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

Arcana Coelestia #8939

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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8939. 'I will come to you and bless you' means God's presence at that time, and influx. This is clear from the meaning of 'coming to someone', when said by Jehovah, as presence, as also in Arcana Coelestia 5934, 6063, 6089; and from the meaning of 'blessing', when said by Jehovah, as being endowed with faith and charity, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 2846, 3406, 4981, 6091, 6099, 8674, thus also as flowing in since faith and charity flow in from the Lord with a person. These are the blessing in the internal sense, for they are what make a person blessed and happy eternally. While living in the world a person calls those things a blessing which make him blessed and happy temporally, that is, wealth and important positions. Temporal blessings however are not what are meant in the internal sense of the Word but eternal ones, in comparison with which the temporal are nothing at all. For there is no ratio between what is temporal and what is eternal; there is no ratio even between several thousands or several millions of years and what is eternal, since those years have an end whereas what is eternal has no end. Therefore what is eternal Is; for that which exists without end Is, since it has its Being from God, who is Infinite - the Infinite in relation to time being He who is Eternal. But the temporal by comparison Is not, because when it has reached its end it exists no longer. From this it is also evident that 'a blessing' in the spiritual sense is that which has Being from God within it, thus is those things which constitute eternal life, consequently things which are aspects of charity and faith.

[2] The truth that worldly blessing is nothing in comparison with heavenly blessing, which is eternal, is taught in the following way by the Lord in Matthew,

What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Matthew 16:26.

But the person immersed in worldly and earthly interests does not understand this saying; for worldly and earthly interests have a stifling effect, and cause him not to believe even in the existence of eternal life.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1881)


[3] But I can positively declare that as soon as a person dies he is in the next life, living as a spirit among spirits, and that then he seems to himself and to all others there to be altogether like a person in the world, endowed with all the senses, internal and external, Arcana Coelestia 1881. I can say too that therefore death of the body is merely a laying aside of such things as had enabled the person to serve and function in the world, and in addition that death itself is a continuation of life, though in another world which is not visible to the eyes of the earthly body but is visible there in light a thousand times brighter than midday light in the world. Since all this is known to me from actual experience which I have had over so many years and continue to have, I declare it positively. I have spoken to almost all those with whom I was acquainted in the world and who have died, to some two or three days after their decease; and I speak to them still. The majority of them have been extremely displeased that they had had no belief at all in the continuation of life after death. I have talked to those people not just for a day but over months and years. I have also been allowed to witness their succeeding or progressive states of life taking them either to hell or to heaven. Consequently let anyone who wishes to be happy for evermore know and believe that he is going to be alive after death; let him think about it and remember it, for it is the truth. Let him also know and believe that the Word is the one and only teacher of how a person should live in the world in order to be happy for evermore.

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