Studia Swedenborgiana

Vol. 9 October,  1995 Number 3 

Swedenborg's Long Sunrise: an analytic look at his theological years - 2

An analytic look at his theological years

by Steve  Koke

The judgment transition

What Christians refer to as "the last judgment" took place in the spiritual world in 1757 and lasted the entire year. Swedenborg was invited by the Lord to observe and describe it. He also had to explain the book of Revelation lest Christians lose faith in it. So he began a remarkable eyewitness account, Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed, and started work on his large exegetical study, Apocalypse Explained.

As if that were not enough to keep him busy, the next year he published not only Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed but four other books drawn from the Arcana Coelestia and re-edited: Earths in the Universe, Heaven and Hell (updated to reflect more recent experiences), White Horse, and New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine.

This burst of small and specialized works allowed his major ideas to get to more people more quickly than they could have in the huge and relatively expensive Arcana. For some reason, after years of doing very little to sell his books, Swedenborg suddenly needed to do some energetic marketing, and it had to be done quickly enough almost to rule out the production of new work. He treated the five 1758 works as a package, sending them to all the English bishops and to many of the nobility. Years later he asked some of the bishops about them in the spiritual world:

They said that they received them, and saw them, but did not think them worthy, though skillfully written; and likewise that they persuaded as many as they could not to read them. I asked, "Why so? When yet there are arcana concerning heaven and hell, and concerning the life after death, and more things most worthy of attention which have been revealed by the Lord for those who will be of his New Church, which is the New Jerusalem." But they said, "What is this to us?" and they poured out vituperations against them as formerly in the world. (R 716)

As one would suspect from their timing, all five books were responses to the judgment.

A judgment restores full freedom of choice in spiritual things (J 73). It clarifies alternatives and removes fixations, freeing the clouded mind that cannot find a path for itself. It does not guarantee a better spiritual life in the new era, only the opportunity to live better and to think more intelligently. For those who want to do something significant with their lives, it frees the higher mind to perceive more of its responsibility to itself. Gradually, values would seem clearer, more accessible to analysis, and high intuitions of truth would become more common.

Swedenborg's task after the judgment was therefore very like the task of educating members of a new democracy. After people who were oppressed are given the vote, there is an immediate need for instruction in basic principles. Otherwise, they may use their new freedom to vote in the wrong people and programs or just live chaotically. In our own time for example, the collapse of communism encouraged the rise of more free-market economies in eastern Europe and the new Commonwealth of Independent States, but its most immediate effect was social agitation and organized crime. Freedom had produced a new kind of problem: obstruction by the free choice of the ignorant. Swedenborg had to respond to the judgment quickly with very readable, affordable, and unintimidating works that could move around quickly but still not sacrifice a point.

However, each work, including the apparently light and curious Earths in the Universe, depended heavily on spiritual intuition. If the reader did not have an instinctual response to these works, or could not believe in a spiritual world (a very rare belief at the time), he would have to pass them by, probably with some comment about the intimate relationship between mysticism and fantasy.

Earths may look like a bid for popular interest because of its intriguing information about life on other planets, but it actually devoted most of its attention to philosophical and spiritual observations, religion on other planets, and theological implications?ncluding a significant chapter on why the Lord chose to be born on this planet rather than another one.

Popular interest in other inhabited planets concentrates on physical information?hat do people on other planets look like; how do they live? It is a very basic and personal curiosity. People would notice his physical information the most, but it was often skimpy, sometimes limited to just a few lines. And it is difficult to imagine very many people being impressed by his physical observations if the metaphysics that made them possible were literally out of this world. He did try to appeal to popular interests, but, as we shall argue below, only within a particular audience capable of understanding the outrageous claims and metaphysical ideas that would oppose a general interest in his work.

As we observed in Part 1, Earths in the Universe was at first not a showpiece but the last part of the Arcana's argument, a forensic endpiece. It was a way to confirm his theology to people who had been able to follow him all the way through Exodus, by showing that it was universal, emerging from the spiritual instincts of life everywhere. The advantage of finding that a theology exists throughout the universe is that it can be considered fundamental to the nature of God and humanity. That is, it is not an adaptation to the needs of Earth; it is transparent to reality itself. Reality can be expected to assert itself through very common phenomena if you can view it on a large enough stage. That made the Earths material in the Arcana a commentary on the many ideas he had already advanced, and it therefore was put last in the Arcana. It should have played at least a similar role in the package he sent out in 1758. It was intriguing, but more essentially it was an argument.

Heaven and Hell, his most popular work today, and Last Judgment made even stronger demands on the limited spirituality of the time; they were naturally restricted to those few who could accept much while just getting acquainted with them. In an interesting experiment that deserves to be quoted in full, Swedenborg had both books assessed by a marketing expert from Holland:

That Divine truths are of such a nature that they are not perceived save by an enlightened person, and are rejected by an unenlightened one, was manifest to me from the following experience: the books about heaven and about the last judgment were given to a certain spirit to read through, and examine as to whether what is therein is such that it can be printed in Holland and sold at a profit; as I believe he was one who had held such a post in Holland when he lived in the world. These are such that they are able to see very clearly whether they are of such a character; thus, too, whether they will be acknowledged as true, or rejected as false. He read them through, and said that he found in them such things as could be printed with every advantage; but, after some interval, he read them again, and said that they had no merit at all, and would be accepted by nobody.

It was hence plain, that, the first time, he had been in enlightenment, and saw the things which were there from the light of heaven, but that the second time he saw them from a light resembling natural light. It was also manifest therefrom, that divine truths are in clearness, and are pleasing, when read in the light of heaven, and are in shade, and are consequently unpleasing, when in natural light; with other writing, to which the light of heaven is not necessary, it is different.

The same books were given to another who was also of such a quality; and he gave an almost identical report. (D 5908)

In Apocalypse Explained (52.2) he tells us why all the more philosophical works in the package, Earths, Heaven and Hell, and New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, were significant for the new era. They brought out the central importance, even out in the universe, of acknowledging the divine under a human form. The emerging new church would have this value at its center; the old church had recognized only the Lord's divinity, and that had kept it from thinking of God as very intimate or personal.

He pointed out several years later that some very basic ideas had logically to be published first so that deeper and more complex ideas, especially about the judgment, could be understood.

But when [one] knows that a man after death is not an exhalation or a wind, but a spirit, and if he has lived well, an angel in heaven, and that spirits and angels are men in a perfect form, he can then think from his understanding concerning the state of man after death, and the last judgment, and he may also with certainty conclude from his understanding that the last judgment, which is predicted in the Word, will not exist in the natural world, but in the spiritual world, where all are together: and furthermore, that whenever it does exist, it must be revealed, for the sake of belief in the Word. (CJ 5; see also S 70.)

This probably explains his intended publishing sequence, in which the five would precede and prepare for Apocalypse Explained, which would in turn concentrate on the more complex details of the judgment and the new age.

Now in all of his works so far?nd very arguably in his entire theological output?wedenborg could be effective only with those who were spiritual already, since his work was thoroughly dependent on the reader's spiritual intuition. He often mentions writing something for "those who are in faith," but these were at the center of a rather broad concept of the spiritual person. In Arcana Coelestia 3898.3 he had described his audience as "the elect" who are "in the life of good and can now be instructed"? Much larger group, but still not everybody.

Later, he wrote:

[New teachings] have now for the first time been disclosed for the sake of the new church, which is the New Jerusalem, that [its members] may know them; others, indeed, shall also know them, who yet do not know them on account of their unbelief. (Docu 229, p. 249)

That reads as though he was trying to appeal to everybody. But how could he realistically hold out much hope for people who disagreed with him? Moreover the man who is in simple good, and in simplicity believes the Word according to its literal sense, when instructed in the other life by angels is gifted with the faculty of perceiving truths; and in the meantime the few truths he has are vivified by charity and innocence; and when these are in the truths, the falsities which also had infused themselves in the shade of his ignorance are not hurtful, for they are not adjoined to good, but are withheld therefrom as it were in the circumference, and thus can be easily cast out. (A 3436.2)

. . . The spiritual man is what one is introduced into by a love of doing uses, which love is also called charity. (M 426)

No one can know what the internal man is, and his life after death, save he who is in charity, for charity is of the internal man. (A 4783.4)

He was still not including everybody. He wrote for everyone "in the life of good," or "charity," for these people were at least inwardly spiritual in spite of any skeptical ideas they might have picked up from the surrounding culture. The state of good in a person is the key to his character. Eventually, goodness of heart can pull one away from bad ideas. By themselves, other ideas may not be able to do that. This is a radical concept, for we normally think that truth is recognized only by good thinking and the impersonal force of evidence; all stable belief systems are decided intellectually, and we should keep our feelings out of them. But spiritual truth, unlike material or scientific fact, has an intimate relationship with the quality of the person. The good in us is what recognizes spiritual truth, for spiritual truth is its most compatible and self-revealing viewpoint.

This led logically to a practice that pushes out a few walls in conventional marketing philosophy, although it makes excellent sense in view of the special character of his intended audience; it was characteristic of Swedenborg's approach that he could make the most headway, even with his well-intentioned skeptics, only if he did not omit his claims and his experiences in order to be less outrageous. He could actually make the strongest appeal to the good in people, and to any consequent ability to experience the tug of a deep truth, if he did not hide his ultimate seriousness. To hold back on any of it would give the good in his readers less to recognize and follow. It was not merely surrounding commentary, but part of the content, that his message was given by the Lord and that the heavens had been opened to him. His claims are not appeals to "authority" but a way to point out to his intended audience that his teachings contain a sacred or numinous core, quite aside from their intellectual brilliance. If his readers did not readily notice it, they were of the sort, grounded in simple good, who could notice it in time. In the meantime, he had to put up signposts for it.

In fact, his claims do not tell us that his theology is true; his theology tells us that his claims are true. His intended readers were able to notice something very holy in his work; or, if they had already noticed it, his claims confirmed the discovery so that they could trust their inner senses more and not think that what they were feeling was just their imagination. Only that kind of inner sensing would actually anchor a new religion later on. Intellectual brilliance can always be clouded or doubted by more argument, and Swedenborg suspected that those who were dependent on argument would only give him more of it in answer to anything he wrote. His brilliance would not be enough, and omitting his claims for the sake of better public relations would not have helped anyone.

As we indicated in Part 1, the Lord was not just a figure handing outstanding ideas to Swedenborg, but the Word itself, the sacred center of all such ideas.

Consequently, he had little hope for anyone who had confirmed himself in a self-centered life in which the inner sensitivity granted by a good life would be extinguished. One very pointed example was the older generations of clergy who had forcefully eliminated charity as a source of salvation.

The universities in Christendom are now first being instructed, whence will come new ministers; for the new heaven has no influence over the old [clergy] who deem themselves too learned in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. (Docu 234, p. 261, sixth letter to Beyer.)

We find a further clue to Swedenborg's publishing strategy in Doctrine of the Lord, published a few years later (1763). In its introduction he lists previous publications, but they are only the five 1758 works. Why would he not mention the Arcana Coelestia? And why should he not advertise his greatest work?

He does not claim that the list is exhaustive; he only mentions that he has published these titles "some years ago," as if he wants to draw attention only to them. What he did was make all five main references. Even his larger and more complex works later referred to them rather than to the Arcana in most instances, although all but one were extracted from the Arcana. The five then referred mainly to each other for any other major subjects. If they referred to the Arcana, it was for confirmation or expanded discussion of their own subjects. In short, these books were the Arcana, but cut down to a much more convenient form so that it could focus only on the more pressing issues of the period.

The Arcana itself was accordingly pulled into the background in encyclopedic support of the five books and their short, select, and more highly transportable discussions. It would not be greatly needed until the new spiritual community became stronger and much more seriously committed to the new era.

As we have seen already, Apocalypse Explained would have been intended for the same kind of reserved use. It contained deeper, more varied and challenging material on the new age than the five, and it would have been aimed at the few who were ready for its intensive instruction in new age thinking. Later, the few in this core group would not be so few, and more people would pick up everything he wrote. For readers just getting acquainted with him, the Arcana also represented a rather impressive material investment, and Apocalypse Explained would be fully half as large.

Consequently, although Swedenborg wrote for spiritually sensitive people, he was committed to helping the large majority of them achieve gradual growth, not immersion in everything, even into the 1760s when he published the short essays on the four major doctrines. From that point on, he gradually increased the intensity of his writing. As we shall see below, the new church was not perceived to be well on its way until he received his instructions to write Apocalypse Revealed.

Meanwhile, Apocalypse Explained ran into trouble and was left unfinished. There have been some attempts to explain why, but definitive answers have been very elusive, and we can only try to clarify and theorize a little further. After a promising start, the work became very unwieldy, finally alternating one paragraph of exegesis with several pages of philosophical and doctrinal discussion. It stopped short at chapter 19, verse 10, very close to the end of the book of Revelation at chapter 22.

Was he being pulled away from exegesis by the lure of his philosophical interests, or was his exegesis in some way slowing so that often only his philosophical inserts could be continued? Both alternatives would look the same on the page.

It does not look as though the work's awkward organization was more than a symptom of the problem. A sprawling format can always be corrected by editing, and a few months spent on clearing up the manuscript?ncluding the possibility of setting the more excessive inserts aside for later works and just writing new transitions?ould have placed the work in the printer? Hands. If Swedenborg were merely under pressure to concentrate on philosophical and doctrinal writing, he could have gotten to it fairly soon; he had promised his public "the explanation of the Apocalypse" in two years (J 42, 47), and he was actually about ready to deliver. Even if some isolated new idea about the new age had come to him, the first solution would have been to consider editing or inserting it here and there rather than quitting. The editing process is very versatile, and the reason for not using it has to be severe.

It was. Everything came to a stop, not just exegesis. Instead of diving into doctrinal and philosophical publishing afterwards, he waited until 1763 to publish any philosophical and doctrinal work?uch longer than it would have taken just to edit and publish Apocalypse Explained anyway. When he resumed publishing, it was not on his own initiative but after receiving instructions from the Lord to do so. Afterwards, in 1764, he took up the book of Revelation again and spent two more years completely rewriting his exegesis, this time calling it Apocalypse Revealed? Suggestive change.

Apocalypse Explained was stopped so close to the end that we have to wonder why Swedenborg did go so far with it unless he had actually approved the awkward format, at least under the pressures of the judgment period to convince and to teach as much as possible in a short time. He certainly knew all along what was happening to the work. Near the end, and in the face of his most scattered discussions, he wrote:

Since, then, any man, even a corporeal sensual man, when he reaches adult age is endowed with such an ability to understand that he can comprehend the things that relate to God when he is listening or reading . . . It is important that this treatise on the Divine attributes should be continued as it was begun. (E 1216)

He was including yet another major dissertation, knowing very well the literary environment it would live in and complicate, and he seems to justify it solely because it can be understood.

In fact, his clean copy for the printer chased his rough draft, as if he felt that quickness and encyclopedic information, not form, were most needed when so much had to be said. You do not care to correct very much if only a few paragraphs back your clean copy is already piling up.

What all this suggests is that something very fundamental and not readily apparent went awry, but that it grew gradually until he woke to it only near the end.

Scripture was always for him the prima materia for the regenerate life because of its inner divinity and its communication with heaven, and his work with the inner sense always carried him to an inspirational level above more rational or argumentative work. Philosophical interests should not have been able to compete with exegesis unless exegesis was ailing.

When he did finally return to the book of Revelation in 1764, he did not incorporate any of his old manuscript?s one would expect him to do in order to save time and duplication of effort. He would have needed to replace all old writing only if the new work had to be different in some way. In the new work we find primarily exegesis, not the large philosophical inserts and scriptural proofs of the old one. What had to compel the production of the new work, and could not even use old pages, was therefore its exegesis.

The change of title has to be significant: from Apocalypsis Explicata it became Apocalypsis Revelata. There was no public reason for doing this. People who had read Last Judgment had been expecting what he had called "the explanation of the Apocalypse," not something titled Apocalypse Revealed. The new title suggests a shift in his private conception of the project, from an explanation to a revelation.

As we have argued in Part 1, Swedenborg always wrote from exegetical inspiration even when producing non-exegetical work. His exegetical publishing had only so many uses as a major teaching method and literary form, and it was not always continued; but in the background his guidance continued to come from the Lord in the Word (T 779?80).

In all of his works he found himself having to understand the Lord as a person. That person, like any other, needed to be understood emotionally and intuitively, as well as in terms of his thoughts and philosophy. In any personality, the two are encountered as one reality; but the former can always be collected in "exegetical" passages following the inner sense of the person? Life and actions, and the latter can always be isolated and placed in philosophical and doctrinal essays. However, both are only different aspects of the same person, not separate topics. The separation is literary and serves analytical purposes. Problems in understanding one will therefore lead to corresponding problems with the other, and what is seen in the person? Heart and life will naturally qualify everything else.

Consequently, exegetical problems, coming from the heart of the Word rather than from its more philosophical and structural side, would have been the most likely to force Swedenborg into a long layover and a complete new start with both exegetical and non-exegetical writing.

As we know, he began work on Apocalypse Revealed after he had been told by a voice from heaven to go into his room, shut the door, take up the work he had left on Revelation, and bring it to an end in two years (M 522). We need to take a close look at that instruction, but first we should back up a little and consider the introductory experiences:

The next day, remembering these sad scenes, I looked towards the same forest and saw that it had disappeared and in its place was a sandy plain, in the midst whereof was a pool in which were some red serpents. Some weeks later, looking again in that direction, I saw, on its right side, a fallow field wherein were several husbandmen. Again, some weeks later, I saw emerging from that fallow field new ploughed land surrounded by bushes. I then heard a voice from heaven, "Enter into your chamber and shut the door . . . ."

A change had been taking place in the spiritual world; old self-indulgent obsessions were gradually being transformed into a more fruitful consciousness. Some side of the new church itself, where Swedenborg was more intimately affected because he saw it in his own inner experience, was finally beginning to grow. He had explained in the Arcana:

In the Word the church is signified by "land," "ground," and "field," but with a difference. The reason why "field" signifies the church, is that the church as a field receives the seeds of good and truth; for the church has the Word, from which come these seeds; and this is the reason why everything in a field signifies that which is of the church, such as sowing, reaping, standing corn, wheat, barley, and other things, and this also with a difference. (A 3766.)

Only when he sees that this new life is about to appear in the newly plowed field?he new church ?oes he get his instruction.

The fact that Swedenborg was brought back to the work by a voice from heaven indicates by itself that a spiritual issue was on the table, not merely an addition to his work schedule. For material things that we can schedule logically enough, heaven does not intrude, since it is the internal man, and the internal man is interested in spiritual growth and its problems. We are not so likely to handle our spiritual issues well, or even see them, without a higher and more objective wisdom coming down to us. Otherwise, our business is left up to us. This concern with spiritual growth is also required by the necessary presence of correspondences in spiritual world utterances; a spiritual lesson, or the addition of spiritual meaning to our mundane decisions, lies behind whatever is said. His instruction therefore had to do with knowing when he was ready for some new internal development to move through him.

To retire into his room would be to go deep inside where he could be "with himself" and get back to his innermost feelings and his best ideals. To close the door would be to shut out distractions from the rest of his mind. The recommended state is highly meditative, committed, and tuned to whatever still, small voice might be there to speak to him; it is like the alchemist's hermetic vessel in which inner transformations can happen in a protected space. The work to be continued is not the old manuscript, for that could only be Apocalypse Explained, which we now know was set aside. If it were the old manuscript and we continued with a literal reading, to finish in two years would be puzzling, for there were not two more years of work left in it. "Work" is instead typically defined in the inner sense as regeneration, the effort we expend on inner change.

The work he had left on Revelation is therefore most likely the new consciousness he had to develop in this deeply inward state in order to relate better to the book. A manuscript in the spiritual world would be essentially how a concept under development looks there. Conceptual development now had to be resumed, but in the light of new creative forces and realizations represented by the freshly plowed land; for the sight of that land, his awareness of new spiritual life, had introduced his instructions. In short, the book of Revelation at this point in his life would be best interpreted by the consciousness it describes.

This gets more support. To "finish in two years" would suggest that the new church must now be approached from values emphasizing the good of life, now seen as the imminent fruit of the land. "Two" represents conjunction, or "all as to good" (R 245). "Years" are of course not calendar years but a general state of the church which in this case incorporates "all as to good" (A 2906). Even to "bring it to an end" is suggestive wording; a process ends or closes with the good life as the fulfillment of inner change. He must help grow that quality in people by speaking to it directly and more from his own experience of it. The field was also seen on the right side?he more heartfelt and intimate side?f the now defunct woods, which had been a declining state of confusion. The good of life, so persistently suppressed by theologians, was finally pushing out old dark and tangled complexes.

He did publish Apocalypse Revealed two years later; but, as we have mentioned in Part 1, his rate of work on exegetical projects (if we refer to my Bible's pagination) was about eleven pages of biblical text per year, anyway. The book of Revelation is seventeen pages long.

There are more than vague hints in all of this that Swedenborg's earlier work on Revelation was less intimate than it needed to be; it was more impersonally intellectual (hence Explicata) and may have lacked a sensitivity?ith corresponding subtle shifts in content and emphasis?hat does make Apocalypse Revealed seem clearer and more deftly illuminating.

He may have found himself, after an optimistic start, looking at the new era too much from the outside and then treating it too much as an objective study. His later instructions for Apocalypse Revealed would establish an added responsibility to interpret this new age from the good of its life.

The current period had started out after the judgment with an emphasis on quick instruction for the new era; Swedenborg had been working especially intensely with Apocalypse Explained to prepare a good advanced course for the few who were ready for it, as well as simpler "courses" for the rest of his readers. In his Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed, he had added another and more pressing reason to publish an explanation of Revelation; it had to be defended against skepticism, lest faith in the Word be damaged (J 40?2, 60?61). If his exegesis had to move instead toward a more intimate and sensitive side of life, he could have encountered problems maintaining its accuracy in the context of his more insistent intellectual mission. His standards for accuracy in exegesis were very high, and it would have taken only a minor but systematic and protracted decline in quality to disappoint him.

In his instructions to try again in 1764, he was told to go deep inside himself and work very closely with his recent experiences of a new church that was finally becoming a reality. It was no longer such an intellectual subject. To a significant extent the new church could now be read directly, and it would show more of itself over the next two years. Then, because this more intimate relationship with the new awareness and openness of heart would have to have complete control so that it could freely express only itself, the work was entirely rewritten?ot worked into the old manuscript. It was the product of a different state of mind, and the old intellectual pressures were gone, lifted primarily by the philosophical and doctrinal works of 1763?764.

These works were commanded by the Lord, and they may have been a preliminary expression of Swedenborg's new inner alignment.

To be commanded by the Lord is to be moved by the deeply numinous, by love and wisdom itself?n experience of will and primal inspiration that goes far beyond the mere reception of a command. A divine command would suggest a call to new enlightenment; it is an event, a turning point of some kind, initiated from the inmost spaces of the soul where the direction of one? Life is decided, undoubtedly not minor business. If it seems little different from a brief interoffice memo, what we should expect is that a lower and more external source would be used unless the import of the command is greater than appears on the surface.

If Swedenborg's old thoughts were good enough, he could have produced these books at any time; in fact, we should have seen him dive into philosophical and doctrinal publishing as soon as he stopped Apocalypse Explained so that the thoughts he had already set down there would still get into print. Instead, an apex had evidently been reached and he had to wait for something very new to take place. When he was finally commanded to write the doctrinal and philosophical works, new inspiration had to be pouring into him, as if whatever had impeded Apocalypse Explained was being replaced by something. The entire sequence of events from Apocalypse Explained to Apocalypse Revealed has the look of high inner drama.

He lists the newly commanded titles in his preface to Doctrine of the Lord. Soon most of them came off the press?I>Lord, Holy Scripture, Life, Faith, and Continuation Concerning the Last Judgment, all in 1763. Then a step downward and outward, philosophy: first, Divine Love and Wisdom (1763), and then, continuing his inevitable descent to the more practical, Divine Providence (1764). We should continue to see what his commands might mean inwardly, for Swedenborg eventually decided not to publish all the titles.

Titles should refer to sharply defined concepts, not necessarily books in a strictly material sense. A book is a complete overview of its subject, a complex and well-rounded thought. Given good internal organization and presentation, its material form should be incidental. Ordered by the Lord, these concepts were perfectly shaped cornerstones to any larger system or state of consciousness that might need their services.

Seen in the spiritual world in their essential form, these concepts would look like books with the commanded titles. But as more local conditions demanded attention, they could change their outward form as long as they retained their distinct inner character and force. Sometimes these amendments to form occurred in the spiritual world itself. Two of the commanded books, Divine Love and Wisdom and Divine Providence, were once seen as one book (R 875), and it is very true that these two works blend readily into one large concept.

Swedenborg writes of a command to "publish," but to publish is more fundamentally and inwardly to multiply a concept among other minds. Whether concept A came out of one material book or in pieces from several would not make a real difference as long as A was eventually complete and identifiable in the reader's mind and could accomplish its purpose. Material books would be required for spreading these ideas around in the world in any event, and Swedenborg did not at first anticipate making any changes; so in his preface to Doctrine of the Lord he retained the language of the original instruction, giving the impression that he was taking it literally.

Consequently, his later decision not to publish one of the commanded books (on Divine Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Infinity, and Eternity, parts of the Angelic Wisdom series) but to scatter the material in some of his other books, implies that he felt his publishing strategy was logically not addressed by his instructions; only content was. As he saw it, he really was dealing with concepts, not books. In his simple and unperturbed answer to Dr. Beyer? Question about the missing treatise on omnipotence, etc., he seems entirely unaware that he might have disobeyed instructions.

In his Doctrine of the Holy Scripture, Swedenborg sets up an intriguing relationship between the literal sense and the spiritual sense, using a model from the sciences. Among other things, he tells us what it takes to penetrate to the inner sense of Scripture and why it can be done only after first drawing doctrine from the literal sense. All this gets into a subtle and very interesting logic that deserves a paper of its own.

He brings in a procedure that is known in the philosophy of science today as "the deductive model of explanation." It is a good example of the manner in which his scientific training provided models for theological ideas.

The deductive model describes how theories that explain material facts are built and confirmed. The material facts, or data, that support a theory in science are like the external facts and perceptions that constitute the literal sense of the Word. The spiritual sense of the Word is like the scientific theory or explanation that tells us what is really happening when certain material facts appear.

To review this picture very quickly: Swedenborg recommends that we search the literal sense for underlying doctrine, an embedded wisdom, before looking for the spiritual sense (S?1, 53?5). That parallels the need in scientific work to search for suggestive patterns in material facts before erecting a theory that will explain them; for one must know what the usually rather mixed data mean before trying anything so ambitious. The higher understanding or theory will then be built with the guidance of these broad patterns. A lot of possible theories that really should not work can be avoided this way (S 56). In Scripture, the subsequent use of correspondences in search of the spiritual sense recalls the use of pattern recognition and analogy in arriving at an explanatory theory in science; in the sciences this falls under the general label of inductive reasoning.

Then the new theory illumines and explains the original facts, somewhat like a background principle, allowing us to see where they came from and what they more deeply indicate about reality, as does the spiritual sense for Scripture (S 56, 58). The theory confirms its validity by "corroborating" the data, just as the spiritual sense "corroborates" the literal sense (S 56). That is, the data can be "predicted" or deduced from the scientific theory, using "intermediate postulates" that translate the terms of one level of reality into the terms of the other, somewhat as correspondences do in Scripture.

To what extent was Swedenborg trained in theological reasoning by the sciences and its procedures? We are aware of his scientific work as a general aid to his feeling for logic and method. But a study of both eighteenth century science and the general philosophy of science shows us actual models of how to think that show up in his theological work. These models were merely scientific and philosophical tools until his theological period showed him that they were spiritual structures too, rooted in the human mind and soul. It was entirely reasonable that this unorthodox link between science and religion should exist, for nature expresses spirit and mind by representing them. The Word is in turn at least a model of the human mind. Scientific thought therefore provided precise models for spiritual thought, and the former had already been worked out so methodically that Swedenborg could trust both to yield insights of high precision.

The post-judgment period

final ethical and institutional themes

With Apocalypse Revealed finally in publication, Swedenborg could turn his attention to more ethical and social issues?nd antagonism from his own church. Apocalypse Revealed had helped him turn a corner from the intense education of the intellect after the judgment to the expression of the new truth in creative living. It was a gate to the last road outward and downward. Very appropriately, he wrote Charity next, but for some reason left it unpublished.

Conjugial Love, an exhaustive analysis of spiritual forces in marriage, was published in 1768. It launched his final period when the proof of all of the inner consciousness he had built for so many years should start to show up in new actions and worldly changes. As we have seen, Apocalypse Revealed had been inspired by the first signs of an emerging new church. Now that church had to be given fundamental moral and ethical insights. He wrote in his introduction to Conjugial Love:

For the Lord was pleased to manifest Himself to me and to send me to teach what is intended for a new church, meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse. (M 1)

Earlier, an angel from the highest, or "celestial," heaven had told him:

I saw that you were meditating on marital love. In this parchment are arcana of wisdom on the subject not hitherto made known in the world. They are now disclosed, because it is important that they should be.??? But I predict that only those will possess themselves of this love who are received by the Lord into the new church, which is the New Jerusalem.

So saying, the angel let down the unrolled parchment. An angelic spirit intercepted it and laid it on a table in a certain room which he immediately locked. Handing me the key, he said, "Write." (M?3)

Conjugial Love was also one of the books Swedenborg had selected to carry material of the commanded treatise on infinity, omnipresence, and omnipotence. He would live only four more years.

Notice that Swedenborg's guidance is mainly angelic, although under the Lord's auspices as indicated (M 1). The interception of the parchment of celestial wisdom by an angelic spirit suggests that an elevated but still mixed state would be the level at which he would actually write the material. It would be very high in its interior significance (the celestial messenger), but as it was actually presented, it would need to be well adapted to current uses and worldly conditions (the angelic spirit who finally gives it to Swedenborg and tells him to write). As we explained in the introduction (Part 1), each of his books was a breakthrough for himself as well as for us.

The book Conjugial Love was built on the idea that the most fundamental object and delight of all wisdom is its union with love, and therefore not necessarily the mastery of other things beyond either. This turns out to be the basis of sexuality as well as the essence of life, and it gives meaning at the end to a thorough discussion of sexual ethics.

Previously, he had dealt only with the necessity for religion to create strong relationships; he had concentrated on the inner preparation of the individual for performing "uses," as opposed to just living for oneself. What was needed now was principles that could keep uses intact in a world that presents us with all kinds of challenges and differences, even from other people who are determined to perform uses. Theology is not supposed to survive alone or only on its good intentions and illuminating principles. Strong moral wisdom must surround and protect it and recommend constructive action in some very confusing and seductive situations. It is logically possible (but probably inconvenient) to treat this book as a model for moral behavior anywhere; simply translate the sexes back into love and wisdom, and one should come up with a general model of spiritual ethics.

Furthermore, marriage creates in time a complete individual, one superbly balanced mind?n Heaven and Hell 367 we learn that a married pair in heaven is regarded as one angel. Relationships with the opposite sex are therefore a disturbingly clear mirror in which we see our real condition. Healing them can therefore focus critical energy on problems in spiritual growth.

Copies of Conjugial Love were impounded by the Diet's House of the Clergy in 1769 after the consistory of the Swedish Lutheran Church placed his doctrines under suspicion of heresy. Recounting his efforts to free them, Swedenborg told Dr. Beyer that the book was "not a theological work but mostly a book on morals." It has seemed to some commentators that it should therefore not be taken as a major work. But the difference between theology and morals should be the same as that between spiritual truth and the creative life that expresses it and by which it lives. Swedenborg probably felt that the consistory was interested only in his doctrinal formulae.

Another meaningful turn of events was the first appearance of his name on the title page; for one reason or another writers of the time were often anonymous. He signed himself here and in Brief Exposition "Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swede," apparently trying in both works merely to identify himself to an international audience. And since his message must now emerge from the inner world into the public world and have some impact on civil and cultural life, he may have felt that this more visible practicality should coincide with his own visibility.

The next two works, Brief Exposition and True Christian Religion, lay siege to the major bastions of the old Christian era. Swedenborg said that when Brief Exposition was published, the heavens appeared covered with flowers, and it was there inscribed with the words, "The Advent of the Lord." As we have mentioned, there is through all the works of this period the final approach of the highest to direct confrontation with conditions in the lowest realms. Here and in True Christian Religion the confrontation is joined, constituting a finished advent.

True Christian Religion has been analyzed very effectively by George Dole in his "True Christian Religion as apologetic theology." Rather than a comprehensive summary of Swedenborg? Theology appropriate to the end of a long career, the work turns out to be a defense of his system in the form that a conventional Lutheran dogmatic treatise would take. Addressed to the concerns of the Swedish Lutheran Church, which was threatening to try him and two of his followers for heresy, it speaks to established ideas and attitudes in their own terms and does not cover all of his major themes.

Combating opposition from home was Swedenborg? Immediate concern. But from a longer perspective, True Christian Religion, along with Brief Exposition, marks the arrival of a high revelatory process at what he calls "ultimates and outmosts," its furthest reach where it has to grapple with some rough-edged condition in the world.

As we have described in Part 1, all revelatory communication tends to descend from high and vulnerable states heavily dependent on spiritual intuition, and understood at first by only the few who are sensitive to spiritual truth, to final public consequences for worldly practice and the social or ecclesiastical order. Like the path of revelation, his career moved from the highest and the most internal realizations to the lowest and the most outwardly effective?rom Scripture interpretation downward and outward to socially effective doctrine. Here, in True Christian Religion, after a descent that began decades earlier, his work achieves a kind of social body, a focused statement that can affect executive power in churches and councils.

Once the revelatory process has addressed all levels of reality from first to last, the message is complete. Regardless of whether it wins its battles, it has become a complete cultural organism. True Christian Religion was Swedenborg's last theological work. It was a time for celebration:

After this work was finished, the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day he sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that the lord god jesus christ reigns. .?? (T 791)

What was celebrated was not just True Christian Religion but the completion of the entire process of revelation, from top to bottom.