A short post today; really more of a quick update and recommendation. Lately, I’ve been looking for some practical advice on living more spiritually day to day. I’ve taken a short break this summer from my intellectual pursuits of life after death research to look for ways to be more mindful, strengthen my spiritual senses, and work on some of my shortcomings as a human being. To that end, I have found some spiritual inspiration in absolutely the last place I thought I’d find it: An 18th century theologian named Emmanuel Swedenborg.
I’ve posted about Swedenborg before; a short post last year mentioning the OffTheLeftEye channel for any interested readers who might get something out of it. As far as I was concerned, however, I wrote him off as an interesting novelty in Christian mysticism and that’s about where my interest dried up.
No, I haven’t become a Christian. Nothing has changed in that regard. However, I have found that the Swedenborg Foundation has presented some of Swedenborg’s less religious teachings in a way that I have now found very practical for everyday use. Much of his professed knowledge stemming from his spiritual experiences are not dissimilar from the kinds of teachings you’d find in channeled material, especially once you get past some of the more overt Christian references.
Before we go any further, you should probably know a little bit about Swedenborg, and why I think some of his work is beneficial even to non-Christians who seek spiritual wisdom. Handily, the Swedenborg Foundation has provided a video on their OffTheLeftEye YouTube channel that introduces us to who Swedenborg was and what happened to him in his mid-50s which made him a controversial figure to science, and a legend to those who follow his works:
Swedenborg claimed to have direct contact with the afterlife through waking visions and out-of-body experiences which spanned decades. The ideas that he brought back were quite radical for the time, and his reinterpretation of the scriptures and practices of the church spawned a new type of Christianity still practiced today known as The New Church, or colloquially, Swedenborgianism. Swedenborg’s take on Christianity is quite palatable, suggesting the importance of all religions and spiritual beliefs for a healthy afterlife, as well as radical new way of understanding otherwise confusing and contradictory biblical texts through an interesting concept called correspondences.
In many cases, however, new-age ideas that would be quite familiar to us can be found in his writings – ideas parroted by Seth or in mediumship transcriptions. For example, the concept of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ as a state of mind is central to Swedenborg’s understanding of reality, as is new-agey topics such as auras and the spiritual nature of colors or numbers. Swedenborg also introduces some interesting new spiritual ideas that I haven’t seen represented before such as the concept of ‘the grand man’; the notion that all of ‘heaven’ functions like a human body, with each component part working together for the greater whole.
For Swedenborg writing in the 18th century, many of these concepts would have been so foreign as to be seen as nonsense. Some of what we would consider secular or at least universalist ideas are wrapped in Christian terms – perhaps for Swedenborg’s benefit and understanding. But if we are willing to accept his Christian interpretation of his experiences, there is a wealth of useful information available here.
I probably would have still ignored Swedenborg’s work if not for The Swedenborg Foundation’s OffTheLeftEye YouTube channel. They have taken the difficult reading of Swedenborg and made it relatable and entertaining while still being sophisticated and thought-provoking. The host, Curtis Childs, is warm and affable. His easy-going delivery provides just the right counterbalance to the weight of Swedenborg’s 18th century theology. I also really appreciate that the videos are not monetized and all of Swedenborg’s books are free to download.
As with all spiritual resources – take what works for you, and leave what doesn’t. I definitely don’t agree with everything presented by Swedenborg, but his spiritual philosophy has also given me food for thought and helped me examine better what I do believe and why. And learn from my mistake: don’t ignore something that might provide you with spiritual insight simply because it comes from a different culture or religion.
As of right now, the Swedenborg Foundation has hundreds of videos to choose from. Here are just a few of the videos I’ve enjoyed:
I’d also like to hear from you! Have you found any resources for practical ways to apply spirituality to every day life? Suggest your methods, ideas, favorite books or authors, or just your opinion on how you live YOUR spirituality every day!