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

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