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

Heaven and Hell #461

Heaven and Hell (Dole translation)

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461. After Death, We Enjoy Every Sense, Memory, Thought, and Affection We Had in the World: We Leave Nothing Behind except Our Earthly Body

Repeated experience has witnessed to me that when we move from the natural world into the spiritual, which happens when we die, we take with us everything that pertains to our character except our earthly body. In fact, when we enter the spiritual world or our life after death, we are in a body as we were in this world. There seems to be no difference, since we do not feel or see any difference. This body is spiritual, though, so it has been separated or purified from earthly matter. Further, when anything spiritual touches and sees something spiritual, it is just like something natural touching and seeing something natural. So when we have become a spirit, we have no sense that we are not in the body we inhabited in the world, and therefore do not realize that we have died.

[2] As "spirit-people," we enjoy every outer and inner sense we enjoyed in the world. We see the way we used to, we hear and talk the way we used to; we smell and taste and feel things when we touch them the way we used to; we want, wish, crave, think, ponder, are moved, love, and intend the way we used to. Studious types still read and write as before. In a word, when we move from the one life into the other, or from the one world into the other, it is like moving from one [physical] place to another; and we take with us everything we owned as persons to the point that it would be unfair to say that we have lost anything of our own after death, which is only a death of the earthly body.

[3] We even take with us our natural memory, since we retain everything we have heard, seen, read, learned, or thought in the world from earliest infancy to the very end of life. However, since the natural objects that reside in our memory cannot be reproduced in a spiritual world, they become dormant the way they do when we are not thinking about them. Even so, they can be reproduced when it so pleases the Lord. I will have more to say soon, though, about this memory and its condition after death.

Sense-centered people are quite incapable of believing that our state after death is like this because they do not grasp it. Sense-centered people can think only on the natural level, even about spiritual matters. This means that anything they do not sense - that is, see with their physical eyes and touch with their hands - they say does not exist, as we read of Thomas in John 20:25, 27, 29. The quality of sense-centered people has been described above in 267, and in note c there.

(References: Heaven and Hell 267)

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