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Swedenborg’s Revelations of Dualism and Nondualism

Notes for a talk at the Meeting
"Esoteric Perspectives on a Science of Consciousness"
on 31st May 2003.

Ian Thompson
Department of Physics, University of Surrey, U.K.

Accompanying Notes (Word doc)
Accompanying Slides (Web from Powerpoint 97)
Accompanying Slides (Web from Powerpoint 2000)

Part A. Esoteric Sources of Knowledge *

A.1 The Need for Esoteric Perspectives *
A.2 Emanuel Swedenborg *
A.3 What do we really want to know? *
A.4 Need for Details *

Part B. Spiritual Growth *

B.1 Can there be Permanent Spiritual Changes? *
B.2 Reasons for this *
B.3 Spiritual Life in Us *
B.4 Esoteric Science of Consciousness? *
B.5 Spiritual Love and Wisdom *
B.6 Stages of Spiritual Growth *
B.7 Regeneration by Temptation *
B.8 Where the Spiritual Comes From? *
B.9 Ten guidelines for what to do and what not to do *
B.10 Duality and Nonduality *
B.11 What Regeneration is NOT *

Part C. Framework for a Science of Consciousness *

C.1 Summary of Principles *
C.2 Divine Structure *
C.3 Three-Fold Structures In The Created Universe *
C.4 Recursive Structure *
C.5 Cognitive And Affective Stages *
C.6 Nature And Mind *
C.7 More examples of Correspondences *
C.8 Parapsychology *
C.9 Stages of Life *

Part D. Conclusions *

Part E. Further Resources *

E.1 Emanuel Swedenborg Book list *
E.2 Online Books *
E.3 Web Sites *
E.4 Related Talks *

A. Esoteric Sources of Knowledge

    1. The Need for Esoteric Perspectives
    2. Parallel to the standard exoteric view of the state (whether of the established church, or of established science), there have long been other esoteric views about mind, spirituality and religion, that have been somewhat different, even radically different. Most of us in this room feel that we are party to one or more of these esoteric perspectives, and, of those, most will also feel a considerable tension between these rare beliefs and those of our universities, industries and government. Furthermore, there are many apparent discrepancies between different esoteric schemes.

      Our challenge is unify the inner and the outer, to find our integrity again. We have to creatively resolve, especially within ourselves, the tension between the disparate elements. Standard views will have to be considerably extended, and the esoteric themes will have to be developed into considerably more detail.

      Fortunately, we have illustrious predecessors, who give us indications of the way this could possibly be done, by telling us how they resolved these tensions. Today we are going to hear about four such people, and I begin with Emanuel Swedenborg.

    3. Emanuel Swedenborg

Who he was:
Swedish philosopher, theologian, chemist, anatomist, and visionary, fluent in eleven languages (1688-1772). Swedenborg devoted the first half of his life to scientific investigations. After 1744 he turned his full attention to theology, metaphysics and started to scientifically explore visionary experience. Swedenborg's most popular book is Heaven and Hell. During his life, Swedenborg published over 50 works.

How you may have heard of him:

  1. Philosophical antagonism by Immanuel Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit Seer (1766)
  2. Often mentioned in support of spiritualism in the 1800’s. Swedenborg had several publicly-verified clairvoyant episodes.
  3. His spiritual writing influenced Emerson, Goethe, Henry James Sr., Dostoevsky, and William Blake.
  4. Raymond Moody in Life after Life (1976) relates Swedenborg’s descriptions of stages after death.
  5. His ideas are the basis of the small New Church.

What Swedenborg thought he was doing after 1744:

  1. Presenting the internal sense of the bible.
  2. Being a dual citizen of the natural and heavenly worlds, in order to tell us the basis and reasons of a new rational spirituality.
  3. Participate in production of new spiritual freedom since 1760.
  4. And hence the new religious, artistic, political & scientific freedoms since then.

Publications: see the list in section E.1 below.

    1. What do we really want to know?

Parts of this talk:

Since true wisdom is wisdom of life, let us discuss the second question first, in Part B.

    1. Need for Details

From different esoteric traditions, we hear general concepts such as that

but is there sufficient detail here? It is clear that if we are to develop a new science from these views, then we need considerably more detail about one or more of ‘God’, ‘above’ and/or ‘below’.

For example, if our principal view of the Divine as ‘an unknowable unity’, then it is not clear how to carry on to make a science. Conversely, if we view God as having arbitrary omnipotence, then ‘anything is possible’, and again a rational science is difficult to imagine. Alternatively, we can speculate endlessly, with enormous variation, to form rational schemes which describe the essential features of our physical world combined with some new spiritual features.

To induce specific, workable and useful knowledge, I believe that we need some guidance from someone who already knows. Otherwise we are guessing in the dark.

Thus, again we are obliged to consider the knowledge and wisdom of some of our predecessors. We may consider this either as inspiration or revelation, but, whatever the source and whatever the means, we have to decide of ourselves which to consider. In this talk, therefore, I bring before you the knowledge presented by Emanuel Swedenborg.

Swedenborg is particularly useful because of his position as ‘rational visionary’ within the Western Christian tradition. Not that he leaves this tradition unchanged, but that, more clearly than does Plotinus for example, he explains in much detail the visionary and mystical contents of many of the outer forms of Christianity.

B. Spiritual Growth

    1. Can there be Permanent Spiritual Changes?
    2. We may experience elevation, insights and ecstacies – even to the Infinite – but it does not seem to last: we always come down again to our selves. Are we changed?  Do Near-Death Experiences change us for the good? How do we grow with permanent effect?

      Permanent spiritual growth, according to Swedenborg, comes from

      Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom.

      Spiritual Life in Us:

      We have to conform ourselves to receive Love and Wisdom,
      so that they can act again in us.

Method of Regeneration: the ‘bottom line’ of application:

      Permanent spiritual growth occurs after you
      freely resist temptation by means of truths.

    1. Reasons for this
    2. Permanent spiritual growth, according to Swedenborg, comes from

Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom.

      NOT from any one of the following things by itself:

        belief (faith),
        personal acceptance of vicarious atonement,
        knowledge, even of truths (wisdom),
        good intentions or love,
        elevated, expanded, rotated, vibrated (etc) consciousness,

      Swedenborg gives reasons for all these claims (see later).

    1. Spiritual Life in Us

We have to conform ourselves to receive Love and Wisdom, so that they can act again in us.

Method of Regeneration

Permanent spiritual growth occurs after you
freely resist temptation by means of truths.

This is because:

  1. We receive love and wisdom when we act appropriately: not when we wait inertly.
  2. This is action from your will and your understanding.
  3. All our love and wisdom comes from the Source, but still we must act as if it is our own.
  4. If an action was not free, it would not be your act, and you would not experience any delight as your own, but forced upon you resentfully.
  5. These acts are your acts when it is your love and wisdom which freely act.
  6. Love and wisdom in us are what makes us conscious, and human.
    1. Esoteric Science of Consciousness?
    2. Are the above ideas common knowledge? Or are they esoteric? Are they part of ‘science of consciousness’? In the past, only those with esoteric interests have found these ideas. They are commonly only found by going beyond ‘literal meanings’ of religious, to an esoteric knowledge texts (see later).

      But they should not be esoteric, but common knowledge! They should be part of everyone’s knowledge who is interested. Just as science is today: so they should be part of science, namely the science of consciousness.

      We may intuitively agree with the above principles. But Swedenborg gives reasons for them all. Let us follow these reasons, and see what must be in the ‘science of consciousness’ for these principles to hold.

      This is working back from the application to temptation, and forward from the general principles, to see what science of consciousness we have in the middle. We will also come to questions of ‘duality’ and ‘nonduality’.


    3. Spiritual Love and Wisdom
    4. What is the spiritual?

      The spiritual is the internal part of the mental, or, rather, the mental is the external part of the spiritual.

      It is the states of love and wisdom within us: the love of what is good and the wisdom about what is true.

      It is not any continuous transformation of our natural minds, but a discrete change.

      Think of the innocent love of a young child (love & innocence of ignorance), along with the wisdom of an old person who is ‘young at heart’, and combine them to form love & innocence of wisdom. Now we have some idea of spiritual love and wisdom.

      The spiritual is not equal to another dimension, or finer material, or elevated consciousness.

      Rather, the spiritual is our own ‘internal human’ that is our life: the life of our will and of our understanding. The ‘external human’ consists of the cognitive and sensory minds, as well has the physical body.

      Recognising the difference between internal insight and external knowledge is an essential preliminary step to spiritual growth (regeneration).

    5. Stages of Spiritual Growth



Spiritual State (internal/esoteric)

State (external representation)

Initial state

Prior to regeneration: no spiritual form

without form and void

First state

Knowing that the good and the true are something higher.

light and darkness

Second state

Distinguishing those spiritual things of the Source (internal man), from those of oneself (external)

heavens and earth

Third state

Acting from knowledge, not from the heart

tender grass, tree bearing fruit

Fourth state

Love and Insight begin in the internal

sun and moon

Fifth state

Actions to confirm oneself in truth and good: deep principles & rising thoughts

whales of the sea, birds of the heavens

Sixth state

Actions from insight, and hence from love: alive at last – ‘spiritual’

living soul, beast, ‘image of God’

Seventh state

Actions from love, and hence from insight: ‘celestial’

day of rest;
‘likeness of God’

Knowledge of these spiritual processes may be esoteric, and hidden from the public, but it should be common knowledge. It should be part of any science of consciousness, not least for its practical applications.

  1. Regeneration by Temptation

What is Temptation:

  1. Temptation is the need for a decision on what to do, where we receive multiple loves pulling in different directions.
  1. Everyone of us experiences temptations all the time: we have a continual influx of various prompting ideas & desires for what to do; along with a conscience which tells us which of these are good to follow. We can always reflect, using truths from our conscience, and look down on our desires as from above.
  2. Influx of tempting ideas into the mind is not itself temptation, if the will is not attached to those ideas. (this is only ‘temptation of the understanding’)
  1. Temptations may be at the point of acting, or we may perceive ahead which of our (selfish) loves may lead to selfish actions, and deal with them in advance.

Examples of Temptation

Love and Freedom:

We find out what we love, by seeing what we do when we are free from external constraints & opinions. If we are not free, our loves (good or bad) are hidden, even from us. There is more freedom these days!  ‘Freely resist’ means that: it is our love which is deciding, and the decisions are ‘owned’ by us, so the results are part of our permanent spiritual nature.

Resisting by Means of Truths:

  1. Resisting temptation for other reasons (eg convenience, reputation, laziness, misconceptions) does not lead to permanent spiritual growth.
  2. Knowledge of spiritual truths is a necessary prerequisite for permanent growth of the spirit.
  1. Temporary elevation of the understanding is not permanent spiritual growth.

Temptations about temptation

In times of temptation, we may be tempted to believe one or more of the following:

  1. Temptations do not exist.
  2. Decisions do not have any permanent effect
  3. We can easily recover later from making a poor choice now.
  4. There is no basic difference between good and selfish loves, only belief or tradition.
  5. I am not strong enough to make a decision.
  6. I am erroneously claiming merit if I decide myself.
  7. I must wait, doing nothing, until I am inspired.
  8. I must wait, doing nothing, until God acts for me (saves me).

All wrong!


  1. Where the Spiritual Comes From?

Quick Summary of the Basic Principles:

  1. Love is the substance of all spiritual things, and wisdom their form.
  2. The Divine God is the Source of all Love and Wisdom:
  1. For wisdom to participate in any action, it must act from truth and reason.

For more details, see Part C.


  1. Ten guidelines for what to do and what not to do
  2. Remember: The spiritual life generates the outer actions, and

    The natural actions contain and confirm the spiritual life.


    Spiritual Guideline

    Corresponding Natural Guideline


    No one is to be loved above all except God, nor anything except what comes from God.

    There is not to be any other God before my face.


    Do not misuse what is from the Divine.

    You are not to take the name of Jehovah your God in vain.


    Seek the final stage of regeneration: heavenly peace and protection.

    Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.


    Honour God, and the Church from the heavens.

    Honour your father and your mother.


    Do not be angry or seek revenge against others, nor against the Divine.

    You are not to commit murder.


    Do not adulterate the various kinds of good from the Divine, nor falsify truths.

    You are not to commit adultery.


    Do not deprive others of their truths, nor God, for possessing these yourself.

    You are not to steal.


    Do not deliberately persuade others that false ideas of faith are true and that evil ways of life are good, or that true ideas are false and good ways are evil.

    You are not to bear false witness against your neighbour.


    Evil actions (any of the above) must not be done, nor even longed for.

    You are not to covet your neighbour's house


    These commandments are not merely for the external man, but also for the internal.

    You are not to covet your neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant nor his maid-servant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbour's.

      In all cases, do not ... means do not actually, nor intend to, nor seek, nor long for, nor imagine it allowable, nor let in lie in our mind, ...

      Swedenborg tell us "Insofar as one shuns evils, so far does one will good actions."

      The ‘natural guideline’ refers to the straightforward consequence of the corresponding spiritual guideline.

      Keeping the external makes keeping the internal easier, as the outer contains the inner.

      Keeping the internal makes keeping the external easier, as the inner generates the outer.

      So there has to be some emphasis on both sides!

  3. Duality and Nonduality

Some of us lean toward Eastern advaita philosophy, in which only the Divine is ultimately real and all else is eventually illusory, and dissolved into unreality.

Swedenborg explains, by contrast, how there is always something ‘fixed and permanent’ about natural actions which terminates and contains spiritual life. This explains how, after experiences of complete unity that appear to support advaita metaphysics, our individual life always returns. He provides a comprehensive framework of ‘discrete degrees and correspondences’ that always maintains dualist distinctions, while still explaining the details of the many interconnections that sustain the spiritual and natural worlds together.

(This is the subject of my other talks, and interesting to me as a physicist! See E.4).

Some distinctions are necessary for regeneration, so we must not apply nonduality indiscriminately:

    1. Knowledge of spiritual truths, as distinct from external appearances, is a necessary prerequisite for permanent growth of the spirit.
    2. The separation of ‘light’ from ‘darkness’ is the first stage of growth.
    3. We need to know those truths which distinguish selfish loves from those unadulterated from the Source. That is:
    4. We need to distinguish our own fragmented loves from those whole loves received from the Divine Source.
    5. We need to distinguish (a) love in the will, from (b) ideas in the understanding, from (c) actions in the body,
    6. And many others.

None of these differences are illusory, or end up dissolved into unreality, if we want to have permanent spiritual growth.


  1. What Regeneration is NOT

Permanent spiritual growth, we saw according to Swedenborg, comes from Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom. NOT from any one of the following things by itself:

Belief: since this is just in the understanding, and does not change loves in the will.

Personal acceptance of vicarious atonement: this again does not mean we examine our lives and deal with temptations.

Blind obedience: obedience to truth is fruitful, but blind obedience has no input from wisdom in the understanding.

Knowledge, even of truths (wisdom): knowledge of what is true, even of what is good, is no use unless it is used to reform the will. It is ‘faith alone’ to think that only knowledge is efficacious.

Good intentions or love:love needs wisdom in order to act for good purposes. Good intentions ‘mean well’, but often stray through lack of insight, even lack of common sense.

Suffering: suffering by itself is something that happens to us, not something we do. There are many causes of suffering (natural and human); what is spiritually significant is how we respond to these. (See eg Matt. 15:17-20)

Elevated, expanded, rotated, vibrated (etc) consciousness: Expanding our consciousness even to the whole universe and over all time, or making it run fast or slow, does not show us what is spiritual, let alone help us regenerate our spiritual nature.


Framework for a Science of Consciousness


    1. Summary of Principles

Let us return to consider the basic spiritual principles for creation:

  1. Love is the substance of all spiritual things, and wisdom their form.
  2. The Divine God is the Source of all Love and Wisdom:

and see how these work out for the details of the spiritual and physical universe as we know it from Emanuel Swedenborg. We are now going to systematically apply the principles of ‘Humans are created in the image of God’ or ‘As above, so below’, to see what specific scientific theories can be derived concerning conscious minds and their relation to nature.

    1. Divine Structure

The trinity of Love, Wisdom and Use within God is arranged:








The dynamics of how this trinity operates:

  1. Love, anticipating delights of Use, entertains purposes of producing these Uses. Love, with a specific purpose, takes the form of Wisdom.
  2. Wisdom, being Love with a particular purpose, entertains the means for achieving those ends.
  3. Use, being produced by Love acting by means of Wisdom, is the ultimate effect. In this action, Love finds its satisfaction and delight with the results.
  4. This delight returns to Love, and further manifestations of Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved.

The cyclic trinitarian pattern (1 Þ 3) with return (4) will appear in many other contexts below.

These three components are called discrete degrees.



Persons Receive Life

    1. Three-Fold Structures In The Created Universe

The created universe

Everything that exists does so because and only because it has some use.

The dependence of reception on functional use is the Law of Correspondence.

This derives from the Divine characteristic that Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved.


Divine Love


Divine Wisdom


Divine Use




Likeness of Love:

entertainment of purposes


Image of Wisdom:

entertainment of means


Ultimate Effects:

production of nature


Three degrees, divine and natural in correspondence.

Since created things have images of divine life by correspondence:

We know this 3-fold structure from Swedenborg by the other names:


Interior mind:

Entertainment of ends,

Affections in soul.


exterior mind:

entertainment of causes,

thoughts in mind.


natural world:

production of effects,

actions in body


    1. Recursive Structure

Recursive means that the same rules apply to the whole as to each sub-part. This arises because God is equally present in all of us, and in each part of us.

This means in particular that

The substructural ‘thirds’ that should be present, and, using Swedenborg's help & terminology, we can identify the ennead as:

interior mind:



Exterior mind:



natural world:



Celestial: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception ? : 3.1

Spiritual: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws: 3.2

Spiritual-Natural: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: 3.3

The 9 created degrees with Swedenborg's terminology for the first 2 columns.

We next look at the 3 subdegrees for each of the 3 degrees in the exterior mind. We look therefore at the ‘ninths’ within the ‘thirds’ already discussed:

interior mind:

love 1.

exterior mind:

understanding 2.

natural world:

effects 3.


Ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1


effects of ends : 3.1

Thoughts of ends of ends: 2.11

Thoughts of ends of causes: 2.12

Thoughts of ends of effects: 2.13


Ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws,

effects of thoughts: 3.2

Thoughts of causes of ends: 2.21

Thoughts of causes of causes: 2.22

Thoughts of causes of effects: 2.23


Ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects,

effects of effects: 3.3

Thoughts of effects of ends: 2.31

Thoughts of effects of causes: 2.32

Thoughts of effects of effects: 2.33

The 9 created subdegrees within the exterior mind.


Now we have to determine what all these things mean, and begin to fill out the scheme begun by Swedenborg. We now use logical & psychological investigations:

{Gowan, J.C. [1972], Development of the Creative Individual, R.K.Knapp, San Diego.}

The degrees 2.23, 2.22 and 2.21 together constitute the external rational, because they enable independent rational thought.

This only deals with the external physical and logical worlds, namely only these degrees below and to the right. The remaining three degrees (2.11, 2.12, 2.13) constitute the internal rational, because they are concerning with interfacing to the internal ‘ends’ degrees in the first column, and we need Swedenborg's insights for proper identification.

{Gowan, J.C. [1974], Development of the Psychedelic Individual, Creative Education Foundation, Buffalo, N.Y.}

Combining these logical and psychological identifications of the nine subdegrees of the external mind, we can redraw the previous figure as:

interior mind:

love 1.

exterior mind:

understanding 2.


effects 3

Celestial: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Subtle Nature: 3.1

Wisdom: 2.11

Reformation: 2.12

Conscience: 2.13

Spiritual: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Etheric Laws: 3.2

Creative: 2.21

Formal: 2.22

Operational: 2.23

Spiritl.-Natural: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: 3.3

Preoperational (events): 2.31

Objective: 2.32

Sensorimotor: 2.33

Identification of the cognitive content of the 9 created subdegrees within the exterior mind, using terminology of Piaget and Swedenborg.

    1. Cognitive And Affective Stages
    2. Each has subdegrees give rise to both affective and cognitive aspects in minds.

      Thus, in parallel to Piaget's cognitive stages, there is a sequence (of similar structure) of affective stages. These have been best characterised by Erikson[1963].

      Here are the names of the 9 degrees of the exterior mind, with also a descriptive name for the failure to develop at that level.


      Internal rational

      Erikson-Swedenborg (affective)

      Gowan-Swedenborg (cognitive)

      Compassion-love vs.  Withdrawal

      2.11 9th ...

      Wisdom vs.

      Regeneration vs. Despair

      2.12 8th 40+ yrs

      Reformation vs. Senile depression

      Repentance vs. Stagnation

      2.13 7th 26-40 yrs?

      Conscience vs. Conventionalism


      External rational

      Erikson (affective)

      Piaget-Gowan (cognitive)

      Intimacy vs.

      2.21 6th 18-25 yrs?

      Creativity vs. Authoritarianism

      Identity vs.
      Role diffusion

      2.22 5th 13-17 yrs

      Formal operations vs. Dementia Praecox

      Industry vs. Inferiority

      2.23 4th 7-12 yrs

      Concrete operations vs. Nonconservation



      Erikson (affective)

      Piaget cognitive)

      Initiative vs.

      2.31 3rd 4-6 yrs

      Intuitive vs. Immobilisation

      Autonomy vs.
      Shame and doubt

      2.32 2nd 2-3 yrs

      Preoperational vs. Autism

      Trust vs.


      2.33 1st 0-1 yrs

      Sensorimotor vs.

      The ERIKSON-PIAGET-GOWAN-SWEDENBORG Periodic Developmental Stage Chart, adapted and extended from Gowan[1974].


    3. Nature And Mind

We must also consider in more detail the third column of ‘effects’, which constitute the physical world. The 3 subdegrees and 9 subsubdegrees within this ought to be related to what we already know about the physical world, in particular to what science (when properly formulated) tells us:

interior mind:



exterior mind:



natural world:




ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception, effects of ends : 3.1

Effects of ends of ends: 3.11

Effects of ends of causes: 3.12

Effects of ends of effects: 3.13


ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws, effects of thoughts: 3.2

Effects of causes of ends: 3.21

Effects of causes of causes: 3.22

Effects of causes of effects: 3.23


ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects, effects of effects: 3.3

Effects of effects of ends: 3.31

Effects of effects of causes: 3.32

Effects of effects of effects:3.33

The 9 created subdegrees within the natural degree.

Again we have our work set out for us, to fill out the overall plan begun by Swedenborg. Here are my proposals to match up with quantum physics:

Combining these logical and physical identifications of the nine subdegrees of the external mind, we can redraw the previous figure as:

interior mind:

love 1.

exterior mind:

understanding 2

natural world:

effects 3.


ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception: effects of ends : 3.1 (‘subtle ether?’)

Subtle Nature or Quantum gravity?


ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws: effects of thoughts: 3.2 (‘ether’)

Variational Principles: 3.21

Dynamic Laws: 3.22

Virtual Events: 3.23


ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: effects of effects: 3.3 (‘matter’)

Energy: 3.31

Wave Functions: 3.32

Actual Selections:3.33

The 9 created subdegrees within the natural degree.


    1. More examples of Correspondences

The result of correspondences is that very many features of the living world and of our psychological life are not random, but are the results of spiritual loves and intentions. Of course, they are not merely the results of those intentions (we do not make our world arbitrarily, even God does not do that), because of historical constraints of what is already actual.

The fundamental correspondences are therefore those which constitute the essential operations of human beings, both internally and in relation to their ecological environments. I now list the most important of the basic correspondences, before discussing the detailed reasons. (It is important to remember that loves/affections and wisdom/thoughts can be received independently, though they always act together). There are correspondences between:

Natural and Spiritual Correspondences

Correspondence of .. & ..
Function in the Natural

Function in the Spiritual

Animals & forms of affections in the will. Animals are warm-blooded. Affections in the will provide spiritual energy.
Plants & forms of thoughts in the understanding. Plant life is a partial image of Man. Fixed 'tree' structures in the understanding receive illumination by Wisdom, part of the Divine Life.
Energy in food & reception of love from the divine source. Animals consume food. The will appropriates loves, as retained spiritual energy to be stored and reused as desired.
Light from the sun & Wisdom from God Light is reflected from all objects to the eye. Wisdom is the 'clear light' by means of which we perceive 'external' ideas by reflections into the understanding.
Oxygen released into the air & reception of truth Oxygen in produced in plants from light by photosynthesis, and enters the local air. Rational truth is produced in the understanding from Divine Wisdom, and gives a local 'spiritual context'
Metabolism & the conjunction of love and wisdom in use Metabolism unites for use oxygen and digested food. The conjunction of appropriated love and rational wisdom is the source of action in use.
Lungs/throat & our own understanding Our lungs receive oxygen from the air into the blood. Our individual understanding receives rational truth from the 'spiritual atmosphere' into affections for action.
The heart & our own will. Heart receives food in the blood and distributes it as useful. Our will receives spiritual energy in the affections for action and distributes it as useful.
The mouth & the initial reception of good The mouth receives food initially. Retained loves when initially received are tasted for their quality (good or otherwise)
The eyes & the explicit perception of truth. The eyes see all things, by means of light, in their relations. The understanding perceives all things, by means of 'clear' wisdom, in their relations.
The nose & the implicit perception of truth. The nose discriminates immediate properties of the air. We discriminate immediate properties of the rationality of ideas we receive.
The ears & obedience to love and conscience. We respond more immediately to spoken words, compared to written words seen by the eye. We respond more immediately in the will to modulations of rational truth than to variations of truth received in the understanding.
The stomach & the assimilation of spiritual food. Stomach and intestines digest the food and assimilate it into the blood. Received ideas and affections are analysed and assimilated into affections for action.
Spoken words & thoughts. Spoken words are vibratory forms in the air, generated by the lungs and throat. Thoughts are local modulations in the atmosphere of rational truth, caused by variations in the local (re)articulation..
Feet & natural power. We rest on our feet, and they are the means of changing place. We depend on our physical effects, as they determine our spiritual place.
Skin & outer natural degree. The skin holds everything together from the outside. The natural physical degree holds everything together by its ultimate effects.
Hair & outermost natural effects. The hair is produced via the skin, and is dead. The utmost actual events are produced via the physical, and are inert.
Bones & general principles. The skeleton holds everything together from the inside. Our general principles hold everything together by their fundamental premises.
Hands/arms & power of action. We do most of our work with our hands and arms. Coordinated spiritual actions are performed by outreach.
Kidneys & spiritual purification. Kidneys purify the blood. 'Spiritual kidneys' purify the affections (especially during sleep).
Brains & reception of loves. We are governed by our brains, the general first source of all actions. We are governed by our loves received in first principles, the general source of all actions.
Nervous system & derivative affections and thoughts. The nervous system extends the influence of the brains. The spiritual body extends the influence of the primary loves.
and many more.

In fact, Swedenborg claims that everything in the human body, and in nature, exists, and only exists, because it corresponds to some prior spiritual cause. There is clearly an enormous amount of work to be done to elucidate (‘see with light’!) the individual details in each case. All the above correspondences point to functional structures in the spiritual degree which are isomorphic to the human form as we know it. This isomorphic internal form in the spiritual in fact is the essential human form; the material body is the outer containant for the ‘internal human’, corresponding to our own skin.
    1. Parapsychology

Within this framework from Swedenborg, all physical processes are the successive products of prior spiritual and psychical processes, and we might therefore expect very many parapsychological phenomena to occur. Miracles are those normal sequences of the discrete-degree processes, just happening more quickly than usual. However, there are several reasons why the world does not work like this.

    1. The first reason is that all processes at all degrees are conditional on the previous events in those degrees.
    2. Secondly, the prior degrees are just those processes which constitute peoples’ thoughts and lives, so all operations are partly the result of conscious decisions.
    3. Finally, Swedenborg tells us that nowadays, miracles are deliberately kept from our public view, so as not to force rational thought.
    4. They occur still in many interior degrees, but ‘external miracles’ only now occur when they can be interpreted in many ways.
    5. We are supposed to freely and rationally understand the (possible) operation of God in the world.
    1. Stages of Life

A very brief summary of the stages of life is as follows:

    1. The natural body grows in the world, as we all know.
    2. The exterior mind grows from childhood until the end of life, as outlined in C.5
    3. The interior mind, initially quiescent, grows by reformation & regeneration.
    4. The natural body is removed and separated at death.
    5. The exterior mind is initially tied by the strict correspondences to the natural body, but after death is made coherent with the internal rational.
    6. The interior mind is never removed.



Further Resources

    1. Emanuel Swedenborg Book list
    2. Primary Theological Works

      Arcana Coelestia (sometimes translated as Heavenly Secrets)


      An extensive verse by verse explanation of the deeper levels of meaning of Genesis and Exodus describing the spiritual development of a human being and the nature of the Divine. (Published in 12 volumes.)

      Spiritual Diary (sometimes called Spiritual Experiences)


      The personal notebooks kept by Swedenborg of his experiences in the Spiritual World and reflections upon them. They were unpublished until the mid 1800s.

      Heaven and Hell


      A description of the structure and phenomena of the Spiritual World.

      Earths in the Universe


      Conversations Swedenborg had with people in the Spiritual World who said they were from other planets in the universe.

      The Last Judgement


      Description of events in the Spiritual World preparing the way for the establishment of the New Church.

      The White Horse


      A brief explanation of the meaning of the white horse with its rider from the Book of Revelation chapter 19 as the Divine truth of the Lord's Word.

      The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine


      A brief summary of the fundamental doctrines of the New Church with extensive references to the Arcana Coelestia for further reading.

      The Doctrine of the Lord


      A brief work summarizing the teachings about God - His Divinity and Humanity - with extensive references to the Old and New Testaments.

      The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture


      A brief work summarizing the teachings on the nature of revelation.

      The Doctrine of Life


      A brief work describing the qualities which comprise a life of good which leads to heaven.

      The Doctrine of Faith


      A brief work explaining the nature of faith and its role in the life of regeneration.

      A Continuation Concerning the Last Judgement


      A continuation describing various erroneous beliefs about the Divine and the path of spiritual development.

      Divine Love and Wisdom


      A philosophic treatment of creation - how the Divine finited Himself to produce the natural world and the human race.

      Divine Providence


      A thorough explanation of how the Lord leads people in freedom to become angels in heaven; also, why He allows evils to occur.

      Apocalypse Revealed


      A two volume, verse by verse treatment of the Book of Revelation.

      Conjugial Love (or Marital Love)


      An explanation of the sources of love in marriage and a practical guide on how husbands and wives can grow ever closer forming an eternal union.

      A Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church


      A point by point comparison of fundamental Catholic and Protestant doctrines with the teachings of the New Church.

      Inter-relationship of the Soul and Body


      A brief description of the relationship and interaction between the spiritual and natural realms.

      True Christian Religion


      A comprehensive overview of the fundamental doctrines of the New Church, including the Lord, the Ten Commandments, Faith, Charity, Repentance, Reformation, Regeneration, Holy Supper, Baptism, and the Second Coming.

      Primary Scientific and Philosophical Works

      Principles of Chemistry


      Swedenborg's first effort at explaining creation.

      Miscellaneous Observations


      A second attempt at explaining creation.

      The Principia


      Swedenborg's full explanation of creation, including an introduction on the means leading to a true philosophy.

      The Infinite and Final Cause of Creation


      A philosophical argument for the existence of God based upon the order in nature.

      The Economy of the Animate Kingdom


      An anatomical work looking at the blood, embryology, etc., seeking an answer as to how the soul operates in the body. This is Swedenborg's first clear articulation of the doctrines of discrete degrees and correspondences.

      The Fiber


      Contains Swedenborg's doctrine of physical forms.

      The Rational Psychology


      An exploration of the workings of the mind as a "mixed intellect" between the soul and the "animus."

      The Animal Kingdom


      A second effort at explaining how the soul operates in the body. Includes material on the five senses and generation.

      The Worship and Love of God


      An allegorical depiction of creation by God.

    3. Online Books
    4. At

      Divine Love and Wisdom


      Divine Providence


      Heaven and Hell


      True Christian Religion


      Full availability at:,
      and a searchable archive at


    5. Web Sites
    6. Web site



      Ian Thompson

      Science based on Theism

      Leon James

      Psychology and Swedenborg Glossary

      Swedenborg Scientific Association

      Swedenborg's Scientific and Theological works

      Swedenborg Society, London

      Archives, Meetings, and Publishing

      Swedenborg Foundation


      Swedenborg Association


      Swedenborg Lending Library and Enquiry Centre, Australia

      Religion_and_Spirituality/Christianity/ Denominations/Swedenborgian_Church/

      Google Web Directory

      Web Directory

      Michael David

      `New Earth' web site with worldwide links.

      compiled by Ian Thompson

      Internal senses of the Bible

      The New Church



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