Commentary

The Big Ideas

A girl gazes into a lighted globe, showing the solar system.

Here we are in the 21st century. We know that the universe is an enormous place. We're just bursting with scientific knowledge. But how are we doing with the even-bigger ideas? Our human societies seem to be erasing them, or ignoring them - maybe we think we're too busy for them.

Here on the New Christian Bible Study site, we'll buck the trend. We want to explore the big ideas that give us a framework for living better lives. Here's a start on a list of big ideas from a New Christian perspective. For each idea, there is a footnote that lists some references in Swedenborg's theological works:

1. God exists. Just one God, who created and sustains the entire universe in all its dimensions, spiritual and physical.1

2. God's essence is love itself. It's the force that drives everything.2

3. God's essence comes into being, that is, it exists, in and through creation.3

4. There are levels, or degrees, of creation - ranging from spiritual ones that we can't detect with our physical senses or sensors, to the level of the physical universe where most of our awareness is when we're alive here.4

5. The created universe emanates from God, and it's sustained by God, but in an important way it is separate from God. He wants it to be separate, so that freedom can exist.5

6. God operates from love through wisdom - willing good things, and understanding how to bring them about.6

7. The physical level of creation exists to provide human beings with an opportunity to choose in freedom, with rationality, whether or not to acknowledge and cooperate with God.7

8. God provides all people everywhere, regardless of their religion, the freedom to choose to live a life of love to God and to the neighbor.8

9. God loves everyone. He knows that true happiness only comes when we're unselfish; when we're truly motivated by a love of the Lord which is grounded out in a love of the neighbor. He seeks to lead everyone, but will not force us to follow against our will.9

10. God doesn't judge us. He tells us what's good, and what's evil, and flows into our minds to lead us towards good. However, we're free to reject his leading, and instead opt to love ourselves most. Day by day, we create habits of generosity or of selfishness, and live out a life in accordance with those habits. Those habits become the real "us", our ruling love.10

11. Our physical bodies die eventually, but the spiritual part of our minds keeps going. It's been operating on a spiritual plane already, but our awareness shifts - so that we become fully aware of spiritual reality.11

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Footnotes:

1. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 15, 16, 23, 301, Divine Providence 46, True Christian Religion 11, 19.

2. Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 29, 30,Apocalypse Explained 297, Heaven and Hell 13, 545.

3. Divine Love and Wisdom 31, 32, 57, 59, 84, 169-171, 329, 330, Divine Providence 3, 27.

4. Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 179, 180, 213, 230, 363.

5. Divine Love and Wisdom 44, 45, 55.

6. Divine Love and Wisdom 42, 43, 52, 154, Divine Providence 3, 5.

7. Divine Providence 27, 71, 72, 75, 129, True Christian Religion 459, 490.

8. Divine Providence 145, 322, 324, 325, 328, Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 522, True Christian Religion 457.

9. Divine Providence 67, 322, 333, 334, Heaven and Hell 312, 319, 324.

10. Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 479, 481, 525, 598. The True Christian Religion 795.

11. Arcana Coelestia 168, 1854, 3016, 5078, 6008, 8939, Heaven and Hell 445, 461, 493, 498, Divine Love and Wisdom 90, Last Judgment 25.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Love and Wisdom #363

Divine Love and Wisdom (Dole translation)

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363, 1. Love and wisdom, and the volition and discernment that come from them, constitute our very life. Hardly anyone knows what life is. When people think about it, it seems like something ethereal, something with no specific image. It seems like this because people do not know that only God is life and that his life is divine love and wisdom. We can see from this that the life in us is nothing else and that there is life in us to the extent that we accept it.

We know that warmth and light radiate from the sun and that everything in the universe is a recipient, growing warm and bright in proportion to its receptivity. The same holds true as well for the sun where the Lord is, whose radiating warmth is love and whose radiating light is wisdom, as explained in part 2. It is from these two emanations from the Lord as the sun, then, that life comes.

We can tell that life is love and wisdom from the Lord from the fact that we grow sluggish as love ebbs away from us and dull as wisdom ebbs away; and if they leave us completely, we are snuffed out.

There are many forms of love that have been given their own names because they are derivatives, such as desires, cravings, appetites, and their gratifications and delights. There are many forms of wisdom, too, like perception, reflection, memory, thought, and focus on a subject. Further, there are many forms that come from both love and wisdom, such as agreement, decision, and resolve to act, among others. All of these belong to both [love and wisdom], but they are assigned their names on the basis of what is dominant and nearer to hand.

Finally, our senses are derived from these two, our sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, with their own pleasures and satisfactions. The appearance is that our eye is seeing, but our discernment is seeing through our eye, which is why we ascribe sight to our discernment. The appearance is that our ear is hearing, but our discernment is hearing through our ear. This is why we speak of the attentiveness and listening that are actually functions of discernment as "hearing." The appearance is that our nostrils smell and that our tongue tastes, but discernment is smelling with its perceptiveness and is tasting as well; so we refer to perceptiveness as smelling and tasting, and so on. The wellsprings of all these functions are love and wisdom; we can therefore tell that these two constitute our life.

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