leads to hell and the other to heaven. Evil and falsehood flow from one direction, and good and truth from the other. Evil people open wide the gate to hell and wantonly accept its flow. As for the gate to heaven, several rays of light barely thrust through a crack above. The fact that evil people also possess the faculties of thought, philosophical reasoning, and linguistic expression is due to the power of this light. However, they do not recognize that these [faculties] are from heaven, thinking them only to be [the properties] of their own reasonable minds. Because of this, the true nature of these reasonable minds is love for the infernal. All of their thoughts are stained by this love and are in darkness. However, they imagine they are in the light. Swedenborg entered into and observed the interior of these sorts of people. Standing at the entrance to the gate of hell, they smell the foul stench that spills out—a stench that induces nausea and dizziness—and laughing merrily, take pleasure in it. If, by any chance, they feel the breath of heaven, these people cannot endure the internal suffering, and with one loud voice cry, “What pain!”

From the viewpoint of human beings, this is a manifestation of free nature; but the divine will, which has granted to humans the sensation of freedom, tries, based on this freedom, to build the salvation of people through their volition. In truth, the desire of people to go to heaven is an act of the divine will, or other-power. Again, to have this intention, to be reborn in heaven, is impossible without the other-power of the divine will; but from the perspective of freedom, everything seems to be the result of the self-power of human beings. The reason that people must perceive the reasoning of an autonomous will is that, if they do not, they will not be able to think about and intend evil and falsehood. A thinking consciousness is a condition for this freedom, which allows for the manifestation of an internal that tends toward good and truth. Despite the teaching of salvation through other-power, if we first do not recognize the consequences of karma and the depth of our evil passions, other-power can do nothing to help. The possibility of listening stems from free consciousness.

Through the freedom and reason that are granted by other-power, a Buddhist recognizes his or her sins and achieves rebirth in paradise, while a Christian gains repentance and resurrection. The need to repent comes from the fact that we are originally in a state of degeneration. Our life is nourished by the heat and light of heaven on the one hand, but fueled by self-love and worldly love on the other. Through these two loves, divine good and divine wisdom are suppressed; stopped by various falsehoods and evils, we forget to advance. We are awakened from this by the words of the Bible, or in Buddhism, by the name of Amida, the name that sounds throughout the ten directions. When freedom and reason are not guided by infernal love, but instead turn toward the sun in heaven—that is, the chief direction of the Divine—the love and light of the Divine flood that person’s interior to the point of overflowing, and in this is the reality of regeneration. This regeneration is accompanied by a heavenly joy. At first, we think this joy is something natural and do not recognize its origin in the Divine; but the moment of recognition finally comes, and this moment is perfect enlightenment. We realize that various goods and truths stem from the other-power of the Divine and that the consciousness of autonomous self-power comes from a blind thought, marked with traces of self-love. Without the truth of this enlightenment, there is no real regeneration. The perfect union of this truth with divine love allows us to lead a spiritual life. This is said to be the moment when we live the life of the internal.

Evil people too are able to discern through reason what is good. Yet, because that good has not entered into their lives, their interiors are not illuminated by the light of regeneration, and they turn their backs to the Divine. Because Swedenborg witnessed this in the spiritual world, it must be true. Imagine here a conversation between two people. It appears very intimate, and when you listen to them, it feels as if you can discern their internal love. However, viewed with Swedenborg’s insight, these two people are standing back to back, and the waves of love arising from their inner hearts are dark in color. It looks as if they are crashing into each other. The internal and external of this world are separated in this way, so that the activity of spiritual reason is not clear. But when we enter the world of the internal, everything is unconcealed and naked. The Bible says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not become public, nothing under cover that will not be made known” [Luke 8:17]. When we recall this, everything is a self-evident truth, says Swedenborg. This is again the force of other-power.

There is a great deal I wish to write concerning Swedenborg, but that remains for another day. He was a Swede who died in England in 1772, that is, 155 years ago. He was a man of science until age 55, and his works on theology, more than most could write in a lifetime, span the next [twenty-nine] years. When he was 84 years old, he predicted the time of his death and accordingly returned to heaven.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

Since heaven derives from innocence, its opposite, hell, would have to signify non-innocence. In other words, those who believe in self-power without relying on other-power will always fall into hell. When my ego’s purpose suddenly arises, I shoot into hell like an arrow. The purpose of the ego, according to Swedenborg, is self-love and worldly love. When the vault of hell is opened, the raging fire and smoke that one sees rising up is what springs from the blaze of these two loves. Those who are in hell in bodily form are completely consumed by these flames. As I said before, there is also heat in heaven, the heat of divine love. However, this heat is like the warmth of spring, and once this warmth flows into the blaze of hell, the blaze cools and becomes extremely cold. The heat of heaven acts in this mysterious way. Flowing from the depths of the Divine is a power that cannot be judged by human perception.

Swedenborg was allowed by the Lord to witness hell. A portion of his record reads:

The hells are everywhere, and their entrances, when looked into, appear pitch black. But those who dwell in them think it to be bright. This is because their eyes are adapted to this degree of light. The cave openings first extend inward, and then twist obliquely. Some plunge downward into a bottomless abyss, and appear like the caves of wild beasts. Other hells seem like the ruins of houses and cities after conflagrations.

The spirits living here are engaged in unceasing quarrels, enmities, fightings, and brutalities. Throughout the scorched city, bands of thieves and robbers swagger about. In some of the hells there are nothing but brothels, filled with every kind of filth and excrement. Again, there are thick forests in which spirits roam like wild beasts, and where, underground, there are dens into which those flee who are pursued by others. Some are wastelands where there is only sand. There are those who flee as far as such places. In particular, those who contrived intrigues and deceits while in the world are driven into the desert, where they must spend their lives.

I believe there is no one who has written as minutely about the nature of heaven and hell as Swedenborg. Dante skillfully applied his art, and he should be recognized as an exponent of medieval beliefs; but Swedenborg, with an intellectual faculty forged through science and with his amazing power of imagination and insight, exhaustively described the spiritual world. At first his writing seems ridiculous, but as you read on, you are drawn into it. Although it might contain a number of fantasies, it undoubtedly includes many truths as well.

Swedenborg said that heaven arises from love toward the Lord and knowledge of the Divine. Hell, conversely, is realized through love of self and love of the world, as well as through consciousness of both these loves. Heaven and hell are opposite poles. Recognizing these poles, Swedenborg made human beings the mid-point. Self-love means grabbing pleasure from others and gathering it only to yourself. Worldly love is the desire to make another person’s possessions your own. Those in the midst of this sort of love may wish to share their own enjoyment with others; but since the focus of that motive is still themselves, they do not increase the enjoyment of others, but instead reduce it. Swedenborg said he personally experienced this in the spiritual world. Before Swedenborg applied himself to religion, he was a prominent scientist, so he did not give abstract explanations. He taught through his own observations. Thus, in the spiritual world, he sensed that when an egotist merely approached a heavenly society, the level of enjoyment among the angels in that society would decline. Swedenborg said the degree of this decline was proportional to the intensity of self-love felt by infernal beings. He never explained by way of argument or speculation, but with the attitude of a scientist describing actual experiences. In this respect, he had a unique worldview.

Heaven is divine love, and hell is self-love, while we, in between, must decide our lot for ourselves. Swedenborg called this freedom equilibrium. I find it interesting how his choice of the word “equilibrium” demonstrates that he was a scientist. In any case, we are free and may head toward the love of heaven or love of hell as we please. Without free and independent action, true regeneration and salvation are not possible. Without freedom, we cannot act according to our own love. Love that flows from the internal originates with the Lord; but when we do not act from this love, we never attain our true life. Because the external comes from memory, it works only through thought, and conceptual living cannot save people. In all cases, it is necessary to express the internal will, for it is in this that correspondence with heaven may take place.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

Swedenborg’s symbolic philosophy is built on the principle of correspondence. Because this principle is one of the major tenets of his philosophy, one certainly must know about it to understand Swedenborg. I believe the principle of correspondence originally comes from the idea in the Bible that “God created man in his own image” [Genesis 1:27].

Those without the perfect good of love and the perfect truth of wisdom cannot understand the hidden will of heaven. People have both an internal and an external; and not being able to make an adequate correspondence between them, they cannot comprehend [heaven’s will]. One way to grasp it, however, is through the phenomena of the sensual world as perceived through the five senses. All of these phenomena contain significance. The caw of a crow or the song of a sparrow are not simply a caw and a song: there are heavenly significance and infernal significance. This kind of reading depends on the principle of correspondence. Therefore, while people are on the earth, they are free to unveil their correspondence with heaven according to the nature of their internal enthusiasm. That is, this world of suffering can also be considered a Pure Land of tranquil light. Those who grasp the principle of correspondence stroll through a kingdom of significance.

Heaven, in fact, is composed solely of this significance; it is a place governed by pure love and pure truth. Love is warmth and corresponds to the human heart. Truth is light and corresponds to the human lungs. Located in the thorax, the heart and lungs are distinguished from other organs. When love stirs, the heart throbs and heat is released. When truth shines, the breath is regulated and there is silence. However, when there is no heat, there is no light, so light is of secondary importance. Even without light, there is heat, heat being the fundamental principle. Dark heat is the fire of hell, and it is from here that all pain is born. Heat with light brings spring to the universe, and it always feels like spring in heaven. Here we see the truth of correspondence.

The perfect union of love and wisdom is the individual person, and all of heaven exhibits itself through the appearance of an individual. The full realization of a person’s integrity can be seen only in the realm of divine good and divine truth. Among modern philosophers, there are those who say things such as, “God is a perfect individual. Human consciousness, try as it might, can never seize the singularity of the individual. Yet it always tries to grasp it, and this longing is first satisfied upon arrival at the Divine. The reason for the existence of this longing is simply that the Divine realizes itself in individual human beings.” Can we not see traces of Swedenborg in this?

The doctrine of correspondence is profound. In terms of Buddhism, it is similar to the Shingon philosophy of phenomena. One can also interpret the idea of the Pure Land according to the doctrine of correspondence. Even if we say that all phenomena interpenetrate without obstacle, we cannot identify hell with paradise. Although we can say that the Pure Land’s significance is found in this world of suffering, hell, being hell, is not paradise; and Kannon, Amida, Fudô, Yakushi, and the eight million gods exist just the same. The principle of correspondence cannot be divorced from human consciousness. Viewed from the doctrine of correspondence, I believe Shingon teachings on such things as mudrâs can be interpreted in an interesting fashion. If Swedenborg had not communicated with the Christian heaven, and had instead mastered Buddhist philosophy, what kind of “hidden will” would he have discovered? I believe it is worth engaging in this kind of speculation.

Previously, I noted that the essence of heaven is innocence and that, because this innocence cannot be achieved through ordinary knowledge, it must be reached through a perfect enlightenment beyond knowledge. What I call enlightenment is the perception that we cannot independently achieve good separate from the Lord God in heaven. Without this perception, we cannot attain innocence.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki