Category — Divine Revelation as the Word
FIRST SERIES. Nr. 14.
September 13th 1891. Reference: H.D. 260.
“John (the Baptist) represented the Word, and by his food, as also by his clothing . . . the Word in the external sense was represented“, A.C. 7643.
Therefore the Word when only seen in the external sense is not the Light which enlightens every man coming into the world. Not the external sense, but “the internal sense is the very Doctrine of the Church”, H.D. 260. “It is to be known that the true doctrine of the Church is what is here called the internal sense, for in that sense are truths such as the angels in heaven have. Among the priests and among the men of the Church there are those who teach and learn truths from the literal sense of the Word and there are those who teach and learn from Doctrine from the Word which is called the doctrine of the faith of the Church. The latter differ exceedingly from the former in perception, but they cannot be distinguished by the vulgar, because the latter and the former speak almost similarly from the Word. But those who teach and learn the literal sense of the Word alone without the regulating doctrine of the Church, do not grasp any but those things which are of the natural or external man; but they who teach and learn from the true doctrine from the Word also understand those things which are of the spiritual or internal man. The reason is because the Word in the external or literal sense is natural; but in the internal sense it is spiritual“, A.C. 9025. Hence that sense is not the light, but testifies concerning the light.
Of what quality John the Baptist taught is signified by that ‘the lesser in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he’ “, A.C. 9372. Therefore “when he spake concerning the Lord Himself, Who was the Divine Truth Itself or the Word, he said that he himself was not anything, since the shade is separated when the Light Itself appears”, A.C. 9372. Hence we are taught that “In the internal sense is the soul and life of the Word, which does not appear unless the sense of the letter as it were vanishes away“, A.C. 1405. For “The things which the sense of the letter are for the most part worldly, corporeal, and earthly, which can never make the Word of the Lord”, A.C. 1540.
Such is the character of that sense of the Word which John the Baptist represents, and it is really that sense which he said was not the Light. Still John the Baptist, or rather, that which he represented, is necessary to testify concerning the Light. Which necessity is thus expressed in the Writings: “Still the sense of the letter represents truths and presents the appearances of truth in which man can be while he is not in the light of truth”, A.C. 1984.
Such is the case when the Word is first presented to us. Such is the use which the literal forms of each Divine Revelation perform with regard to those truths which we do not as yet know, of which there are always an infinity. At first we only see John the Baptist, not the true Light, not the Lord Himself. Thus it is with regard to the Revelation in which the Lord has effected His New Advent. At first in the literal forms thereof we only see a man speaking about the Lord. While we are in this state we do not see the Light of the Lord‘s New Advent, but at most only testimony concerning that Light. We come into the Light Itself only when we see that the Lord Himself in The Divine Human is there present with us. In the text — ” ‘Light’ signifies Divine Truth; wherefore the Lord is there called `the Light which enlightens every man’ ; and `to testify concerning the Light’ signifies acknowledgement of His Divine Human, from which Divine Truth proceeds”, A.E. 27.
Mere testification concerning the Light cannot establish the New Church. If the New Church is to be really formed with us, it must be from the Light Itself, proceeding from the Lord’s Divine Human. We must see that that Human is presented to us in the Evangel of the Lord‘s New Advent if we would really dwell in the Light thereof. Without, there can only be the merely external appearance of a Church, because “the internal of the Word is also the internal of the Church, as also the internal of Worship“, H.D. 260.
“For he who averts himself from the internal of the Word, he also averts himself from the internal of the Church, and also from the internal of worship; since the internal of the Church, and the internal of worship are from the internal of the Word“, A.C. 10460.
“For the Word teaches of what quality the man of the Church must be, or of what quality the Church with man must be, and also of what quality worship with man must be. For the goods and truths of love and faith are what make the internal Church, and also internal worship; those the Word teaches, and those are the internals of the Word“, A.C. 10460. Those make the very teaching of the Church, and they are the particulars which belong to the laws of love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor, without which, indeed, those laws can only lie understood in a merely natural manner.
The Light of the Word as distinguished from the external sense thereof is also called the glory with which it was prophesied that the Lord would come in His New Advent — That prophesy has now been fulfilled — that glory has been revealed in the Writings. The New Church is to live in that Light and not in the clouds of the Old and New Testament — the clouds in which He made His First Advent and which relatively only testified concerning the Light which was about to come in the consummation of the age. The Light Itself is now presented to us which is the glory of the Lord‘s New Advent. But though, for the New Church the former clouds no longer obscure, yet neither has the Lord come now without clouds, although relatively so. In His New Advent, effected in the Writings, He has manifested Himself in rational statements, literally presented, that is, presented in written form — hence we call them the Writings.
These literal, written, and printed, forms, so far cloud over the spiritual sense which they convey, that that sense is not really revealed therein to any but those who are enlightened by the Lord and thus enabled to receive them rationally, so as to be able to see the glory therein, the Lord Himself in His Divine Human with the Light proceeding therefrom. This is by no means nakedly apparent to everyone who glances at the literal forms of the Writings, nor yet to anyone who studies them merely in the light of self-intelligence; but only appears to those who study them in their own light, really desiring to be taught things which are above and contrary to anything self-intelligence could devise. Only when we come thus to see that the Lord‘s Divine Human is there presented to us, and rejoice in the Light which can proceed from nowhere but His Divine Human, only then can we begin to realize that John the Baptist, that is the external form of the Word which he represents, is not the Light, but only testifies concerning the Light. No Divine Revelation can do more than testify concerning the Light until we see the Lord Himself in such Revelation — then only do we begin to come into the Light Itself.
The things which are in the literal sense are compared in the Writings to the little bits of colored glass which are placed without any order in an optical cylinder, such as we call a kaleidoscope, but which when viewed through the cylinder represent a beautiful form. So is it with the letter of the Word, especially with the Prophetical Word of the Old Testament, when viewed by the light of the spiritual sense. Another illustration is given from the spiritual world:
“There are spirits who are willing to hear nothing concerning the interiors of the Word, yea however much they can understand still they are unwilling. These are especially they who have placed merit in works, and who therefore have done goods from the love of self and of the world, or for the sake of dignity or opulence to be acquired to themselves, and fame thence, thus not for the sake of the Lord’s Kingdom. Such in the other life will more than others to enter into heaven, but they remain outside, for they are unwilling to be imbued with knowledges of truth and thus to be affected with good, by interpreting the sense of the Word from the letter according to their own phantasies, and by producing whatever by assent favors their cupidities. Such were represented by a little old woman of unsightly face, but still pallidly snowy, in which were inordinate (features) by which she was deformed. But in truth, they who admit and love the interiors of the Word were represented by a girl in her first virgin age or in the flower of youth, becomingly clothed, with wreaths and heavenly ornaments“, A.C. 1774.
Such is the difference between those who cling to the external of the Word which is not the light; and those who love to come to the Light Itself which is revealed in the internal sense of the Word.
“The Word in the whole complex is an image of heaven, because the Word is the Divine Truth, and Divine Truth makes heaven; and because heaven refers to one man, the Word is in that respect like the image of a, man”, H.D. 260. In that image and by it “is represented Heaven in its complex, not of such quality as it is, but of such quality as the Lord wills that it may be, namely that it may be the likeness of Himself”, A.C. 1871.
The quality which the Lord wills that heaven may he is that of His Divine Human. It is therefore in respect to that that the Word in its whole complex is like the image of a man.
“The Word of the lord when it is read by a man who loves the Word and lives in charity, even by a man who from a simple heart believes what is written, and neither has formed principles against the truth of faith which is in the internal sense, it is presented by the Lord before the angels, in such beauty, and in such pleasantness, also with representatives, and this with inexpressible variety according to every state of those in whom they then are, that the single things are perceived as it were to have life, which is the life which is in the Word, and from which the Word is born when it is let down from heaven. On account of this cause the Word of the Lord is such that although it appears rude in the letter, still within it conceals spiritual and celestial things, which appear before good spirits andangels when it is read by man”, A.C. 1767.
“Within in the single things of the Word is the spiritual sense, which treats concerning the Lord’s kingdom, and within in that sense is the Divine, for the Word in its inmost sense treats concerning the Lord alone. Hence is the sanctity and life of the Word, and from no other source“, A.C. 8943.
From this passage we can see, not only that there is an inmost sense within the spiritual, here called the Divine, but sometimes called the celestial sense, but that both those senses are given in the Writings, and that not only where they specifically give the celestial, spiritual, and natural senses of the Decalogue, but everywhere they can be understood either in application to the Lord’s Kingdom, or in application to the Lord Himself in the glorification of His Human. The one is the spiritual, the other the celestial sense. Thus the celestial sense is not only everywhere within the spiritual sense as given in the Writings, but it is opened there to all who come into any rational understanding of them. Thus is the Light Itself opened to the New Church.
The Word of the Lord is like a Divine Man, the literal sense is as it were its body, but the internal sense is as it were its soul; hence it is evident that the literal sense lives by the internal sense. It appears as if the literal sense vanishes away or dies”, A.C. 8943 As we have already seen it always must so appear as the spiritual sense is really received, “but it is the contrary, it does not vanish away, still less does it die, but by the internal sense it lives”, A.C. 8943. “The spiritual sense lives in the literal sense as the spirit of man in his body, also the spiritual sense similarly survives when the literal sense passes away, hence the spiritual sense can be called the soul of the Word”, A.C. 4857.
We are taught “that the Word is pure in the internal sense and that it does not so appear in the sense of the letter”, H.D. 260. That it often appears impure in the sense of the letter of the Old Testament is evident from many places which may be recalled. That such teaching also has application to the literal forms of the Writings may also be evident from the way that the Second part of CONJUGIAL LOVE appears to those who have not rationally grasped the spiritual sense which underlies the laws there given. That the Light Itself comes from what is pure there, thus from the internal sense, must he evident, and even those things in the Word which appear impure to those who view them only in the light of the world, are yet holy from the internal things which they involve, and from the Divine Light which is seen by those who are made spiritually rational thereby to shine through. Hence the life, the holiness, and the Light of the Word are from its internal sense, for the sake of which we must be willingto continually recede from the external senseand thus to pass from John the Baptist to the Lord Himself. It is only in this way that we can approach nearer to the Lord and thus to the Light Itself. It is sufficient if, before we recede from John, we accept his testimony concerning the Light and obey his call to repentance. We must ever remember the declaration concerning him, which is concerning the external of the Word which he represented, that he was not the Light, but that he might testify concerning the Light. Each Divine Revelation appears at first only to testify concerning the Light, but if we approach the internal we will learn that every Divine Revelation is a manifestation of the Light Itself, thus of the Lord Himself. Therefore it was that John was enabled to prophesy “He must increase but I decrease”, John III, 30.
A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER
by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
These who love the spiritual birth which took place in the Church with what is known as the Academy movement, will rejoice at the appearance of the small work of Dr. Acton The Crown of Revelations.
The ACADEMY and the GENERAL CHURCH are founded upon the belief that the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Word of the Lord. Due to attempts to answer De HEMELSCHE LEER, there appeared to be a danger that the realization that the Writings are the Word in its fulness, holiness, and power, might be weakened in the Church, with the result that a decline would commence in the Church. Not only will Dr. Acton’s study confirm the faith which the ACADEMY and the GENERAL CHURCH have had, but it will assist many, we trust, to come to a fuller realization of the fulness, the holiness, and the power of the “Evangel of the Second Coming”, wherefore we rejoice, in spite of the fact that we regret that Dr. Acton has not entered more profoundly into these things which have been brought forth by Mr. Hyatt and by DE HEMELSCHE LEER concerning the Doctrine of the Church, from the Word.
Dr. Acton commences his study as follows: “Some day, I suppose, there will be written for the New Church a history of Doctrine. Many such histories have been written for the first Christian Church, but naturally they deal with the interpretation of the New Testament, and of the Old Testament in the light of the New; that is to say, with doctrines drawn from these Testaments; such doctrines, for instance, as the Trinity, the Atonement, Faith and Charity, Baptism and the Holy Supper, etc. The genuine doctrine of the Old and New Testaments with respect to these subjects has been set forth so clearly and unmistakably that there is no dispute concerning them among any who accept these Writings as a Divine Revelation. New Churchmen of every school of thought are wholly at one in seeing that there is one God only; that there are lot three Divine Persons but that the Trinity is, in the Lord Jesus Christ; that faith does not save without, charity; that all men are predestined to heaven, etc. etc.”
It is these very subjects which Dr. Acton says, “have been set forth so clearly and unmistakably that there is no dispute” that will be the center round which the most grievous temptations of the New Church will take place. While it is true there can be no dispute as to these truths and their opposite falsities in relation to the relatively external form that they took in the first Christian Church, as to their living application to the New Church and to every man who is truly of the New Church, they must become the center around which ever more interior and grievous temptations take place, as they come to be seen abstractly from the literal sense of the Latin Word which treats of them historically in relation to the first Christian Church. All spiritual truth with man is the result of conquering in spiritual temptation. If a man has been brought up with a love for the first Christian Church, on commencing to read the Writings of Swedеnborg, and perceiving that they are true, he is brought into a state of disturbance and temptation, and the greater has been his love for the old Church the more grievous the temptation, and the more living the truths of the New Church are apt to become in him, if he overcomes in the temptation. What a contrast is his state to one who has been brought up in the New Church, particularly if brought up in a New Church community. To such a one the falsities of the old Church are remote, scarcely touching his life, while he acquires the generals of New Church Doctrine without any effort of his own, still less with struggling and temptation. To such a one it is easier to accept than not to accept these things with which he is surrounded; and they are of such a nature that he readily fills them with the things of his proprium; for before regeneration he is in evil and falsity no matter what truths he may know. What is more delightful to the natural man than to believe that he belongs to a chosen people, what more flattering to the conceit of his own intelligence than to believe that he has a mind which, unlike other people’s, is formed by a rational Revelation. It delights a man in such a state to read in the Word about the falsities of the dead church, which he is not in; not realizing that in so far as he is not regenerating there is not a single falsity of the old church that does not take possession of him, in a more subtle, deadly, and hidden form. If a man will but acknowledge this truth, and in the light of it search for the evils and falsities in himself, in the light of the Word, he will find himself in the densest cloud, for while he can readily see how the Latin Word manifests the falsities of the old church, and may even see how it manifests the falsities that have taken possession of CONFERENCE and CONVENTION, he cannot see how he himself divides the Trinity into three persons, denies the Divine Human of the Lord, believes in the vicarious atonement, and in faith alone, and has no cognition of Baptism and the Holy Supper, etc. If a man will but acknowledge that these are the essential things of the New Church for the sake of his spiritual life, he must come to realize his utter ignorance of all living spiritual truth. And in reading the Latin Word, find himself in such a dark and impenetrable cloud that he despairs of ever finding his way; and he will be kept in this state of despair until he can acknowledge from the heart that, of himself, he can understand not a single spiritual truth, but all is of the mercy of the Lord, and when he makes this acknowledgment fully and from the heart, then, for the first time is it possible for the Lord to appear to him in the glory of the cloud with power and great glory. “These are said to see the back parts of Jehovah and not the faces, who believe and adore the Word, but only its external which is the sense of the letter, and do not penetrate more interiorly, as do these who have been enlightened, and who make for themselves Doctrine out of the Word, by which they may see its genuine sense, thus its interior sense”, A.C 10584. Good and truth can only have an abode in the mind in so far as evils and falsities have been removed. Interior evils are conjoined with interior falsities, wherefore if a man does not make for himself Doctrine from the Latin Word he can not see either interior evils or falsities in himself, and therefore remains in them.
Read the full work “A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER” by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
(not edited PDF format)
Read the full work “A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER” by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
Before speaking about Swedenborg, I will say a few words about the New Church. The Christian world is more and more losing faith in God as a Divine Man. There are those who consider God to be “the ground of being”, the order of the universe, or other terms which take away the idea of God as a Divine Man.
If it is not believed that God is a Divine Man, the First and Great Command¬ment cannot be fulfilled; for who can love the “Ground of Being” with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength? We are told that God created man in His image and likeness; wherefore it follows that God is Infinite Man. But finite man cannot comprehend the Infinite, as we read, “No man hath seen God:” John 1:18
The purpose of creation is that there might be those whom God can love and who can love God and their fellow men. If God is not a Divine Man who can love and be loved, creation has no sense, no meaning. Now we cannot love that which we do not know; wherefore to fulfill the end of creation, God had to reveal Himself to man; He had to clothe Himself in Divine appearances, suited to the comprehension of men. Jehovah therefore appeared in visions and dreams to the men of the Most Ancient Church. By influx through the Heavens He clothed Himself with a Human appearance that men could see, know, and love. Later He revealed Himself in His Word, which was accommodated to man’s comprehension. When this was no longer sufficient, for our salvation, He descended and took on a natural Human by
birth in this world. If we view this from a feeling of the nature of God’s love and purpose in creation this is not surprising, but is the natural fulfillment of the end of creation. In fact, if one elevates one’s mind above the materialistic thought of the world, one can see that it could not have been otherwise.
The whole of the Old and New Testament teach that God is a Divine Man. Where this idea is lost there is nothing of real Christianity left, even with those who still call themselves Christian.
The First and Great Commandment commences with the words, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” If the idea of the oneness of God is lost, the mind becomes totally confused, and when the mind is in the dilemma as to whether God is one or three persons, there can be no love of God with all the mind; and, when there is no love of God with the mind, the love of God with the heart is also lost. It can be readily seen that if a man did not know whether his father was one or three persons he could not love his father; and that a man who was entirely indifferent as to whether his father was one or three certainly had no love. Is it not evident chat the same applies to our Father in Heaven, that if there is no interest in understanding the Trinity, this indicates that there is no love of the Lord?
On account of the Church dividing God into three persons, and later coming to the general denial that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, the Lord had to come again in His Word for the sake of the salvation of the Human race. The Lord made His Second Coming to reveal Himself anew, to reveal Himself in His Divine Human.
We read: “Without the Coming of the Lord into the world, no one could have been saved. It is similar at this day wherefore unless the Lord comes again into the world in the Divine True, which is the Word, neither can anyone be saved.” (T.C.R. 3.)
To anyone who has an open mind this is a clear statement that the Writings of Swedenborg are the Word of the Lord; for the Lord made His Second Coming in the Divine Truth, and, as stated above, this truth is the Word.
If the Writings are the Word they must have the characteristics which make the Word to be the Word.
There are four characteristics which make the Word to be the Word.
One: The Word is in a perfect continuous Divine Series. (see A.C. 1659, 2102, 7933, 4442.)
Two: The Word, in every part’, treats of the Glorification of the Lord and the regeneration of man. (see A.C. 3540.)
Three: Every word in the Word opens to Infinity. While I have not been able
to locate the place that says every word of the Word opens to Infinity, this teaching is implied in the following statements: “There are inexhaustible things in every word of the Word.” (A.C. 1936 (2).) “Every word in the Word is from the Lord.” (A.C. 771.) “There is not a single word used in the Word that does not involve a celestial arcanum.” (A.C. 4136. see also A.C. 1869, 1870.)
Four: “Every Divine work is complete and perfect in ultimates.” This is said of the Word in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture no. 28.
If we read the Writings in the light of the world, they do not appear to have the above described characteristics which make the Word to be the Word.
They do not appear to be in a perfect Divine series, nor do they appear to treat in every particular of the glorification of the Lord and the regeneration of man.
They appear to treat much of the history of Churches and, at times, of other historical events. They describe many things seen in the spiritual world and in the earths of the universe. They do not appear to be perfect in ultimates, for they have apparent errors of history, of scientific facts, and even at times of words.
Such appearances in the letter are cherubim or guards which hinder those who are not prepared from entering the paradise of their internal sense.
In this respect they are not unlike the Old and New Testament where also we find apparent historical errors, and things not in agreement with scientific facts.
The perfection of the Word in ultimates, lies in this: that it is a perfect ultimate of its internal and this can only be seen to the degree that we are in the light of Heaven.
It has some times been said that the Writings are a different kind of Word, not having the above stated characteristics; but this idea is contrary to the plain teach¬ing of the Word itself, for we read: “That the Book of Job is a book of the Ancient Church is evident, as before said, from its representative and significative style; but it is not of those books which are called the Law and the Prophets, because it has not an internal sense which treats solely of the Lord and of His Kingdom; for this is the one thing that makes a book of the genuine Word.” (A.C. 3540 (4).)
We are frequently warned against the idea that the Divine Providence is in gen¬erals, and not in particulars, and least singulars. The supreme work of the Divine Providence is in the giving of the Word. The Divine Providence in the giving of the Word is not only in respect to the preparation of the mind of him through whom the Word was given, but also as to the historical facts which are in the Word, and the knowledges, acquired by the human race which are brought into the Word, and also in respect to the words of sacred languages in which the Word is written, even to the letters. That the Hebrew letters are of Divine origin is known. That this is true of the Greek letters can be seen from what is said of Alpha and Omega. That this applies to the Latin letters, can be seen from the following:”In the spiritual Heaven, the writing is in Roman letters.” (S.D. 5561.)
It has at times been said that in the Old Testament the basis is even in the letters, in the New Testament in the Words, and in the Writings in the ideas. Words, especially words in a Divine order, signify ideas, and we are frequently told that every word in the Word is significant. Ideas can only exist in the mind; it cannot be said that a book has ideas; although all the words, in the books of the Word signify ideas. The words of the Word in the supreme sense signify ideas, in the Divine Human of the Lord, which are infinitely above the ideas of men or angels.
From its first beginning a decline in the organised New Church set in, a decline into externallism and ignorance. Finally this decline led to what is known as the New England Celestial hereay.
The doctrine so called was in general that a minister preached truth from his own personal goodness. Along with this went a denial of the Divine authority of tha Writings of Swedenborg, and particularly that they are the sole source of truth in the Church.
As will be shown later truth from good is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Thus the New England position set up the Holy Spirit as a thing in the Church separated from the especial Word of the New Church, and the perceptlon of the ministers was in fact placed above the Word and perception was arrogated by the priesthood as their right. In a word the state was identical with that of the Roman Catholic Church which sat up an ecclesiastical authority and claimed to themselves the Holy Spirit as something separated from the Word, and in practice, as above the Word.
The Roman Catholics made works saving, but they were external and meritorious works separated from all the genuine internal of the Word. The Convention in like manner said that charity and works were the primary things of the Church, and brought forth passages from the Writings to confirm this idea. But their idea of charity was an external goodness separated from the internal truth of the Word, and was therefore no more saving than the Catholic idea of works.
While outside of New England, lay rule prevailed in the Church, there was an agreement with New England in an internal denial of the authority of the Writings, a making of human intelligence a judge as to the validity of the things contained in the Writings, and the making of merely external charity and love, which was meritorious, the essential of the Chursh.
This was the prevailing atate of the Church when the Academy took its rise, and the Academy arose as a protest against this state of the Church
Check up also the paper Real Issue.
The real issue between the General Church of the New Jerusalem and the Lord’s New Church Which is Nova Hierosolyma, is frequently misconceived. It is believed by some in the General Church that the issue is as to whether the Writings are the Divine Doctrine and as such the only Divine authority in the Church, or whether, the true authority lies in a Divine Doctrine drawn forth by the regenerating man of the Church.
We hold that this is not the real issue.
We believe equally with the General Church, that the Writings are the Word of God and as such the only authority, and that they are the Divine Doctrine Itself. Nor have we ever said that the Divine Doctrine to be derived from the Latin Word by the regenerating man of the Church is the true authority. The real issue is therefore entirely different.
The real issue is: Is it the Word understood or the Word not understood which has actual authority in the church? It is obvious that if the Church were in total darkness, the Word could not have any actual authority in the Church. When this question was brought up in the ministers of 1933 it was said, “We take the understanding of the Writings for granted.” The real issue is therefore whether the understanding of the Writings can be taken for granted or not.
Every one who has not destroyed the functioning of the rational faculty, with which he is potentially born, can see truth in natural rational light, thus those in the Church can see the truths of the Word and of the Church in which they have been instructed from childhood, and this without any entering into spiritual lights or what is the same without any out pouring of the Holy Spirit. But no development or interior understanding can develop and grow in the Church without an enlightenment, that is without entering into the light of heaven which is above the natural rational light to which a man is born.
The discrete degrees of light are described as follows: “Rational truths are signified by leaves. But according to the species of the trees. The leaves of the olive and vine signify rational truths from celestial and spiritual light; those of the fig, rational truths from natural light; and those of the fir, poplar and pine, rational truths from sensual light.” (A.R. 936.e)
To take the understanding of the Writings for granted is to ignore or deny the degrees of light, thus all that is taught concerning enlightenment and concerning the operation of the Holy Spirit; thus to avoid all the essential struggle by which the Church advances interiorly.
In the early days of the Academy this distinction was commonly made, for we frequently find in the writings of those days a speaking of the seeing the Writings in their own light, which they believed was the characteristic of the Academy and the seeing of the Writings in the light of the world, of which they charged the Convention.
Now whether we say that the Writings must be seen in their own light or in the light of heaven it is the same thing. But to see in the light of heaven always implies a new seeing of truth from the Lord in His Word. When the Church does not see the truths in the Word continuously new, it falls into natural rational light, and no longer sees the interiors of the Word.
Our position expressed in the plain and simple teaching given is: “Those are said to see the back parts of Jehovah and not His faces who believe and adore the Word; but only its external which is the sense of the letter, and do not penetrate more interiorly, as do those who have been enlightened, and who make for themselves doctrine from the Word, by which they see its genuine sense, thus its internal sense…. But those who do not believe in the Word, do not even see the back parts of Jehovah.” (A.C. 10584)
The real issue is therefore whether the understanding of the Writings may be taken for granted, or whether we acknowledge that by regeneration and the struggles of regeneration we are to advance from reading the Word according to discrete degrees of light: – from the rational truths of the Writings seen in sensual light, to rational truths seen in natural light, and thence to the rational truths seen in spiritual and celestial light, and that it is only the Writings seen in spiritual and celestial light that is properly the internal sense of the Word, and that the Writings so seen is the only genuine authority actually in the Church. If a man takes the truths seen in the first light he is given, for granted as being the internal truth itself, he can make no further advance. To this our position the objection is raised that there are passages in the fascicles of De Hemelsche Leer, such as the following, which make the doctrine drawn from the Writings the authority…
See also an earlier paper: Aspects of the Internal History of the New Church
Introduction into the True Christian Religion, not only for the beginners but for advanced readers as well
My Lord and My God
Essays on Modern Religion, the Bible and Emanuel Swedenborg by Theodore Pitcairn
With the exception of the chapter on atheists and agnostics, this book is addressed not to the sophisticated nor to the naive or credulous, but to those who believe there is a God and that it is likely that He has revealed Himself to man, and who desire carefully to weigh the evidence with an open mind.
This book will not appeal to those whose ambition is to belong to the avant-garde, or the wave of the future. We believe that there are few who are willing to give up much of their worldly ambitions for the sake of finding the truth and living according to it. On the other hand, there are many who are curious about the latest novelties, and who are eager to appear modem and in tune with the times.
A religious belief which demands profound study and effort, which has no prospect of becoming popular, which is and will be despised by the learned sophisticates, and which therefore will be accepted by few, has little appeal, except to those who desire to find and follow the truth even if it causes them to be despised or ridiculed.
The great majority of people say that they believe in God. But in modern times, particularly inAmericaandEurope, the idea of God has become more and more vague and uncertain, so that to many, God has become an unknown God. It is the hope of this book that for some the following expression of Paul may be fulfilled: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown god. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” (Acts17:23.)
When Abraham Lincoln was running for President, some of the clergy, who knew that he was not a member of any denomination, came to him and asked him what was his religion. To this question he replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the First and Great Commandment. And the Second is like unto it; thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Lincolncombined Matthew 22:37-39 and Mark 12:30,31.)
Most Christians would say that they agree withLincoln, but there is scarcely one in a hundred who seriously attempts actually to carry out such a belief in his life.
In past centuries many made faith, or the contemplation of God, the only thing of importance and neglected the things having to do with our love and duty to our neighbor. At the present day most, even in the churches, looking to the good of society—or social gospel, as it is called—which they identify with love toward their neighbor, neglect the words of the greatest Commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God … with all thy mind.”
They regard theology, which is loving God with the mind, as of little importance.
Is it not a primary saying of the Lord, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”? (John 8:32.) If a person does not believe it is possible to know the truth for certain, can he honestly think he is a Christian?
Yet love of one’s neighbor is merely an earthly love akin to the animal feeling if it is not united to loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, which idea includes a wholehearted desire to understand God, or, what is the same, to have a theology. On the other hand, the love of God, apart from loving and doing one’s duty to one’s neighbor, is not a love of God at all; for the Lord said, “He who hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” (John 14:21), and He said, “This is My Commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12.)
Many eagerly give much time and effort to solving a business problem or to a study of economics, a foreign language, literature, philosophy, or other subjects; but when it comes to theology, they feel an aversion to any serious study. With many the very thought of making a serious effort to understand the nature of the Trinity, even the thought that it is a primary duty to try to understand this subject, causes a feeling of annoyance. Yet how can one love God with all one’s understanding if one does not know for sure whether God is one person or three persons? Thus, although the First and Great Commandment is subscribed to in theory by nearly all, in practice it is rejected: a sign that there is very little real love of God.
How many strive with all their might to understand and know God, and to live according to their understanding with all their heart and soul? Are they not few? If this is so, why is it so?
There are many reasons why there is an aversion to a serious study of theology; one of them is spiritual laziness. To many the pursuit of the things of this world appears real, bringing concrete results, whereas the pursuit of the knowledge and wisdom of God appears vague and unreal, with no likelihood of arriving at any certainty or any definite concept. Even in the churches it has been taught that the mysteries of faith are above human comprehension, and that therefore “the understanding must be kept in obedience to faith”—which necessarily implies a blind faith. Such an idea certainly discourages anyone from seriously trying to obey the First and Great Commandment.
Another reason is that many doubt that there is any definite source of truth concerning God. Many doubt that the Bible is the Word of God, and see no way by which they ^n come to a sure knowledge of God; they therefore turn to science or other subjects where they feel they can deal with facts and actual experiences, or they seek to understand the meaning of life in their subjective experiences.
Nowadays most people think theology is unimportant; they think that they can have a kind of intuition of God, apart from any definite idea. If a person thinks he loves his father and mother and is uninterested in the character and quality of his parents, in the history of their life, in their goals, their ideals, and their thoughts, his love is a sentimental love of no value. In the same way, if a man thinks he loves God and is uninterested in theology, or does not hope to find a true theology, his love is a sentimental love of no value; for theology is nothing but the knowledge of God, and to pretend to love without wishing to know God is a fantasy. In a word, if one says he loves God and is uninterested in theology, his love is not genuine.
In ancientGreecethere were two classes of intellectual leaders: the philosophers and the sophists. The true philosopher was the one who loved wisdom, who placed the pursuit of wisdom above all personal advantage, who was willing to sacrifice himself for the truth. The true philosopher exposed sham goodness and fallacious opinions without regard to person. He searched for the basic causes of things. He was therefore at times persecuted—even put to death. Socrates, before taking hemlock, said, “I would rather die having spoken after my manner than to speak in your manner and live.” The sophist was one who, as in modern times, taught “how to make friends and influence people.” He taught the art of becoming a demagogue. His art consisted of the striking phrase, the superficial appearance of learnedness, the advocacy of the latest novelty— the show, without the substance, of philosophy.
History teaches us that civilizations grow and flourish, and then degenerate and fall. It is the same with religions. There are those who feel that the present civilization shows signs of decay. Prominent men and women have pointed this out, but what causes the decay is not clearly seen. The fall of civilizations and religions is the result of false attitudes or a false religious philosophy—that is, of sophistry —arising out of wrong motives.
We especially address ourselves to those who are distressed at the signs of the times and desire to consider the basic causes of the confusion of our day: causes which are on the plane of ideas but which have their effect in the life of people. We shall examine the cause of what we see as the decline of Christian civilization and consider remedies for it.
Certain remedies have indeed been proposed by those who recognize the decline. But these are based on unwarranted optimism or wishful thinking. They are based on the idea that if one is optimistic—has self-confidence and desire for change—a change for the better will take place. Now such an attitude can produce apparent or temporary improvement, but it is a palliative cure, having no inner or lasting effect. The only real cure demands a new understanding of and faith in the Lord, a new understanding of the relation of God to man and of man to God; and a new repentance out of a humble heart. This must be accompanied by a hope—but a realistic hope, not an optimistic idea that all things will turn quickly for the better; a hope that there will be a sufficient number of people who will come to a new repentance so that there can be established a true Christian civilization which can endure.
Read the full book My Lord and My God