Legend 2: Spots

October 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

The second “legend” of Kurt Simons is:

The recounting of  how children are raised in heaven, perhaps most notably the story about spots appearing on their clothes, flowers and rooms when they misbehave, in Spiritual Diary/Spiritual Experiences3327, 5601, 5664.

From <http://www.swedenborgproject.org/2009/01/29/swedenborgian-legends/>

When one starts a project like this, one never knows what one will encounter. The three passages which Mr. Simons refers to are about “spots,” but not strictly about the education of children.

The first reference (SD 3327) is a black spot appearing at the side under the left eye. This was a sign that Swedenborg and the spirits he was talking to should refrain from speaking. The context of the number is mostly about the most ancient church and respiration. There is nothing here about spots and the education of children.

SD 5601 and 5664 is about how maidens are admonished in the other life (SD 5601) and how they are educated (SD 5660). When used strictly, maidens and youths (male counterpart) are people who are older than children but not yet married.

These passages are quoted in full at the end of this post.

Could the spots that appear on the clothing of maidens also appear on the clothing of youths and children? I don’t see any reason why they could not; but that is not what the passages say.

It is true that these teachings are not repeated in the published works. Still, based on the general teachings of the published works, there is no reason to believe that these teachings are not true. See the following:

That the garments of angels do not merely appear as garments, but are real garments, is evident from the fact that angels both see them and feel them, that they have many garments, and that they put them off and put them on, that they care for those that are not in use, and put them on again when they need them. That they are clothed with a variety of garments I have seen a thousand times. When I asked where they got their garments, they said from the Lord, and that they receive them as gifts, and sometimes they are clothed with them unconsciously. They said also that their garments are changed in accordance with their changes of state, that in the first and second state their garments are shining and glistening white, and in the third and fourth state a little less bright; and this likewise from correspondence, because their changes of state have respect to intelligence and wisdom (of which see above, n. 154, 161). (HH 181)
Hearing these things I asked the angels to guide me down to them. They led me to a cavern from which steps ran down to the lower earth. We descended and followed the shout, “Oh, how learned!” And there stood some hundreds at one spot, stamping the ground with their feet.

Struck first by this, I asked, “Why do they stand and stamp the ground with the soles of their feet?” and remarked, “They may hollow out the ground.” At this the angels smiled and said, “They seem to stand thus, because they do not think concerning anything that it is so, but only think and discuss whether it is. As the thought makes no progress they seem to tread and trample the very same clod, and not to move.” But then I approached the group, and now they seemed to me not unhandsome and to be well dressed. But the angels said, “They appear so in their own light, but if light from heaven flows in, their faces and garments change.” And it was so. They then appeared swarthy of countenance and clothed in black sackcloth. But when the light was withdrawn, they looked as before. (CL 232.2)

Here again (as we had in the first legend) have detailed information in the Spiritual Diary that is not mentioned in the published works, but which is in accordance with the principles or teachings of the published works. We know from the published works that the environment around an angel changes to reflect the states of the angel. This being the case, there is no good reason for thinking that spots do not sometimes appear on the cloths of maidens or that a black spot appeared as a sign that Swedenborg and others should refrain from talking.

These three passages record some of Swedenborg’s experiences in the spiritual world. If these experiences are “incorrect” as Mr. Simons suggests, then what is the meaning of these entries? Did Swedenborg see something else? Did he just make up these experiences? There is no reason to think that these records of his experiences are inaccurate.

If these experiences are reliable, why then were they not included in the published works? A simple, and to me a likely reason, is that any good writer collects more information than he ultimately puts into print. A good writer takes the wealth of information he has collected and takes what best supports the subject he is writing about. That this is exactly what Swedenborg did is evident from these remarks:

But to include every experience I have had in these matters would fill up very many pages. (AC 4623.2; see also AC 2123, 3214, 6639, Lord 14.12, AR 543.3, 613.2, CL 227, TCR 251, 444; as well as SE 18 ,368,  393; SD 244, 1662, 4360, 4451, 4473, 4496, 5166, AE 193 and 866.9)


SD 3327. When I refrained from speaking with them, a black spot was seen at the side under the left eye, which they said signifies that they should refrain [from] speaking: thus was seen [visa, I think] when they should refrain.



Those who are there do not attend closely to the state of their interiors. When they think and do anything they are admonished, through the external appearances, both without the house and within the house, and also upon their clothes and in the face – if they have not thought rightly. If, for example, anything of evil, lasciviousness, or insincerity, has crept in and they have not rejected it, then, outside the house, when they go out, the garden-products and the like, appear to have either vanished, or changed as regards varieties and as regards beauty, or as regards brightness. If they have vanished, or appear dim, they instantly know that they have thought something of evil; and they also reflect whence this is, and what of evil, or of falsity, it is; and it is given them, from themselves as it were to know themselves, and they recollect; and, then, they shun it, or it causes them to repent of those things; which being done, the former loveliness returns. And if spots appear upon their clothes, or if they become less bright, then, in like manner, they thence recollect [wherein they fell away]: they are lustrous, white and roseate when they have thought truths from good. The like happens in the beds, and on their ceilings; in which sometimes appear beautiful variegations of many adornments, when they lead the life of truth and of good: in any other case, they are changed. Thus in a thousand other instances, all of which are admonitions. Maidens are also admonished, through changes of beauty in their face.


SD 5664. When they see spots on their clothes, it is a sign that they have been thinking ill, and that they have done something which ought not to be done. The spots cannot be washed out, as from clothes in the world. When they find out what they have thought and done – for, at such a time, they always think about that – they, then, see their blemishes and their evils. If they then get the better of them again, the spots disappear from the clothes of their own accord. In like manner, when they see in their chamber that any one of their clothes is missing, they then immediately know that they have done amiss. Hence is their self-examination; and, if they do not themselves know [what is wrong], a wife comes, who tells them. If they see that there is a new garment in their chamber, they then inwardly rejoice, because they know that they have done well.


Legend 1: the Time of Death

October 23, 2016 § 2 Comments

Kurt Simmons does not consider the unpublished theological works of Swedenborg to be authoritative. He says: 

The unpublished works have long been a source of incorrect teaching (see, for instance, the teachings listed in “Swedenborgian Legends.”).(http://swedenborgdigitallibrary.org/contets/books.html)

 His first so-called “Swedenborgian Legend” is this: 

1. The teachings about the determinants of the time of death in Spiritual Diary/Spiritual Experiences 5002, 5003.(http://www.swedenborgproject.org/2009/01/29/swedenborgian-legends/)

 Let us quote the passages in full so that we can see what we are discussing: 

SD 5002. CONCERNING THE DURATIONS OF THE LIFE OF MEN: WHY SOME LIVE LONG, AND SOME NOT LONG. The life of every man is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; wherefore he is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The Providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.

SD 5003. The reasons why some die boys, some youths, some adults, some old men, are:

  • 1st, on account of use in the world to men;
  • 2nd, on account of use, while he is in the world, to spirits and angels; for man, as to his interiors, is with spirits; and he is there as long as he is in the world, in which all things in the spiritual world terminate;
  • 3rd, on account of use to himself in the world, either that he may be regenerated, or that he may be let into his evils lest they lie dormant and afterwards break out, which would result in his eternal ruin;
  • 4th, therefore, on account of use afterwards in the other life, after death, to eternity; for everyone who will be in heaven has his place in the Grand Man, or, on the other hand, he has his place in hell: wherever forces fail they are balanced, and, of the Providence of the Lord, men are brought thither.

Thus also, the kingdom of the Lord is cared for, the welfare of which is universal Providence.

 Mr. Simmons is quite correct. This teaching about the “determinants of the time of death” does not occur anywhere else in either the published or the unpublished works. This, however, does not automatically mean that the teaching is false, untrue, or incorrect. There is no statement anywhere in the published or unpublished works that say that these four uses do not determine the time of death.

 The heading for these two passages (SD 5002 & 5003) states their purpose, namely that they are going to explain why some people live longer than others.

 The rest of SD 5002 gives us the general principles from which the specifics in SD 5003 are derived. The general principles mentioned in SD 5002 are taught in DP 333 and other passages:

The operation of the Divine Providence for the salvation of man is said to begin at his birth and to continue right on to the end of his life. In order to understand this it should be known that the Lord sees what the nature of a man is, and foresees what he desires to be, and thus what he will be; and in order that he may be a man and therefore immortal, the freedom of his will cannot be taken away, as has been shown above in many places. Therefore the Lord foresees man’s state after death and provides for it from his birth right on to the end of his life. With the wicked the Lord provides by permitting and continually withdrawing them from evils; while with the good He provides by leading them to good. Thus the Divine Providence is unceasing in the work of saving man. (DP 333)

 SD 5003 lists four reasons or uses that determine when a person dies. These reasons or uses follow logically from the general principles in SD 5002. The Lord’s Divine providence is unceasingly working to save us (DP 333). “The Lord foresees and sees all things both in general and in particular” (AC 1755). All of a person’s states and their changes are disposed by means spirits and angels and are thus directed by the Lord to ends which the Lord alone foresees (AC 2796). These things being true, how could the Lord not foresee and provide that a person’s death be according to the four reasons or uses listed in SD 5003?

 If one or more of these reasons or uses is incorrect, it means that the Lord could not foresee that use! But the Lord foresees everything. It would mean that the Lord could not provide for that use! Yet the Lord is unceasingly seeking to bring about that use.

 Perhaps the Spiritual Diary is not authoritative in the same manner as the published works, but the teachings in SD 5002 and 5003 are compatible with the teachings concerning Divine foresight and Divine Providence in the Writings (however defined). And if those teachings in SD 5002 and 5003 are incorrect, then they render they nullify the truth of teachings concerning Divine foresight and Divine Providence in the published works. So, however, authoritative the Spiritual Diary may or may not be, the teachings found in SD 5002 and 5003 are true, and can not be “incorrect.”









Which Books are the Heavenly Doctrines

October 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

The question has come up on Facebook  (Heavenly Doctrineshttps://www.facebook.com/heavenly.doctrines 9/17/2016), and now the Facebook group New Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/2521482246/ (9/21/2016)  about which books are the Heavenly Doctrines.

My short answer, and in my opinion the most honest is that I don’t know.

The issue is often presented as if there is a clear demarcation between those works which Swedenborg published and those he did not. The reality is that boundary is not quite that clear. There are fuzzy edges. To further complicate the issue, one must also choose a date from which one is going to determine which books are the Heavenly Doctrines.

Let me add that I don’t think that this is a doctrinal issue. That probably sounds a bit strange. Think about it.

There are no passages which unequivocally state that these particular books and no others are the Heavenly Doctrines.

There are many passages related to Swedenborg’s preparation, enlightenment, and mission. Which of these are you going to include in your determination of the canon of the Writings? That will depend on a decision you have already made about which books are the Heavenly Doctrine. In other words, you have to answer the question before you know which evidence to consider, and surely which evidence you accept as being valid will affect the answer you get.

 There are no passages which unequivocally state that these particular books and no others are the Heavenly Doctrines.  I think, however, that most people (if not all) decide which books (or portions of them) are Divine revelation based on some intuition, gut feeling, or desire for some kind of order or compatibility; and then find passages which confirm this.

Kurt Simons illustrates this problem nicely:

A central argument that has been made in defense of the unpublished work as authoritative is that Swedenborg wrote in Apocalypse Explained 1183 that “What has come from the Lord has been written, and what has come from angels has not been written” and similar statements in Spiritual Diary/SpiritualExperiences 1647 and 4034.  However, since Apocalypse Explained and Spiritual Diary/SpiritualExperiences are unpublished works, the authority of these statements is open to question.

From <http://swedenborgdigitallibrary.org/contets/books.html>

The decision about which books are the Heavenly doctrine has already been made, and so the evidence from unpublished works is rejected. In pointing this out, I am not seeking to be critical of Kurt. The reverse happens as well, people accept the unpublished works as being part of the Heavenly doctrines so they include passages from these works as evidence.

My point is that the question of which books belong to the Heavenly Doctrines is not a doctrinal issue because the question is answered before the evidence is gathered. I don’t think that this can be avoided.

If the issue is decided before the doctrinal evidence is considered, how is it being determined? The answer, to my mind, is some kind of perception, intuition, gut feeling, or desire (perhaps for a certain kind of order, or desire for agreement with certain values and beliefs.

My ignorance, however, has not stopped me from having some thoughts about this question. It is a question that I have thought about for over 40 years.

Intellectually I have always made a distinction between the published works and the unpublished works. The published works being more Divine or authoritative than the unpublished works. I have never been able to say or explain in what way the published works were more Divine or more authoritative.

In practice, however, I have never made a distinction between the published and unpublished works. I have read, studied, and quoted from both without distinction.

So what do I really believe? I think my actions speak louder than my words.

Does it really matter which books we decide are the Heavenly Doctrines? Both the published and the unpublished works teach that there is one God, the Lord Jesus Christ; that we must examine ourselves and shun our evils as sins against the Lord. In other words, as long as we live by what is taught in the books we decide are the Heavenly Doctrines, we will be saved.

Determining the canon of the Heavenly Doctrines, that is, which books are the Heavenly Doctrines,  is a matter of setting boundaries. The boundaries tell you which books you include and which one you exclude. Ideally, boundaries are fixed. This is why physical landmarks are often used. In reality, not all boundaries are fixed. Rivers are clear demarcations, but they meander over time. Oceans are a great boundary, but their levels and rise and fall.

In discussions of the canon of the Heavenly Doctrines, the boundary most often mentioned is the distinction between the published works and the unpublished works. This boundary is popular. It is simply. It is binary. It is easily determined. Life, however, is complex. In reality, the boundary between the published works and the unpublished is not as simple, as binary, or as easily determined as it seems.

For the sake of simplicity and discussion, let us take the so-called “small canon” or list of which books are part of the Writings, and see what boundaries it would take to get these books. Here is the list of “small canon” books:

AC EU HH LJ NJHD WH LD SS LF FA CLJ DLW DP AR ML BE ISB TCR  (From <http://www.smallcanonsearch.com/> )

Simply stating that only the published works are valid does not work. Swedenborg wrote and published a variety of works. For example:

  • The Inlaying of Marble (1763)
  • A revision of his 1722 pamphlet on Deflation and Inflation (1771)
  • And in 1754 he published the third edition of the following works:
    • Chemistry and Physics
    • Iron and Fire
    • Finding Longitudes

To exclude these works from the “small canon,” we must modify the boundary “published works” to specify only those published works which are theological in nature. This modification often goes unstated as it is often assumed that no one wants to include Swedenborg’s non-theological works as part of the Writings. But just has boundaries are sometimes disputed by political entities, so too is the need to distinguish theological works from non-theological works. The Rev. E. E. Iungerich wrote:

. . . It matters not what part of the perfect system  of works from 1710 to 1771 first touch our educated vision . . . (Journal of Education , vol. XIV No. 4, April 1915, p.  157 ; The Development of New Church Science by Rev. E. E. Iungerich)

. . . Through the crowning work from 1710 to 1771 given in His Second Advent). All this monumental work of Work of Swedenborg is not technically the Word of Revelation come at by an interior or a priori way; for this evidently did not begin before the DREAM BOOK, HISTORY OF CREATION, and ADVERSARIA [Word Explained]; but what preceded these is assuredly a system of correlate truth come at a posteriori; and even this deserves to be called the Word, to make use of the language of the INDEX BIBLICUS:–“The ears shall hear the Word behind him (Isaiah XXX: 21), for the sciences, which are the Word from the back, which then instinct [should be instruct – See NCL 1915: 472], because  the life of faith or the faith in them, for they are servile or services.” (Ibid. p. 160) See also New Church Life 1908: 699-701.

As bizarre as Mr. Iungerich view may seem today, let me say, that his point of view is as well supported by passages as any other view.

You might think that the boundary of “published theological works” clearly defines the “small canon,” but you would be wrong.

In a letter to Oetinger dated November 8, 1768, Swedenborg enclosed a brief explanation the Natural and Spiritual Sense of the Word. Oetinger published the Latin 3 times in Swedenborg’s lifetime. It was published and it is theological, but it is not included in the  “small canon!” Well, that is an easy fix. We will just specify that when we say published, we mean published by Swedenborg himself.

That should take care of everything. Right? Wrong!

In 1760 Ernesti wrote a negative review of AC. This was followed in 1763 by a negative review of the Four Doctrines. And in 1766 Ernesti reviewed AR. In 1767 Ernesti review a work by Dr. H. W. Clemm which had a chapter on Swedenborg. Clemm had proposed three possible ways one could understand the writings of Swedenborg:

  • They could be fantasies
  • They could be tricks of evil spirits
  • Or they could be the truth

Clemm led the reader to doubt the first two possibilities. Ernesti, however, had a fourth possibility:

Beside the three possibilities which Dr. Clemm suggests,-that Swedenborg’s narrations are either mere phantasies, or the blinding tricks of an evil spirit, or the truth,-there is a fourth solution which undoubtedly is the correct one. They may be fictions by which he would deceive the world, and he may well laugh in his heart-as, indeed, they deserve,-at the people who believe in him and who do not understand his art. Are there not in Church History plenty of similar cases of fictions such as these, by which their authors have deceived simple and credulous people, or persons inclined to mystic dreaming, in order to gain fame and standing for their erroneous notions in religion? And have they not also achieved the desired effects? And our age is becoming ever more gullible to such deception, when even learned persons are found to be so much bent upon such dreams and phantasies, and are so easily convinced. SWEDENBORG knows this well enough.” (NCL 1912: 204, 205)

John Christian Cuno sent this critique to Swedenborg. This was the first time that Ernesti mentioned Swedenborg by name. Swedenborg was not happy with Ernesti’s “insults” and wrote a brief response which refers to a Memorable relation about Ernesti (TCR 137). Swedenborg sent this response to Cuno and asked him to print it and distribute it to his friends. Cuno did not do this. Swedenborg also sent two copies of his response to Dr. Beyer in Sweden and authorized Beyer to communicate his response to Ernesti to the members of Consistory. When Swedenborg had learned that Cuno had not distributed his response to Ernesti, Swedenborg printed it himself and distributed to his friends.

This letter is not part of the “small canon.” One way that we could modify the boundary of published works to exclude this letter, is to accept only those works which Swedenborg published which are intended for the general public as opposed limited number of readers.

Now at long last, we have the “small canon!” Or do we?  It seems to me, that this last boundary or rule, could also be used to exclude the Intercourse between the Soul and Body which is included in the “small canon.

 Intercourse between the Soul and Body was published in London in 1769. James Hyde in his Bibliography notes:

Swedenborg “left London early in September [1769], and was in Stockholm again in the next month.  So that the above  work [Intercourse between the Soul and Body] so was printed, privately, in July or August in the year of 1769: for it was translated into English in September of that year. The book was not ‘published’ in the general acceptance of the word, but distributed privately. Copies were sent to various scientific societies and universities of England and France.” Hyde # 2536.

Although Intercourse between the Soul and Body was printed, it was not published with the same audience in mind as the rest of the published works. Should a privately distributed work count as a published work? It usually is. It was not available to the public in the way other works were. TCR 33 does mention the work as being published in London in 1769 in the same breath as Divine Love and Wisdom. Perhaps, however, Swedenborg is referring to the English translation, which was also done that year, and which would have been available to the public.

Yes, I can see why one would want to keep ISB and not the reply to Ernesti. That, however, seems to be a matter of a judgment call. I am hard press to think of a rule or boundary that eliminates the reply to Ernesti but keeps ISB.

Swedenborg wrote a wide variety of theological material and published some of it in various ways.

  • There are major works of theology published for the general public, like the Arcana or TCR.
  • There is the Intercourse between the Soul and Body which he published and had distributed privately.
  • There is Swedenborg’s reply to Ernesti which has minimal theology and which he published and appears to have distributed privately.
  • There are letters and papers with more theology, such as the Natural and Spiritual Sense of the Word which others published in his life time.
  • There fair copies works (which normally would have been sent to the printers) which Swedenborg had intentions of publishing, but did not; such as AE and the indices to AC and AR
  • There is the rough draft of Prophets and Psalms which Swedenborg quotes from in different published works
  •  of published works
  • There are rough drafts of published works
  • There are outlines and notes for works that were published
  • There are indices, notes on research material such as an index to Catholic teaching and an index to the Book of Concord

The point here is that Swedenborg’s works run the full length of a continuum, rather than fitting neatly into a binary division of published vs. unpublished.  At the top of the list, we have works which are clearly published and should be considered to be part of the Heavenly Doctrines. At the bottom of the list, we have books works which were not published, and probably should not be considered to be part of the Heavenly Doctrines. As we get to the middle of the list things get more muddled. It becomes increasing difficult to determine whether or not a work should be counted as part of the Heavenly Doctrine.

The second point I wanted to illustrate was that no matter how we defined and modified the boundaries between works that are a part of the Heavenly Doctrines and those which are not, is that we run into issues.

The third point is that boundaries and rules we use to define the canon of the Heavenly Doctrines are not the source of our decision but merely the confirmations. In order to know which rules or boundaries were acceptable, we already had to have made a decision about which books were part of the Heavenly Doctrines.

Now, we will turn our attention to one last boundary that we have not yet discussed, and that is the start date for Swedenborg’s work as a revelator. This is an important boundary because anything before it cannot be a Divine revelation. The exception to this is the view of E. E. Iungerich. Mr. Iungerich held that the Writings covered everything Swedenborg wrote or published from 1710 to 1771. He acknowledges that Swedenborg’s call in the 1740’s meant that what was written after that date was different kind of revelation than what was written before; but both deserved to be called the Word.

Let us start this exercise by adhering to the “small canon,” since the unpublished material is:

  • Not “a fully authoritative Divine revelation”
  • “a source of incorrect information”
  • “not a reliable source of information about what God actually teaches”

The following works tell us that Swedenborg’s call was in 1744:

  • AC 6200
  • EU 1
  • HH 1
  • DLW 355
  • And LJ cont. 35

However, in the following passages we learn that his all was in 1743:

  • CL 1
  • CL 419
  • TCR 157
  • TCR 851

Heaven and Hell 130 also tells us that the opening of Swedenborg’s mind was a gradual process. We are not given any details of this progression. It seems only logical that this process was completed by the time Swedenborg published his first theological work.

  • It so happens that the first theological work which Swedenborg published after 1744 was The Worship and Love of God. This work, however, is not part of the “small canon!”

The Worship and Love of God is generally considered to be the first work that is was written between the end of Swedenborg’s scientific and philosophical period and his work as revelator and servant of the Lord. Though published, it is an unfinished work. The beginning of part three was prepared for publication but never published. It is a philosophical plea to worship and love God in the style of poetry. It is unlike any of Swedenborg’s other works.

I can certainly understand why one would not want to include The Worship and Love of God in the “small canon.” But, from what I can see, based only on information gathered from the “small canon,” there is no basis for excluding it. Yes, we can modify what we mean by a published work to exclude anything written in the style of poetry; or any work not finished. But these rule modifications are not based on any teaching in the “small canon.”

It is interesting to compare The Worship and Love of God with the Apocalypse Explained:

Written 1744-1745 Written 1758
Published 1745 Unpublished, but a fair copy was made for the printer
Unfinished Unfinished
Poetry Exposition
Not like the Writings Like the Writings

Most people would accept the Apocalypse Explained as part of the Writings before they would accept The Worship and Love of God. But WLG was published (after Swedenborg’s call), and AE was not published.

Kurt Simons, the author of Which of Swedenborg’s books are Divine Revelation? excludes WLG from the “small canon.” He does so because his start is after its publication. Kurt’s starting date for Divine revelation is January 23, 1748! Ironically, this is not a date found anywhere in the “small canon!” To get to this date, Kurt uses 3 separate unpublished works!

First, Mr. Simons uses a letter written by Swedenborg G. A. Beyer on November 14, 1769. In this letter Swedenborg’s discusses how he was prepared to be a revelator:

“From my fourth to my tenth year I was constantly engaged in thought upon God, salvation, and the spiritual diseases of men; and several times I revealed things at which my father and mother wondered … From my sixth to my twelfth year I used to delight in conversing with clergymen about faith, and that the life of faith is love…” (Letter to G. A. Beyer, Stockholm, Nov. 14, 1769. Tafel, II, 279-280)

From this, Mr. Simons infers that Swedenborg was undergoing preparation his whole life. Swedenborg’s work on the Apocalypse Explained, for example, was preparation for other works which he later published.

Mr. Simons then uses a quote from the Index Biblicus and the Spiritual Diary (or Spiritual Experiences) to fix a date when Swedenborg was able to published works which were fully authoritative in their revelation.

  1. When he arrived in Amsterdam in 1747, in the period just before he began to write theArcana, he wrote in a manuscript, “1747, August 7, old style. ‘There was a change of state in me into the heavenly kingdom in an image.'” “This note suggests he had experienced a profound change in his spiritual status on that day. It is intriguing that he did not begin publishing theological material until after this change had taken place.” (quoted, with translation modified by J.S. Rose, in F.S. Rose, “Swedenborg’s Manuscripts,” in  J.S. Rose (ed.)Emanuel Swedenborg. Essays for the New Century Edition on His Life, Work and Impact. Swedenborg Foundation: West Chester, 2005, pp.131, emphasis added) 

  1. In that same period, he made a fundamental change in his usage: “In all the theological works up to this time [i.e. during the pre-published works era], the name he used for Christ was “God Messiah.”  He ended this practice on January 23, 1748, when he abruptly shifted to the more traditional term, “The Lord,” the term that he used to the end of his life.  Right at the outset of the first volume of his published works he explains what he means by that term.

“From this point on the term Lord is used in only one way:  to refer to the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and the name “Lord” is used without any additions.” (Arcana Coelestia)

(F.S. Rose, “Swedenborg’s Manuscripts,” in J.S. Rose (ed.) Emanuel Swedenborg. Essays for the New Century Edition on His Life, Work and Impact. Swedenborg Foundation: West Chester, 2005, pp.131, emphasis added.) 

Personally, I have no problem with the change of state noted in the Index Biblicus and the change in terms noted in the Spiritual Diary as noting a significant turning point in Swedenborg’s preparation. Nor do I have any problem with much of the unpublished works being preparation for what was published (although I don’t think that this necessarily precludes the unpublished works from having full Divine authority).

Mr. Simons pleads that there is an “urgent need – to simply go back and start over, and build an ‘All things new’ (Revelation 21: 5) set of doctrine and practice based purely on the  published works?” Yet he, himself, does not do this to establish his “small canon.”

I have picked on Mr. Simons, perhaps unfairly, to be a foil by which to show that none us, choose which books we believe to be part of the Writings based on Swedenborg’s teachings. In fact, we cannot do this. We have to choose which books are part of the Heavenly Doctrines before we can choose which of Swedenborg’s teachings we will accept. Consider the teaching in AE 1183:

This it has been given me to see, and from it to perceive clearly what comes from the Lord and what from angels. What has come from the Lord has been written; what has come from the angels has not.

If we have already predetermined that AE is part of the Writings, then we can use this teaching to support that view. If we have already decided that AE is not part of the Writings, then we will not consider that teaching to be valid.

We choose which books are the Heavenly Doctrines based on some perception, intuition, gut feelings, or preconceived idea. Consequently, we really cannot “prove” our position on this question.

 There have been a wide variety answers to the question which books constitute the Heavenly doctrines.

There have been those who advocated anything (theological or otherwise) after 1710.

More often the starting points for the Writings are later than 1710. More typically one of the three dates for Swedenborg’s call (1743, 1744, and 1745). T. M. Gorman accepted 1743 and argue that Worship and Love of God, which was published 2 years later is part of the Writings. See New Church Life, “On the Worship and Love of God,” 1885, page 109.

Among those who accept the unpublished works as Divine revelation there have been some who would start counting with:

  • History of Creation
  • The Adversaria or Word Explained
  • The Spiritual Diary

When it comes to the Spiritual Diary, some only accept what was written after Swedenborg stopped using “God Messiah” and started using “Lord.”

Should Swedenborg’s letters which have theological content be regarded as Divine revelation? I certainly know ministers who regard them as part of the Writings.

There are, of course, those who follow the “small canon.” But not everyone accepts all the published works as Divine revelation.

The work Conjugial Love has been particularly contentious. Some have argued that the second part of the book is not Divine revelation and others that the whole work is not a Divine Revelation. The view that whole work is not Divine revelation is based on a letter which Swedenborg wrote to Beyer on Oct. 30, 1769, wherein he states that the work on Conjugial Love “is not theological but rather moral in nature.”

I have raised the question as to whether or not Intercourse between the Soul and Body should be regarded as a published work.

As you can see there have been many points of view about which books are the Heavenly Doctrines.

I have to agree with Nathan Cole. Barring a bizarre and purely arbitrary selection of books, you are going to learn that Jesus Christ is God and Lord and that you should shun evils as sins against Him. Thus, what you or I or someone else believes about which books are the Writings does not matter much.

For over 45 years I have intellectually believed, or have been prone to believe that the Writings are best represented by the “small canon.” It is a neat, comfortable point of view. Since I have always used the unpublished works, I have developed this complex picture of the Writings in my mind. It is hard to describe because I do not have a precise picture of it myself.

I see a three-dimensional shape of the Writings that include all the published works. This shape has regions and the borders between regions are fuzzy. Thus ISB near the border of the works which were not published, perhaps even crossing into that region. AE tends to come into the region of the published works. Most works tend to fall clearly into one region or another.

Where is my starting point? I have no trouble accepting the Spiritual Diary, and sometimes I even lean towards accepting the Word Explained. I have no interest in the Worship and Love God or any of the philosophical and scientific works. I am not incline to include Swedenborg’s letters or the Natural and Spiritual Sense of the Word.

One thought I have had recently is that the Divine which flows into all the theological works since 1745 is the same. The Divine is equally present in al the works, but each work receives that Divine in its own unique way. The published works more fully than the unpublished.

If this view seems jumbled, it is because it is. And there a good reason It is jumbled.

While I have always held intellectually that we should distinguished between the published and unpublished works, in practice I have not. I firmly believe that we should distinguish. Further, we should take note of when something is a rough draft, or an outline, or just some notes. But in practice, I have never done this. I am not sure how one could do it, or what the results would look at if one actually did do it. Making such distinctions is a great idea, but is it even possible?

So here I am. I believe one thing and I do another. So what do I really believe? The obvious answer is that my actions speak louder than my words. I believe that both the published and unpublished works are Divine Revelation. Why? Because when I read the Writings, published or unpublished, I hear the Lord speaking to me.

This is my perception of the Writings. I am choosing not to justify my canon with passages from the  Writings, my perception is not based on any logical and coherent set of teachings. I believe because of what I feel when I read.

Where Am I?

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