Friday, November 30, 2012

Why was slavery permitted in the Bible?

I was browsing some online posts on Christianity vs. atheists and skeptics, and was curious what arguments an atheist or skeptic had against Christianity.  I found a good argument - in the Old Testament, slavery was permitted, and there were laws given to Moses regarding slaves.  Before the American Civil War, some of these passages were used by the South to justify the horrible conditions of slavery.  Those who belonged to the New Church understood the meaning of these passages, that they should not be taken literally, thus some Swedenborgians of this time became part of the Abolitionist movement, and helped slaves escape to gain their freedom.  So, the argument from this atheist or skeptic went as follows, if the Bible contains commands that one is not going to follow, why follow it.  Ok, perfectly logical objection.  That is on the surface.

For on the surface, the Bible contains many things that do not make sense, and this is one of them.  There are many command that the Jews still follow and still do not understand them, but do so out of strong traditon.  So, before I discuss the commandments on slavery, there are certain overall principles or assumptions to this discussion - which many people, opening the Bible with no background, may not know:
1.  Any Divine revelation or Divine Truth revealed from heaven in visions will be adapted to the understanding of the person or people receiving it.  Revelations are progressive and come in dispensations.
2.  In most cases, many are not ready to receive the whole and complete truth.  So, a lower or temporary revelation is given.
3.  These "lower" or "temporary" truths that are given still contain spiritual truths in them, although hidden by symbolic correspondences.  Thus Jesus spoke in parables, and revealed the meaning to the few disciples but not the masses.
4.  The reason why the full truth or revelation is kept hidden from most people is so they do not profane what is holy.  To profane what is holy is to mix it with what is false, to make jest of it, or to first accept it and reject it. 
In the case of the Jews, the people of that time were prone to idolatry, and as a nation thought themselves superior to others, full of self-pride. Even to this day, some Jewish Rabbis teach that Jews are superior to Gentiles, and although these Jews read scripture, since they read it with a view of self-pride, it is a closed book even to them.  They were not ready to receive the full truth in its spiritual form - and this is signified by the fact that Moses broke the first two tablets of the commandments written by the finger of God, and then rewrote them in his own hand.  A spiritual church could not be established among the Jewish people - so instead God established a representative ritualistic church among them: in other words, not a true church, but symbolic of the church, which represented the church in their history, laws, and rituals.

Thus the Jewish laws were symbolic, and once a true spiritual church was established - the Christian Church - many of these laws became abrogated.  Some of these are known to the Christian churches, such as circumcision no longer became necessary, as that was symbolic of removing fleshly desires from one's heart. Or the Passover - Jesus died on the Passover, fulfilling that ritual.  Thus 40 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, the Jewish Temple was destroyed - it was no longer necessary to offer animal sacrifices, as the representative worship of the Jews had come to an end, its laws being abrogated by the higher revelation.

But what of the scripture containing these laws? Ignore them?  For most Christian churches, yes, the Old Testament for the most part is ignored in its entirety.  For Protestant churches, its worse, many of them dwelling on a false belief that belief alone saves, based on a false reading of the apostle Paul.  In the case of the New Church, with the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg, this is not the case.  Many portions of scripture, closed to many, can now be seen in full view - where it has immediate application to one's spiritual state.  This is the fulfillment of the scripture, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).  This refers not to the sky above, but to heavenly visions, where the spiritual sense of the Word (the "Son of Man") is fully revealed.  Thus while Christian churches know that the Jewish rituals were symbolic, they are still unable to explain many portions of scripture, or the small details which are skipped over.  So lets examine one of the laws regarding slaves:

If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.But if the slave plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,' then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. (Ex. 21:2-6)
This is one of the laws that has been abrogated with the revelation of Christianity, as external rituals and laws were given to the Jews to represent the internal spiritual matters of the church. A clue to the meaning of this law can be found in the sayings of Jesus:

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
So, when one is introduced into the Christian church, there is first a period of introduction, or servitude, where one is a "servant" or "slave."  Its used in another manner, to represent servitude towards one's lower sinful nature:
our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6)
So, for Swedenborg, the six years in which one serves as a slave is similar to the first six days of creation (described earlier in this blog): it is a state of regeneration and reformation as one struggles against sin.  One knows the truth, but does not necessarily live by the truth, or one's life is in conflict with the knowledge of the truth.  To "buy a Hebrew slave" means to procure for oneself spiritual knowledge, after which, if one accepts it, comes a period of combat and temptation against sin.  Those who have no enjoyment in learning spiritual truths are those who come into servitude alone; those who have an internal joy or desire for the truth is represented by the slave that comes with a wife.  The reason for this is, is that in scripture a "male" represents a form of truth, and a "female" affection for the truth.  The seventh year in which a slave is released represents a state of peace, when truth is confirmed (one is no longer in doubt), and one lives according to it.

The interesting part of the law is that if during those six years the master gives a slave a wife, who bears children, in the seventh year they should stay with the master and not the freed slave.  So what is the meaning of that portion of the law?  According to Swedenborg, this means an affection for spiritual truth that is acquired when one is in combat against sin.  This represents a temporary affection for truth, which only stays for a period of time, but towards the end it does not become a living affection in one's heart for spiritual truth. The way I would explain it is that one's intention determines the outcome of the act.  If one begins with good intentions at the start, the goodness stays with you. If you do not have good intentions in your act, but later you realize you were wrong in your intentions and change mid-way, you did the right thing and confirmed the truth but there is not as much enjoyment in what you did, as you started off with a bad intention.  What I just described in abstract form, is represented in an external visible form in this law regarding Hebrew slaves.

Another state is described by the slave who acquires a wife during his years of servitude, and instead of going free, decides to stay, and has his ear bored through with an awl on a door or doorpost.  One can guess some of the meaning from the common symbolism of the ear, or to listen: to hear is to obey.  The ear representing obedience.  This represents those who decide to submit their will to God.  Permanent Hebrew slaves represent those of the church who do things out of obedience, and not out of love or the affection from the heart:
"They who suffer themselves to be regenerated act from affection according to the precepts of faith; but they who do not suffer themselves to be regenerated, but only to be reformed, do not act from affection, but from obedience. The difference is this. They who act from affection act from the heart, and thus from freedom, and they also do truth for the sake of truth and good for the sake of good, and thus they exercise charity for the sake of the neighbor; but they who act from obedience do not thus act from the heart, consequently not from freedom." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8987).
The reason why the ear is pierced on a door, is that a door represents an introduction to the truth.  So, I hope this has served for a good introduction into the truth: Biblical scripture is highly symbolic.  And when the spiritual sense is opened, it is more abstract and universal.  It is also immediately applicable to one's life.  Without the spiritual sense of scripture being opened, much of the Bible is a closed book.  One can also see different psychological states that one passes through at different stages of life. And what becomes apparent is that the outward form of one's act is not nearly as important as one's intention in the act.  Much of this is described in the book Heavenly Arcana (aka, Arcana Coelestia), where the spiritual sense of scripture is revealed.  Without knowing the spiritual sense of scripture, one just superficially sees an obsolete law on slaves, and closes the book, and in so doing close their minds to the potential of a deeper spiritual awakening.  One can say this internal spiritual awakening is a sort of Second Coming.






Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lord, Liar, Lunatic...or Angel?

When it comes to Jesus, most outside the Church would prefer to view Him as a good teacher or a prophet. And Jesus did take on this role...until some began to question his true identity:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 16:13-17)
So, He is not just a prophet, but Christ, the Son of the living God.  Christ or Messiah means "Anointed", meaning from conception He was anointed with the Spirit of God.  That is, the Spirit of God Himself dwelled inside of Him.  This is why He was born of a virgin, for that is how Jehovah Himself could become incarnate.  That He was Jehovah, is shown by many statements He made about Himself, including this one:
All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18).
By this is meant that He glorified His human body, and made it Divine.  For those who follow a Tritheism of three persons, if indeed that is true, that there are three persons: if Jesus has all power, then what does God the Father have?  That simply does not make sense.  What does make sense is the Father was inside of Him, as the soul is inside the body.

Many who were outside the inner circle of disciples considered Jesus to be a good teacher.  Was He just a good teacher?  Consider this passage:

Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (19:16-17)
Later he says to this man, who had followed the 10 commandments:
If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. (19:21)
The 10 commandments begin with "I am the Lord your God."  This man, who thought he had followed all the commandments, did not recognize Jesus as Lord, or Jesus as Jehovah in human form.  But some may take the answer of Jesus as stating He was not God.  This is not true...consider these statements that Jesus made:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (John 10:14)
A shepherd is one who guides and instructs...a teacher.  So Jesus' question was somewhat rhetorical...He was gently leading the man to think of who he was speaking to.  It is not enough to simply live a moral life.  Morality must be spiritual, for all good originates from God.  We appropriate that to ourselves by living by it, and that becomes conjoined to our soul.  As God's Spirit begins to live in us, it is that spiritual influx which causes us to have eternal life.

So, when reading the Gospels, one has this odd choice to make about Jesus: He is either Lord, or He is a Liar, or He is a Lunatic.  The Liar theory falls apart quickly, when one considers that Jesus was crucified for not backing off from the claims to Divinity He made about Himself.  This "trilemma" was made popular by C.S. Lewis who said the following:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."
The Jews did not escape the trilemma: they simply held the view that this guy was insane, or had a demon inside of him.  They went with the "Lunatic" theory and stuck with that, despite the miracles He performed.

ESCAPE FROM THE TRILEMMA

Given the dilemma of the Trilemma of Lord, Liar or Lunatic, there are two popular escapes from this logical conundrum:
1.  The Biblical scriptures were falsified.  Jesus did not say those odd things about himself, and did not make any claim to Divinity.  This is also called the "Legend" theory.
2.  Jesus did make those claims about Himself, but was some lesser being, an Angel or Avatar, created after the existence of God.
For theory #1, also known as the "Legend" theory, for it to hold true it must be shown that the Gospels were somehow falsified later in time.  Some modern scholars hold to this view, but it is also popular among Muslims.  For those who have studied Biblical criticism, there is no evidence to support this theory.  There are literally thousands of old manuscripts and fragments, distributed geographically, where it becomes quite easy to identify modifications to scripture.  One would have to throw out large portions of the Gospels to show that Jesus was just a prophet -- and this is something that Thomas Jefferson did with the Bible.  He edited the Gospels, took out all the statements concerning Jesus' claims to Divinity, and removed all references to miracles...in the end, Jesus becomes an ordinary man, who remains quite dead after the crucifixion.  There is no manuscript evidence to support this view...and one is left with the historical problem of how Christianity could have begun with a prophet who made no claims about himself, and died an ordinary death.  One would also need to explain the early martyrs who died for their beliefs -- and the oral traditions of the apostles.  In short, it is an untenable historical theory.

ARIANISM

In the 3rd century A.D., a heresy arose known as "Arianism", named after Arius, who stated that Jesus was the first created being before God made creation.  This is theory #2 - that Jesus was an angelic being or avatar, through whom all things were created.  It is for this heresy alone that the doctrine of the Trinity of three persons was invented in the fourth century.  The church successfully counteracted the heresy, but in so doing jumped from the frying pan into the fire: the doctrine essentially is a form of Tritheism.  Instead of recognizing Jesus as Jehovah in human form, a second person of a Trinity of beings was created in this doctrine.  Swedenborg stated that the reason why God allowed the Catholic Church to gain as much power as it did was to eliminate the heresy of Arianism, as using religion for the sake of dominion due to the love of self could not be entirely eliminated.  Among the different Christian heresies, any form which denies the Divinity of Jesus in His human form is the worst kind - as there is conjunction between God and the human race through His Divine Human.  That is the meaning of the Eucharist or the sacred rite of the communion meal.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES - A MODERN FORM OF ARIANISM

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if anyone could come up with some logical defense for a trinity of three persons, and joined in on a conversation concerning the Trinity.  I could find no one who could provide a logical defense. The only explanation I got is that God decided to "divide" Himself into three persons.  Thus if there is one God, what is that One?  Instead of One Divine Being or Person, the One God becomes a substance.  This substance is shared among three divine persons.  In other words, when looked at more closely, the Trinity is nothing more than a form of Tritheism.  However, most Christians will not even seek to explain it, content that it is a "mystery of faith".  There are mysteries of faith, but this is no mystery - the "mystery of faith" is used to hide the logical inconsistency of the doctrine.  Most Christians will not question it, as they have not been taught to question their beliefs, but just accept it on the basis of church authority or tradition.  So the discussion on this topic on the usenet groups reached a dead end.

As I was cross-posting on this usenet discussion, another side discussion developed with another group, who sought to prove that Jesus was an angel.  They were quite an intelligent group, one of them a trained theologian.  I don't think I ever encountered a group that was so well versed in scripture - so the conversation went back and forth, each side using scripture to support their arguments.  Here is one verse, I don't remember if I used this one:
You, O Jehovah, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name. (Isa. 63:16)
Here we have Jehovah, who is One Divine Being, who declares Himself to be both Father and Redeemer.  Father and Son are not two separate beings: they are different aspects of One Being, Jehovah.  In human form, He is the Son, who redeemed humanity.  Thus in the New Testament, Jesus is known as "Lord", just as Jehovah is called "Lord" by the Jews, and Jesus is known as the Redeemer.  But this group, who I am pretty sure were Jehovah's Witnesses, were quite keen on proving that Jesus was just an angelic being who became incarnate.  They used proof texts such as these:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Col. 1:15)
Despite the fact that the above verse mentions that Jesus is the visible image of the unseen God, the phrase "firstborn over all creation" is taken to mean that Jesus is the first created being.  The "firstborn" is a highly symbolic phrase, and was used in ancient times to represent love or charity.  The word "creation" can either refer to all of creation, or the creation of a new spiritual man as each person is reformed, becoming a new creation in the eyes of God.  In other passages, Jesus states that He is "The First and the Last" - He is the first in all things.  Swedenborg had much to say on the meaning of the word "firstborn":
"It has been disputed from the most ancient times, which is the firstborn of the church, charity or faith; for the reason that man is regenerated and becomes a church by means of the truths of faith. But those who put faith foremost and made it the firstborn, all fell into heresies and falsities, and at length extinguished charity altogether; as we read of Cain, by whom such faith is signified, that at length he killed his brother Abel, by whom is signified charity; and afterwards of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, by whom likewise faith is signified, that he polluted his father's couch (Gen. xxxv. 22; xlix. 4); wherefore he was held unworthy, and the primogeniture was given to Joseph (Gen. xlviii. 5; 1 Chron. v. 1).
"From this source were all the contentions, and also all the laws, respecting primogeniture in the Word. The cause of there being such controversy was, that it was not known, as even at this day it is not known, that a man has only so much of faith as he has of charity; and that when a man is being regenerated, charity presents itself to faith, or what is the same, good presents itself to truth, and insinuates itself into it and adapts itself to it in every particular, causing faith to be faith; and thus that charity is the very firstborn of the church, although to man it appears otherwise (see also n. 352, 367)." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2435).
When the text is used where Jesus states that He is the Light of the world, that is, He is the Divine Truth, Jehovah's witnesses will respond with this text:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)
Which was an interesting and odd use of scripture.  They asked why did God create light on the first day of creation?  My response was:

1.  The first 11 chapters of Genesis are written in symbolic form, and cannot be taken literally.
2.  The seven days of creation are not seven days in which the world was created, but are symbolic of seven states in the regeneration of a person, in which they become a new creation.  The first state is when one receives the Divine Truth, or becomes aware of spiritual truth. This is why on the first day God says, "Let there be light."

There is another subject that people are mostly unfamiliar with in this conversation, that there are two main aspects of God:  Divine Love, and Divine Truth.  In regards to the Divine Love, He is known as "Jehovah", in regards to Divine Truth, He is known as "God".  Thus in scripture, He is often referred to as "Jehovah God" or "Lord God."  God is also known as the "Light" when it comes to Divine Truth, and "fire" is used to refer to love. But by making Jesus a created being, Jehovah's Witnesses are separating these two aspects of God into two beings.  That this is not the case, is discussed in detail by Swedenborg in the work, Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom.

THE ORIGIN OF THE ANGELS

Another proof-text Jehovah's witnesses use is this one:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. (1 Thes. 4:16)
Since the "voice of an archangel" is mentioned, some suppose that Jesus is the archangel Michael.  But in this argument, there is a preexisting assumption I recognized.  What is the origin of the angels?  Many assume that before man was created, there existed a body of angels in heaven.  So where do the angels come from, where did they get their human form?  In the visions of Swedenborg, the origin of the angels was revealed: all angels, and all demons, who exist in heaven and hell, originated from the human race:
"In the Christian world it is quite unknown that heaven and hell are from the human race, for it is believed that angels were created from the beginning and of them was formed heaven; and that the devil or satan was an angel of light, but because he became rebellious he was cast down with his crew, and of them was formed hell. Angels wonder exceedingly that there should be such a belief in the Christian world, and still more that nothing at all should be known about heaven, when yet that is the primary thing of doctrine in the Church; and because such ignorance prevails, they rejoice in heart that it has pleased the Lord now to reveal to mankind many things respecting heaven, and also hell, and thereby as far as possible to dispel the darkness which is daily increasing, because the Church has come to its end. They wish for this reason that I should declare from their mouth, that in the whole heaven there is not one angel who was so created from the beginning, nor in hell any devil who was created an angel of light and cast down; but that all, both in heaven and in hell, are from the human race; in heaven those who lived in the world in heavenly love and faith, in hell those who lived in infernal love and faith; and that hell taken as a whole is what is called the devil and satan. The hell which is behind, where are those called evil genii, is called the devil, and the hell which is in front, where are those called evil spirits, is called satan. What the one hell is and what the other, will be told in the following pages. They said that the Christian world had gathered such a belief regarding those in heaven and those in hell, from some passages in the Word, understood only according to the sense of the letter, and not illustrated and explained by genuine doctrine from the Word; when yet the sense of the letter of the Word, unless genuine doctrine throws light upon it, draws the mind in various directions, begetting ignorance, heresies, and errors." (Heaven and Hell, n. 311).
Once the origin of the angels becomes known, the entire argument of the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Arianism, falls apart.  One cannot become an angel until one was once born as human.  As Jehovah became incarnate as a human, after the resurrection He essentially became an angel, as all humans do, except that in His case He rose as to the body, and made His human Divine.

A CLAIRVOYANT DREAM

One matter I did not bring up in the discussion with Jehovah's Witnesses, is that I know people who tend to have clairvoyant dreams.  I did not tell anyone about the conversation I was having on the usenet groups, but this person saw in a dream I was having a conversation in a church, which was full of darkness.  All the windows had been covered so that no light could come through.  They had shut the windows, and very tightly.  We kicked at the windows and doors, there was no way out.  Then we simply broke one of the windows, reached outside and was able to unlock the door.  There were young men around, who sought to hit me with poison arrows.  "Poison" is symbolic of some falsehood which could poison the mind.  However they were unable to hit me, but we were able to escape.  One man came after me, and cut himself to shed blood for the love of Jesus, but it was explained to him that that is not what Jesus commanded.  He sought to capture me, but I kicked him, and as I did so, he became much smaller and I grew taller.  That is the gist of the dream, and she had no idea about this conversation I had with the Jehovah's Witnesses on the usenet group.  There were other details given concerning these people I had a conversation with, but I will leave that for another time and place.  Once I received that warning, I decided to discontinue my conversation on the usenet groups.  For those of you who are clever enough to search for it, I am sure you will find it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Science vs. Creationism


In recent news, and this is still news apparently, Bill Nye "the science guy" stated that Creationism was unfit to be taught to children.  He created the following youtube video, which went viral:


He stated that Creationism was not appropriate to be taught to children, because it will hold us back from science.  It is not based on any facts.  And you know what?  He is right.  The evidence for evolution and the age of the universe is just overwhelming.  As to how life began...science is still struggling with that one.  Swedenborg stated that organic life forms always act upon inorganice forms, and not the other way around.  Whereas base matter derives from the Big Bang and the Sun...life itself is spiritual in origin.  That is still compatible with evolution.

Unfortunately, Creationism will get taught to children in families with religious backgrounds, because they still read the Bible in a literal manner.  They do not understand the symbolism and the allegory that is constantly at play in the literary expressions of scripture.  Scientists such as Bill Nye, however, do not have a background in the Bible, so it would have been more appropriate to educate people on the proper spiritual understanding on how the Bible begins, then talk about the science...unfortunately he did not do so, which caused the sensationalist uproar.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis are written in a style quite different from the rest of the Bible - one that is best described as "mythical". By myth many understand today a story that is false, but in the ancient world myths were based on a universal symbolism that described ever-eternal truths. The seven days of creation, the story of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, the Tower of Babel...are all constructed in the form of a historical narrative, but actually describe in parable form how in ancient times an ancient race of people in the Middle East had the minds open to have direct communication with heaven...and how this was eventually lost.  That it is not literal, but symbolic, was stated in the late 18th century, in the visions that were received by Emanuel Swedenborg.  He wrote:
"...all the events arranged historically from the first chapter of Genesis to Eber in the eleventh chapter, signify quite different things from what appear in the letter, and the historical series is only composed history, after the manner of the most ancient people." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1020)
It should be noted that there are four main styles of the Word, and the first 11 chapters of Genesis are different than the rest:
"It has been stated already that there are four different styles in the Word. The first, which was that of the Most Ancient Church, was such as that from the first chapter of Genesis to this chapter. The second is historical, as in the following books of Moses, and in the rest of the historical books. The third is prophetical. The fourth is intermediate between the prophetical style and that of common speech." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1139)
The mode of expression in the first 11 chapters of Genesis was derived from a more ancient way of thinking, closer to the literary style of ancient myths:
"Their mode of expression was such that when they mentioned terrestrial and worldly things they thought of the spiritual and celestial things which these represented. They therefore not only expressed themselves by representatives, but also formed these into a certain historical series, as it were, that they might be the more living; and this was to them in the very highest degree delightful." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 66)
Much of what Swedenborg wrote back then was later confirmed in the 19th century when archeaologists began uncovering ancient cuneiform tablets written in Sumerian and Akkadian - which in fact contained myths that mirrored the stories found in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Among these stories are Enuma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh. However the original myth has not been preserved in these tablets - they have been modified by religious priests of the ancient world, who sought to use religion to gain control over people. Even they found ancient king lists which declared that there were 10 kings before the coming of the Flood - just as there are 10 patriarchs that lived before the flood of Noah. I read and studied some of these cuneiform tablets when I was in college...but Swedenborg knew that these were inherited and borrowed stories long before archaeologist uncovered this evidence.

So, lets take a look at the seven days of creation.  In a symbolic sense, the days are not days, but represent seven stages of spiritual development.  "Earth" is the body, "Heaven" is the soul: the seven days of creation describe the creation of a spiritual man.  Swedenborg describes these stages in detail.  So it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with science.  If one just thinks about what is created from one day to the next, one may conclude how symbolic in nature the seven days are.

Seven is a sacred and holy number.  But where did the seven day week come from?  Most likely, it came from observing the four quarters of the moon during the month.  Each quarter lasts about seven days, but varies from month to month.  In the ancient Middle East, there were sometimes celebrations on the seventh and fourteenth day of the month. These astronomical observations denigrated into star worship over time.  An ancient priesthood, recognizing the significance of the number 7, established a seven day religious week completely divorced from the original astronomy that originated it.  In the book of Jasher, it is recorded that Moses asked Pharoah for a seventh day of rest to give the slaves respite from their work in Egypt.  Creation is a human cycle, of work, rest, work, rest.  Spiritually, we pass through stages of conflict, and when these conflicts are resolved, we reach a spiritual state of rest and comfort.

As for the patriarchs from Adam to Noah, Swedenborg stated that these were not individual people but represented different stages of history in the spiritual decline of the Most Ancient Church.  This is a bit contrary to a literal understanding of the Bible, thus some may oppose such an interpretation.  But in support of this view I discovered that the numbers used in the ages of the patriarchs are not arbritrary - they were chosen based on particular astronomical cycles.  For an overview of that, see an older blog entry called The Ancient Astronomy of the Bible.  I had forgotten to mention that this is exactly what the priests did with the ancient king lists of Egypt.

The Flood concerns the final destruction of the Ancient Church, when direct communication between heaven and man was cut off...afterwards, spiritual development would happen a different way, by learning spiritual truths first.  The Tower of Babel is a symbolic representation of how this was then distorted by an ancient priesthood who wished to gain control over others by means of religion.

So lets move on about this debate between Science and Creationism...the only way to move on is to have an understanding of the spiritual layer of meaning hidden behind the literal words of the Bible.  God evidently foresaw this development and provided the answer in the writings of Swedenborg, long before science would confront the literalists.  Once that is out of the way... I would like to know, what is propelling, what is the driving force, for a single cell organism to evolve into something so complicated as the human being?  Is it possible that the code for the potential to develop into a human can be found in single celled organisms?  I heard one interesting fact, not sure if this is correct:  we share 50% of our genetic code with the genetic code of a banana.  Now that's food for thought.









Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Miraculous Circle of Light

For this blog post, I was looking for a circle of people holding candles at night, and found this one, from SynchroSecrets, a blog on unusual coincidences which Carl Jung called "synchronicity."  Synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence.  Was it a coincidence I found that blog?  I don't know, but here is an image of a circle of candles lighted for a healing vigil:


In ancient times, in the Middle East there was an ancient religion which preceded Judaism which saw synchronicity in everything: for everything material is a symbol of the heavenly form.  Such was the origin of symbolic rituals, for these rituals seek to recreate the symbols seen in visions, offering a link between this material world and the spiritual world beyond it.

So why was I looking for a circle of people holding candles?  A long time ago, as a child I was sent to a summer camp for a week which taught the Christian way of life. It was in a forest in California, and we slept in wood cabins.  In California I used to go on walks through the Redwood forest:


If you haven't been there, there is just no way to describe the mystical beauty of that forest.  The trees are huge, perhaps the largest trees in the world.  Anyway, at that Christian camp in the forest, towards evening they decided to hold a prayer vigil, and everyone was to stand in a circle holding candles.  However, I could not participate - I had caught a cold, and I was told to take a rest in the cabin.  I was a bit sad and disappointed, so I returned to the cabin. I was the only one who could not participate.  There was still light, it was towards the end of the day. I opened the cabin door to lie down on my bunk - but when I looked in, what I saw took me by surprise.

The cabin surrounded by trees had a window, and light was streaming into the window sort of like you see in the picture of the forest above.  It was a narrow band of light, which formed an elongated rectangle in that dark cabin.  But there was something odd about that band of light. It was moving. And it was moving in a circular pattern, so that there were these bands of elongated rectangles - not just one - rotating in a circle along the walls of the cabin.  I didn't know what to make of it: it was as if there was a light source, outside the cabin, moving in a circle around the cabin.  So I looked outside the cabin.  It is surrounded by trees, in the middle of a forest.  There are no light source other than the waning sun.  Ok, I open the door again. Yep, moving bands of light inside the cabin, still going around and around. As I looked at it, and there was no rotating light outside of the cabin, I concluded that something was bending the light to move in a circle.  I think I stood in the doorway for several minutes just staring, wondering what to do. I then realized this was happening at the same time everyone else was away, who had formed in a circle holding candles.  Then I got a bit scared - this should not be happening. I closed the door, wandered among the trees for a while, and came back later when all returned to normal.  I never told anyone about it, as I was puzzled by it.  It is one of those things that "should not happen" - and it is something I pushed back in the recess of my memory until I almost forgot about it. Not sure how I remembered it just now.  I still have no explanation for it, I have never seen light behave that way.

A candle, light, or lampstand is symbolic of truth, and the oil that lights the candle is symbolic of love.  Love and truth must walk together hand in hand.  A lampstand or candle is symbolic of the church:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Matt. 5:14-15)
So, maybe I was wrong to hide and forget this event?  I do not know. I think that over time I would have found a rational explanation for it, but there just isn't one. John, who saw a vision recorded in the Apocalypse or Revelation, recorded this event:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;And in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. (Rev. 1:12-13)
Each lampstand or candle in this vision signified seven different types of churches, and Jesus had a message for each one.  All Christian churches - even the remote ones - is signified by one these churches in the book of Revelation.

When it comes to miracles, skeptics will always question, believers will see confirmation.  As miracles these days tend to not change anyone's former opinion, I see no harm in relating this story.  Here is Swedenborg's opinion regarding miracles:
"It is asked at the present day, why miracles do not take place as formerly; for it is believed that if they were to take place, every one would make hearty acknowledgment. For miracles are not now wrought as formerly, because they compel, and take away free will in spiritual things, and from being spiritual make man natural. Every one in the Christian world, since the coming of the Lord, may become spiritual, and he becomes spiritual solely from the Lord through the Word; and the capacity for this would perish if man were led to believe through miracles; since they, as before said, are compulsory and deprive him of free will in spiritual things; and every thing compelled in such matters betakes itself into the natural man, and shuts up the spiritual as with a door, the spiritual being truly the internal man, and deprives this of all power to see any truth in light; therefore he would afterwards reason about spiritual things from the natural man alone, seeing every thing truly spiritual inversely. But miracles were wrought before the coming of the Lord, because they of the church were then natural men to whom the spiritual things of the internal church could not be opened; for if opened, they would have profaned them. And all their worship therefore consisted in rituals which represented and signified internals of the church; and they could not be brought to observe those rituals properly except by miracles." (True Christian Religion, n. 501).
As Jesus once said:
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed. (John 20:29)
It is more important to reach internal spiritual understanding by reading scripture and living by it, than paying attention to external visible confirmations. Spiritual growth can then take place from that inner spiritual light in one's own understanding.

Well, back to working on that book for Apocalypse Explained...  maybe that's how I remembered this particular event.


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Divine Procession of the Trinity

One time, when researching information for a wikipedia article, I tried to find a logical defense for the Trinity, how three divine beings are not three but one.  If they are one, one what?  Typical arguments will then answer one "essence" or "substance."  Which would mean, when one says one worships the one God, God is not a personal being, but a substance.  This conclusion, of course, is contrary to all revelations He has made about Himself: He is One Being. and has declared there is no other god besides Him.  The best answer to a description of the Trinity, before Emanuel Swedenborg, I found in the work of Thomas Aquinas, who is considered a "Doctor of the Church" in the Catholic Church.  He noted that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a procession of the Divine, as the three are always listed in that order.  Swedenborg would agree, as the Divine soul, body and operation is one Trinity in Jesus Christ. Thus rather than positing a separate being for the Son, Swedenborg simply states that the "Son" is the human form by which Jehovah became incarnate.  At the resurrection, this human form was made Divine.  The Catholic Church states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, while the Orthodox Church states that the Holy Spirit proceeds directly from the Father.  In this case, the Catholic Church is the one that has the correct doctrine, according to the revelations from Swedenborg.  It is also stated in scripture:
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39)
The "glorification" or "exaltation" of the Son means to make the human form Divine.  The Holy Spirit, which existed solely in Jesus, then was made available to all of humanity to those willing to receive it. Swedenborg stated that the operation between the soul and body in each and every person has a "sphere of influence" around the person's body. This is one's spirit, and among those familiar with New Age terminology it is known as one's "aura", whereby one can perceive internal states of the soul. Jehovah in human form was made Divine, thus this spiritual sphere of influence became infinite.  Thus after his resurrection, Jesus stated:
All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)
Does this mean that a Father being gave up his power and handed to another being, His Son?  No it does not mean that. It means that the human body in which Jehovah incarnated was made Divine.  Also Jesus was asked directly to show the Father:
Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (John 14:8-9)
Jesus then proceeds to describe how the Father exists inside of Him, and He exists inside the Father. The two were interacting as one, just as the soul and body act as one.  Thus Jesus always spoke of the "will of the Father."  But never the "will of the Son."  In fact, Jesus stated He could only do what He sees His Father doing:
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)
Well, what about this - if we are talking about one Divine Being who chose to become incarnate in human form, then why does Jesus pray to the Father?  The answer to that is in His incarnate form, He was in a finite state like us.  He had to grow and progress like any human being.  In His external form, his body had inherited evil tendencies from the virgin Mary -- despite what the Catholic Church states on this matter. It is in this manner that Jesus could be tempted. Although his external natural form was imperfect and could be tempted, his internal soul was Divine and could not sin.  By becoming incarnate, Jehovah launched a direct attack against all of hell.  And hell launched back as hard as it could with temptations no human could imagine. These are described briefly in the Gospels, but they are described in more detail by Swedenborg in his work Heavenly Arcana, and in the visions of the mystic Catherine Anne Emmerich.  Any other human would have broken and become insane. Thus we read Jesus healing a lot of the mentally ill and the demoniacs. By overcoming all temptation, God can now interact directly with each and every human being to help them resist temptation. Only God can overcome evil, not man. But man must put in effort by repentance.

So, when Jesus said the following statement, what did the original apostles understand from it? -
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)
What is "the name" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?  It is the name: Jesus Christ.  Observe how the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus:
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike...they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:12, 16)
And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:48)
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5)
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (Rom. 6:3)
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:27)
So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three persons. They are titles or aspects of one Deity, describing how the Divinity proceeds from God to humanity through His incarnation. This Trine exists in one person, Jesus Christ. This is how the Oneness Pentecostals arrived at the correct conclusion, without even knowing of the previous revelation given to Swedenborg.  You can see it in His name:

LORD = FATHER
JESUS = SON
CHRIST ("anointed one") = HOLY SPIRIT

So what happened? The early baptismal formula was changed.  I found this from a Pentecostal site:

Britannica Encyclopedia, 11th Edition, Volume 3, page 365 – Baptism was changed from the name of Jesus to words Father, Son & Holy Ghost in 2nd Century.
Canney Encyclopedia of Religion, page 53 – The early church baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until the second century.
Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion, Volume 2 – Christian baptism was administered using the words, "in the name of Jesus." page 377. Baptism was always in the name of Jesus until time of Justin Martyr, page 389.
Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2, page 263 – Here the authors acknowledged that the baptismal formula was changed by their church.
Schaff – Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Volume 1, page 435 – The New Testament knows only the baptism in the name of Jesus.
Hastings Dictionary of Bible, page 88 – It must be acknowledged that the three fold name of Matthew 28:19 does not appear to have been used by the primitive church, but rather in the name of Jesus, Jesus Christ or Lord Jesus.

That in Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead is recognized by Paul: For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. (Col. 2:9)

OTHER TRINITARIAN FORMULAS

There are other hidden Trinitarian statements in the Bible, but they are often not recognized...here are a few:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16)
Paul would later state that Jesus is the image of the unseen God. And this one, which is important:
Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed [Holy] be Your name. (Matt. 6:9)
Ask yourself the question: what is the Father's name?  "Father" is a title.  What is the Father's name?  It is none other than Jesus. When the Catholic Church teaches people how to pray, they add the words "In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" before the Lord's prayer. This is superfluous and unnecessary, because the first line of the Lord's prayer already says that in a different way. From the Father, through Jesus, proceeds the Holy Spirit: all holiness is from Him, because He has made His human Divine.  So when you pray, do not pray to a separate being other than Jesus. Acknowledge one Divine Being, who has become incarnate and visible in Jesus Christ. When I realized it, all confusion went away.  I was a bit sad for not having realized this earlier.  When asked what difference does the revelation given to Swedenborg make in my spiritual path, I would say it was this: the acknowledgment of the One Divine Being in Jesus Christ. If you know this, you belong to the New Church, the New Jerusalem. This is the revelation: that Jesus is Jehovah in human form. We have not acknowledged Him properly, but have relegated Him to a second person in a trinity of three beings. Sort of like how He was crucified, with two thieves on each side. That historical event was actually prophetic of the thievery of a trinity of three persons. Acknowledgement of a Trinity of three beings is crucifying Jesus, and when you know this, you see what harm it causes to the understanding of the Divine truth:
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. (Rev. 1:7)
"Those who pierce Him" are those who crucify Him: those who do not properly acknowledge who He is.  Most interpret this as a visible second coming in the clouds of the sky, but this is not true: it concerns a spiritual revelation made from the spiritual heaven, not in the sky above our heads.  "Every eye" does not mean visible to everyone, but it means understanding to those who can see this spiritual truth.  And the mourning is the sadness that ensues, when one realizes one has lived under a false teaching. Thus it is said,
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Error of the Protestant Churches

One good thing the Protestant Reformation did: it exposed certain errors of the Catholic Church, whereby they tried to make use of religion to extend their authority, and they stated that authority and doctrine should be based on the Word.  But they made one basic fundamental error: they made faith alone saving.  In other words, all one has to do is believe and confess, and one obtains immediate mercy and salvation.  All done! Boy that was easy.

The error of the Protestants comes from a single verse, and a misinterpretation of this single verse then blinds people to multiple other passages of scripture:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28)
Martin Luther, and the founders of the Protestant churches, decided that "works of the Law" means anything that you do from the will.  Faith is belief only.  Internal changes in the heart, and the desire to do good, will come spontaneously through no human effort.  This is not only false, it is a belief that destroys the essence of all religion.  One of the reasons why Emanuel Swedenborg is so unknown is that he spoke out against this.  If the revelation he received had confirmed it, more would know about him.  He stated:
In Paul's words in Romans 3:28, "faith" does not mean faith in God the Father, it means faith in his Son, and "the works of the Law" do not mean the works of the law of the Ten Commandments, they mean the works of the Mosaic Law for the Jews (as you can see from the verses that follow Romans 3:28, as well as from similar words in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians 2:14, 15). The foundation stone of the modern-day church crumbles, then, and so does the shrine built on it, like a house sinking into the ground until only the top of the roof remains visible. (True Christian Religion, n. 338)
The "works of the Law" thus refer to Jewish rituals, such as animal sacrifices, circumcision, washings, etc.  These were external rituals so that the Jews could represent or be symbolic of the Christian Church that would come after it.  Thus the Passover ritual was symbolic of the crucifixion which would occur on the Passover.  Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit...and Paul states as much in the following passage:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossian 2:16-17)
In my first introduction to Christianity, I went to Protestant churches, and this is what was taught: the 10 commandments had been "abrogated."  The purpose of it was to show how perfection could not be reached.  God then waits 1500 years or so, and then changes the message and states that only one has to believe.  Any passage in the Bible that mentions good works, means that it will be the Holy Spirit  that does it, and man may continue to be a "passive subject."  Is this true? No, it is false:
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?"Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' (Mark 12:28-30)
And this one:
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'
(Matt. 7:21-23)
Unfortunately, for most religion is just lip confession and belief only.  This is not true: religion is in how you live your life.  I can go through passage after passage in scripture, but unfortunately for Protestants "faith alone" is the foundation of salvation.  Unfortunately, that foundation happens to be resting on a very false premise of one verse falsely understood.  The doctrine is so prevalent that it gives people a blind eye when it comes to seeing these passages from the Bible which command good deeds. I do remember coming across those passages, and I was puzzled by the discrepancy.  Even Paul himself said so:
it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. (Rom. 2:13)
Wait! That is exactly the opposite of what Paul said above!  No, the problem here is the word "Law" is used by Paul in different ways: sometimes the Mosaic law of the Jews, and sometimes for God's commandments.  Are God's commandments important?  Well, Jesus sort of thinks so:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. (John 14:21) 
For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:50)
Are the 10 commandments prescribed in the New Testament?  Yes, every single one of them.  I can list them but I will leave that as a exercise for people who are willing to find them.  As for the Sabbath, under the Jews this was a day of no work, but this was a symbolic ritual: under the spiritual Church it became a day for instruction in spiritual matters. In the revelation of the New Church, it also represents the highest spiritual state that one can reach, where one lets go of the self and allows the Divine to flow in every thought and deed.  In an even higher sense, the Sabbath is symbolic of how Jesus made His human Divine and rose from the dead after the Sabbath.

Protestants, in defense of their understanding of scripture, will call any opposition to it as "legalism."  Or they will mention how it is wrong to make works "meritorious."  The first charge is generic, as they do not make a distinction between the ritualistic laws of the Jews and God's commandments for everyone, but on the second they are correct: no one should do something good for the sake of a future reward. Good works are done out of love, for the sake of love, and the reward is in the enjoyment of doing itself.  It is that internal happiness which leads to salvation: the happier one becomes, the closer one becomes to God.

I occasionally go and visit a Protestant church now and then, but this is a faith I no longer follow. Once one sees the error, it is hard to go back to something that is false. It just pains me when a minister glosses over a verse, and fails to see how scripture goes against the foundation of what they have been taught. Can I ever go back?  No I cannot:
But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matt. 9:16-17)
This Jesus spoke of the Christian Church, which would break out and separate from the old Jewish church...what was true then is true today. If I go to a church that would be to start some dialogue, but that does not happen often. The New Church is incompatible with the faith of the old Christian churches, which have become gradually corrupted over time.  It took me a long time to figure this out, but knowing that the beliefs had been corrupted allowed me to search for the truth until I finally found it.  If one sees the problem of their faith in their Church, do not depart from the love of God.  Jesus foresaw this:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.. (Matt. 24:15-16)
This Jesus spoke of the last state of the Christian Church: it would be so corrupt, that something false would be at the center of its worship: the worship of three divine gods, instead of the one Lord.  This is the "abomination of desolation."  An abominable idolatrous worship, so corrupt, that all truth is absent in utter desolation.  What to do?  Leave it.  Where to go?  The "mountains of Judea" - that is, towards the love of God. Practice it in your daily life. Start a home church.

This departure from organized religion is already happening.  It was noticed with "alarm" among several news sites.  One columnist, Danny Tyree, wrote an article for the Daily World entitled:

The Protestant decline: Forever versus whatever

He goes to church with a bit of uncertainty:
The uncertainty arises because of the results of a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, revealing that for the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority...The Protestant decline comes not from a sudden upswing in Catholic citizens but from the Americans who say they have no religious affiliation at all. (This group, dubbed the "nones," has increased from 15 percent of the adult population to 20 percent in just the last five years. One-third of adults under age 30 are uncommitted, often citing their religious affiliation as "nothing in particular.")
Wow!  This is in fact good news.  I was very disappointed to have been misled for several years.  Hooray for the whatevers and the nones!  But for those who are uncertain...it can lead to a period of doubt and distress...what is the truth?  What way should I follow?  Why does not God reveal the correct way?  Wait a minute...God does reveal Himself.  It just so happens when He does reveal Himself He states He does not like what the churches have been teaching...time to start a new one.  Religious leaders do not like to hear this, and will tend to shove it under the rug.  The lack of actual teaching and the poetic digressions of the ministers just drove me nuts.  So...as soon as I had time on my hands, time to publish the works of Emanuel Swedenborg and make them available as cheaply as possible...and start blogging about it in the hopes someone chances to come across this.

So why the Protestant decline?  Well that leads to some speculation.  I will quote the same article again:
I have friends and associates who are forthright atheists and agnostics, but I have a hard time wrapping my unenlightened mind around the fence-straddlers who fancy themselves as "spiritual but not religious." Hmmm...so people who like to "sleep in," people who like to spend Sundays at the stadium and people who don't like heavy reading miraculously stumble upon a spiritual regimen that resonates with them, meets their needs and pleases A Vague Higher Power To Be Named Later.
The truth is, when religion becomes "belief only", when it has no applicability to daily life, and life is not part of religion...one's thoughts depart from those beliefs to become more in line with how one lives.  This is an inherent problem with Protestant theology.  I am currently working on a book Apocalypse Explained (taking a break from the footnotes with this blog) and this is the warning given to the church of Ephesus which placed all emphasis on doctrine and belief but not by living by it:
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5)
In the book of Revelation, seven churches are symbolized by a lamp, and each church signifies a particular Christian church of our time.  For those who depart from the commandments of love and charity, and go with belief only...that church will cease to exist.  So we have...the Protestant decline.  That is a lamp whose light is going out.  And now....

To the Vague Higher Power To Be Named


His name is Jehovah...and He has appeared in human form, incarnate in Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the Lord of the the New Testament, is the same Lord that appeared in the Old Testament.  There is no need to divide God into multiple persons.  Such happened with the ancient churches that preceded Judaism, and those religions no longer exist.  The doctrine concerning the One God for the New Church is described in The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem...which includes the work, Doctrine of the Lord.  Start with that.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Apocalypse Explained vs. Apocalypse Revealed

A few months ago I published the entirety of Swedenborg's published works in the multi-volume work, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.  It is given this title as his works contain revelations concerning the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation, concerning a New Christian Church that would be established.  It is an e-book, but every single reference is hyperlinked for ease of study.  I had chosen an edition that I felt had a consistent translation, which included all of his published works.  I did, however, end up correcting or modernizing some of the English.  I did not include any of the unpublished works, as I felt they were drafts of the published works.

I am currently working on an edition of Apocalypse Explained, which will include all six volumes in one work as an e-book, and again have the advantages of hyperlinked references.  I originally thought Apocalypse Explained was a draft of the published work, Apocalypse Revealed, and that the latter was a more condensed version.  But another scholar pointed out to me that is not the case: they are two completely different works.  Swedenborg started all over with Apocalypse Revealed.  Here is some background history between these two works, taken from the biography Emanuel Swedenborg: His Life and Writings, by William White:
In the account of the Last Judgment, issued in 1758, it is written-
"Within two years an explication of the Apocalypse from beginning to end will be published."
In pursuance of this promise, the Apocalypse Explained was written as far as Chapter xix., v. 10, and the title-page, with Londini, 1759, prepared, when for some unknown reason the work was set aside.
The Apocalypse Revealed made its appearance in 1766 six years after due. Whether in reference to it, or the Apocalypse Explained, we read-
"I heard a voice from Heaven, 'Enter into your chamber and shut the door and apply to the work begun on the Apocalypse, and finish it within two years.'" [see Angelic Wisdom Concerning Marriage Love, n. 522]
The second work is much inferior to the first: it is less diffuse, but is dry as a dictionary. The Apocalypse Explained abounds in extraordinary digressions, illustrative and miscellaneous, through which it is almost impossible to preserve the thread of, apocalyptic exposition unbroken: but in these digressions are to be found some of the wisest and most happily expressed of Swedenborg's opinions. Unless the cost of publication hindered, I can scarcely imagine how he had the heart to replace it with the bony Apocalypse Revealed. The Apocalypse Revealed is not an abridgment of the Explained, but a new work. The drift of both is the same, but when we compare particular interpretation with particular interpretation, we discover not only variations, but differences irreconcileable. If, as he says, "the Lord alone taught and illuminated me," [see Angelic Wisdom Concerning the One God, Divine Providence, n. 135] it would be worth knowing how the differing interpretations are to be accounted for. People with Divine pretensions should never be surprised in undress. A more astute practitioner would have put the Apocalypse Explained in the fire when the Revealed was sent to press.
A bit of a harsh assessment there, but I would agree: Apocalypse Explained is much more richer in discourse than Apocalypse Revealed.  Swedenborg meanders about, explaining multiple verses of scripture that is found nowhere else.  Conservative Swedenborgians wish to distinguish between Swedenborg's published works and his unpublished works, as the latter were works in progress.  But Apocalypse Explained falls into a gray area - it was never published, but unlike the other manuscripts it was meticulously prepared for the printer.  It was not intended to be a draft.

There is an interesting article called Which of Swedenborg's works are Divine inspiration? which notes that "The unpublished works have long been a source of incorrect teaching".  It also contains a reference to an interesting article entitled, Are there imperfections in Swedenborg's Scripture Interpretation?, where John F. Potts refutes these allegations, and notes that most are found in the unpublished work of Apocalypse Explained, and do not affect the interpretation.  But, in my view, the writings of Swedenborg are not Divinely Inspired in the way scripture is.  They were Divinely influenced.  For a better explanation of what I mean, see my previous blog, What books are Divinely Inspired?

So, I see no need to defend or explain away the minor mistakes that Swedenborg makes. Overall, he was quite meticulous and much more accurate and careful than other writers. Errors of factual knowledge, which we receive from the outer world through our senses, is different from spiritual revelations received from above.  In the case of scripture, the words were dictated word by word.  Not so in the case of Swedenborg, although at times he did hear "the living Voice".  As I was preparing Heavenly Arcana for publication, I noted that certain footnotes would explain differences between the original Hebrew text and the Latin translation by Schmidius of scripture that was used by Swedenborg. And it was revealed to Swedenborg that the Masoretic Hebrew text was highly accurate.  These things, in my view, are minor.  What is important here is the overall method that Swedenborg used to explain the spiritual sense of scripture, and the revealed symbolism.  Swedenborg solves a major problem for all of Christianity: he has proven how certain books of the Bible are Divinely inspired.  That is major, that is what people should pay attention to.  It has immediate impact on application to one's life.

So, for Apocalypse Explained, the edition I am working on is for the most part complete, but the hyperlinking of the footnotes is taking some time.  But the passage from William White interested me: what differences are there between Apocalypse Explained and Apocalypse Revealed?  I took a quick glance, actually quite a few.  Let me take an example.  Apocalypse (or Revelation) 2:19 states the following:
I know thy works, and charity, and ministry, and faith, and thy endurance, and thy works, and the last more than the first.
In Apocalypse Revealed, the verse is stated correctly, but later when Swedenborg interprets it, he accidentally dropped the second phrase of "thy works".  It sounds minor, but it is not.  It has a major consequence in the interpretation of this verse and those that follow it.  In the case of Apocalypse Explained, he does not drop the words, and comes out in my view with probably the correct interpretation. So in this case, it would seem a minor slip of the pen may have affected the interpretation.  So what?  Well, I am not sure if I just want to publish this edition of Apocalypse Explained as is.  I think what is required here is a more critical edition, where there are critical footnotes explaining the differences between Apocalypse Explained and Apocalypse Revealed.  And I am suspecting I may find more cases where the unpublished work may have a better interpretation than the published one.  Probably, overall, they complement each other.  Its a bit hard to switch between the two works, but the e-book I am now planning for Apocalypse Explained will make it easier.  The result of this is the fine line that some like to make between his published and unpublished works just got a little grayer.

So what does this mean?  The work that Swedenborg started is unfinished.  It is up to others, those who decide to belong to the New Church, to finish it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Clairvoyant Dream...of a Divining Rock

A few days ago I had what seemed to be a nonsensical dream about a friend of mine, where he collected rocks and sand on a beach by the ocean, where there was a building on top of piers jutting out over the water.  Someone took away the sand, but allowed him to keep the rocks.  He had a bucket of these rocks, and then showed me one of them.  He said that this particular rock was ancient...and was a "space rock" - a rock that had fallen to earth from outer space.  I looked at the rock, and in the dream it looked nothing like a meteorite.  It was disk shaped, except that it had a thick edge.  The front and back was flat and smooth.  The center of it was white, but towards the outer edges the color changed to sort of orangish-purple, growing darker towards the outer edges.  Angling it reflecting it in the light showed some blue - sort of rainbow like.  I looked at some images of rocks, and the closest I could find is a sliced geode of agate rock, sort of like this picture:


In the dream I then turned the rock on its edge, and saw a series of petroglyph symbols written on the side.  At first I thought these were ancient symbols, but the symbols shifted and they became more modern.  I told him, unfortunately, this rock was not ancient - it is probably modern.  And also, it was probably thrown away by someone in the building on the pier who had tossed it over, after which it got buried in the sand.  He was a bit upset he never noticed the petroglyphs, as he never had bothered to turn the rock on its side.  The dream ended - at least that is what I remembered of the dream.  I sent him an email stating I had a dream about him, and almost forgot about.

Today he gave me a call.  He wanted to know the dream - so I described it as just above.  The day after I had the dream I had sent him a manuscript on Nostradamus and Swedenborg, how they both made use of their dreams.  Nostradamus used dreams and visions to foresee the future, whereas Swedenborg made use of dream-analysis to introspect his own soul, until his inner vision was opened.  That day he was teaching a class on symbols and dreams...and the topic of the lesson was divining rocks - using rocks to divine answers to one's question or the future.  It is a very ancient custom.  He received my manuscript that day and had been thinking about how he could make use of some of the material in the class.  Moreover, he has a collection of these divining rocks.  A few of them he got in a bazaar in Iran from a seller who was going to throw them out.  And outside of his house - he currently has buckets of these divining rocks he has collected!  Ok, this dream was significant after all.

These clairvoyant dreams happen all the time, and people just do not realize it.  They would realize it more if they just paid attention, and shared them with others.  There are previous blog entries in this blog about some dreams of mine I had earlier - one concerns a clairvoyant dream concerning the attack of September 11, and another concerning the election of Pope Benedict XVI.  We are all connected in the spiritual world: the more you think about another person, the closer you will appear to that person.  Our focus, our intentions, the connections we make with other people determine the kinds of dreams that we have.  And the dreams tend to be symbolic.  This one, however, was quite straightforward after I described it to him.

ROCK DIVINATION?

Rock divination?  I honestly never heard of it.  I heard of divination by tea leaves, coffee cups, bones, animal organs...but never rock divination.  "Star" divination is the most common form people know, otherwise known as astrology.  How does it work?  This world is a symbolic form of the heavenly world.  "Divination" is typically looked upon as a taboo subject in modern religions, but it was typically forbidden as the belief systems of many peoples of the time had been corrupted.  But these methods of divination were based on an ancient system of knowledge involving symbols - symbols that had been revealed in dreams and visions.  The Philistines practiced it to figure a way to return the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites.  We connect with the spiritual world through these symbols and rituals involving them.  The modern Christian Church practices it without even knowing it.  It is called Communion, or the Eucharist.  It is highly symbolic, and through that symbolic ritual a connection with heaven is made.

So, what is rock divination?  Here is a random quote on the topic by Howard G. Charing in an article on Shamanic Divination:

"The shamans used many diverse methods for divination, either ways seeking patterns in natural objects and events, or using techniques to directly obtain hidden knowledge. An example of the former could be the practice of divination with rocks. 
"To do this the traditional practice is for the seeker looks for a rock whilst holding the question in the mind, eventually there will be a rock which stands out or ‘metaphorically’ shouts out “me, me!". Here is an opportunity to practice the principle of trust!. As a helpful tip the more faceted and inner forms the rock has the better as more facets and patterns mean more detail will be available to the reader. The seeker should then give the rock to the shaman or practitioner and state the question. The shaman (who knows as little as possible about the questioner or the circumstances regarding the question) will gently focus on the rock and allow patterns to form within the imagination. The shaman may ask the seeker to state the question a few times as this helps to deepen the trance state of awareness, to the place where the shapes and patterns in the rock become a ‘gateway’ directly into the universal field of energy, and images, pictures, words, feelings will start to form within the shaman’s being. Each rock face represents a different aspect of the question, and the initial response is generally “where the questioner is at this moment", and this leads to other rock faces, each rock face exposing and presenting an expanded view of the answer. To me personally this work is awesome, mysterious and poetic, and I have found that is as if a person’s life story is contained in a rock."
Ok, interesting.  So I was looking at a divining rock, in a dream, without even knowing it.  But the dream had already told me that: it had said it was a "space rock", or a meteorite. In ancient cultures, meteorites that had fallen from heaven were considered rocks of the gods, and were often worshiped or had a ritualistic significance.  There is apparently a meteorite that is in the Kaaba that is still venerated in Islam, believed to have come from the time of Adam.  Thus such a "divine rock" was a divining rock in the dream.

Not exactly the blog entry I was planning next, but this one just spontaneously came up. Looks like I am going to dig up some research material for him on this class on symbols and dreams.






Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What books are Divinely Inspired?

What books are Divinely inspired?  Divine inspiration means "God breathed" - that is, they are the spoken words of God.  The phrase comes from the following verse:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 2:3)
So, how do we know which books of the Bible, and which books outside of the Bible, are Divinely inspired?    This is a question which bugged me early on.  I wanted an explanation that made sense.  And Christian churches could not provide me an answer that satisfied me.  The following blog was the train of thought that I followed to form my final conclusions - thus far.  I started looking into this problem when I was 14, when I decided to actually open the Bible to find out if what the church was teaching is correct.  I advise everyone to do the same: check on what you are being taught, to see if it is true or not.

SCRIPTURE FROM CHURCH AUTHORITY?


According to the Catholic Church, scripture is defined by the books that the Catholic Church says are Divinely inspired.  But that argument isn't exactly helpful: the Catholic Church has a tendency to make up rules based on its authority from a supposed line of succession through the apostles to the present day church.  "Argument from authority" is a fallacious logical argument. And their argument is invalidated by the fact that they include a set of books known as the "Apocrypha" - additional books or additions to the Hebrew scripture that were added when the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek ca. 200 B.C.  This version is known as the Septuagint. These additions were not removed until Martin Luther removed them during the Protestant Reformation.  Despite this correction, most Christians will rely on "argument from authority" to determine what books are Divinely inspired.

THE JEWISH CANON

Lets go back to the earliest form of the canon, before the Catholic Church existed.  For the Old Testament, the Jews had three divisions: the Law (or Torah), the Prophets (or Nevi'im), and the Writings (Ketuvim).  These division are as follows:

The Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (the five books of Moses)
The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 12 minor prophets
The Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles

While the Law and the Prophets were probably canonized ca. 400 B.C., the Writings were not finalized some time in the first or second century A.D. - scholars differ on exact dates because records are sparse.  The first two divisions of Jewish division of scripture was recognized by Jesus in the following passages:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matt. 5:17)
For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Matt. 11:13)
On these two commandments [Love of God and Love of Neighbor] depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:40)
The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John (Luke 16:16)
They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them (Luke 16:29)
If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31)
Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27)
And also the following reference, although not from Jesus:
We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:45)
WHAT ABOUT THE WRITINGS?

As it would seem the books belonging to the writings were authorized later, their authority is more questionable.  However, Jesus quoted from the Psalms as scripture, and the following passage includes it as part of scripture:
These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44)
And, among the other books, Jesus referenced the book of Daniel as one of the prophets:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place... (Matt. 24:15)
This latter quote is interesting...it is showing some time later the book of Daniel was moved from the Prophets into the Writings.  That the book of Daniel belonged to the prophets as early as 332 B.C. is attested to by Josephus, when Alexander the Great entered the city of Jerusalem:
“. . . he [Alexander the Great] gave his hand to the high priest and, with the Jews running beside him, entered the city. Then he went up to the temple, where he sacrificed to God under the direction of the high priest, and showed due honor to the priests and to the high priest himself. And, when the book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated; and in his joy he dismissed the multitude for the time being, but on the following day he summoned them again and told them to ask for any gifts which they might desire. . .” (Antiquities XI 317)

Not only did the book of Daniel foretell the coming of Alexander the Great, but he also foretold the exact time when the Messiah would appear - which happens to be the year that Jesus was crucified.  Which I suspect was one of the reasons the Jews may have moved it from the Prophets into the Writings.

So, given this research, while Psalms and Daniel belongs to scripture...the authority of the other books of the Writings are open to question.  This is as far as I could get when it came to the Old Testament...except for one odd item...

THE LOST BOOK OF JASHER

I have examined several books outside the Old Testament, and one stands out: the book of Jasher, which is referenced in the Old Testament:

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? (Josh. 10:13)
Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher (2 Sam. 1:18)
As it so happens, the lost book of Jasher may still be extant - although portions have been added later by Jewish scribes.  Not only that, but Swedenborg may have foreseen the existence of this book as he describes it in his visions.  For the book of Jasher, see previous blog entry on this Hebrew work.  It would fit in nicely between Deuteronomy and Joshua.  Scholars provide a late date for this midrash, but I have found internal evidence indicating that portions of it is much more ancient.

THE NEW TESTAMENT

With the New Testament, as it was formed after the time of Jesus it is harder to determine what is truly Divinely inspired and what isn't.  The church followed a basic rule: if the book was written by an apostle of Jesus, or someone who was close to the oral tradition of the apostles, the book was made part of the New Testament. If it was historically accurate and reliable, it was included.  This excluded a lot of apocryphal gospels, which were written much later and tended to be more sensational and not historically accurate.  Some authors have stated that there was a "conspiracy" to exclude some of these books, but after examining them the church did a pretty good job of excluding the garbage.  The New Testament can be divided into the following books;

The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
The book of Acts
The letters of the apostles
The book of Revelation

I said before, the church excluded a lot of books that had a dubious author, or were written much later by heretical sects.  In the 19th century, German scholars subjected the four gospels to literary criticism, and discovered that these four gospels used a much older source: which became to be known as the "Q" document.


So what exactly is the "Q" document?  Q comes from a German word meaning "source".  And like "Q", no one knows much about it.  It is quirky.  This source document, unlike the gospels, included only the sayings of Jesus.  The gospels combined these sayings of Jesus with what he did, to form a history.  Luke, trying to be the honest historian, just lumps entire passages of the Q document right in the middle of his gospel, while Matthew intersperses it throughout his gospel.

To the delight of those German scholars, who unfortunately died before seeing verification of their theories, in 1945 a set of ancient scrolls were discovered in Egypt in Nag Hammadi -- and among the writings was the Gospel of Thomas. Unlike the four gospels, this gospel just includes sayings of Jesus..about 114 of them.  It begins with this statement:
These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.
Although short, there seems to be an inner mystical beauty to this gospel.  And evidence indicates that it is old. Some scholars place it between 50 A.D. and 100 A.D. -- and that is about the time the othe gospels were written.  It is written in Coptic, and after its discovery scholars realized that portions of it had been already recovered in some other small Greek fragments.  It is first attested to in the early 3rd century by Hippolytus of Rome:
"[The Naassenes] speak...of a nature which is both hidden and revealed at the same time and which they call the thought-for kingdom of heaven which is in a human being. They transmit a tradition concerning this in the Gospel entitled "According to Thomas," which states expressly, "The one who seeks me will find me in children of seven years and older, for there, hidden in the fourteenth aeon, I am revealed."
A hidden spiritual meaning in scripture? True or false?  Yes, there are hidden spiritual truths in scripture.  And... they are secret (hint...look to the left in this blog).  Unfortunately, the organized church suppressed this information...and classified all who believed in such a spiritual interpretation as "Gnostics."  Given, there were quite a few heretical beliefs among them.  Is the Gospel of Thomas canonical, should it be part of scripture?  I would have to say, ironically, I am a doubting Thomas on that one.  I do not know.



A PROBLEM WITH OUR NEW TESTAMENT

So, I thought the church did a pretty good job in filtering out spurious documents out of the New Testament...until I came to this little small letter that no one seems to notice, the book of Jude.  It contains this quote:
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 14-15)
Where did this quote come from?  Its nowhere in the Old Testament.  As I was researching this before there was a good internet, I soon came to discover that this quote is from the apocryphal book of Enoch.  Written between ca. 250-50 B.C., by different authors, it is one of the strangest apocryphal books I have seen.  It proposes, that before the Flood, extraterrestrial beings - called "angels" - visited our planet earth, mated with the women, and produced giant human beings.  In addition to this, it includes dubious astronomical information, and proposes an alternate calendar to the regular soli-lunar calendar used in scripture.  Portions of it are based on the book of Daniel, again evidence for an older authorship of that work.  It is regarded as canonical by the Ethiopic church.

Given the information from modern scholarship on this work, its late authorship, in no way should it be regarded as part of scripture.  Which eventually meant one thing for me: nor should the letter Jude be regarded as authoritative scripture.  If Jude is invalid, then what about the other letters?  What about this quotation by the apostle Paul:
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)
This is a quotation from the Greek philosopher Epimenides of the 7th century B.C.  Its one of his only surviving quotes, and is known as the "Epimenides paradox."  You see, Epimenides was a Cretan.  If he said "All Cretans are liars", was Epimenides lying or telling the truth?


So if the letters of Paul are Divinely inspired, what about this Greek philosopher?

A REVELATION CONCERNING DIVINE INSPIRATION

At that point, the problem of determining which books of the Bible were Divinely inspired was left unsolved. That was until I encountered the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.  His largest work - eight volumes or so - was entitled Heavenly Arcana, otherwise known as Arcana Coelestia, meaning, "Heavenly Secrets".  In it, he reveals how scripture which is Divinely inspired has a symbolic spiritual sense - an inner spiritual meaning - where each word and sometimes even the original letters have a symbolic meaning.  And not only is scripture symbolically written, but it is written in a particular order or series.  This he could easily see while his spiritual vision was opened, while reading the Bible.  And when this spiritual sense is opened, it is as if the inner psychology of the human soul is revealed, how our spiritual growth passes from one state to the next.  Some of these states cannot be known until they are experienced: but Swedenborg lays down the method by which it can be determined what books are Divinely inspired, where the literal meaning corresponds to a hidden spiritual meaning.

So what is the true canon of the Bible?  Swedenborg spells it out:
The Word of the Old Testament was of old called the Law and the Prophets. By the Law were meant all the histories, which are contained in the five Books of Moses, the Books of Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, and the Kings: by the Prophets, all the prophecies, which are those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and also the Psalms of David. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2606).
The books of the Word are all those which have an internal sense; and those which have not an internal sense are not the Word. The books of the Word in the Old Testament are the five books of Moses, the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of the Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah including the Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and in the New Testament the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; and the Apocalypse. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10325).
From the above, some of it was expected, but partly a surprise.  For the Old Testament, Swedenborg largely follows what were my own conclusions, and also includes the book of Lamentations which was written by Jeremiah the prophet.  The surprise?  None of the letters of the apostles are included.  Only the books of the New Testament which include the sayings of the Lord are Divinely inspired.

Some books among the Writings come close - some of their sayings are Divinely inspired, but as the books are not written in a series they are not inspired as a whole.  These include Job, Proverbs, and Song of Songs.

WHAT ABOUT THE LETTERS OF PAUL?

The letters of Paul: practically every sermon I have heard in church is based on the letters of Paul.  Old Testament is that big thick part of the book that is always ignored.  So what of these letters?  Swedenborg said the following in his private diary:
Paul indeed spoke from inspiration, but not in the same way as the prophets, to whom every single word was dictated but that his inspiration was that he received an influx, according to those things which were with him, which is quite a different inspiration, and has no conjunction with heaven by correspondences. (Spiritual Diary, n. 6062).
It was from Divine providence that the letters of Paul were included, so that those who were in falsity or evil should not profane the words of God:
That the Epistles of Paul have not an internal sense is known in the other life; but it is permitted that they may be in the Church, lest those who are of the Church should work evil to the Word of the Lord, in which is the internal sense. For if man lives ill, and yet believes in the holy Word, then he works evil to heaven; therefore the Epistles of Paul are permitted, and therefore Paul was not permitted to take one parable, not even a doctrine, from the Lord, and to expound and unfold it; but he took all things from himself. The Church, indeed, explains the Word of the Lord, but by means of the Epistles of Paul; for which reason also it everywhere departs from the good of charity, and accepts the truth of faith; which, however, the Lord has taught, but in such wise that the good of charity should be the all.  (Spiritual Diary, n. 4824)
In other words, the letters of Paul are similar in authority to the books of the Writings in the Old Testament.  Elsewhere, Swedenborg states that these letters were included as they are useful for doctrine and teaching the church.  So they still have their place, but with a lesser authority.  Thank goodness we don't have to solve that paradox problem!

WHAT ABOUT THE WRITINGS OF SWEDENBORG?

Swedenborg stated that he was directed by the Lord what to write, and did not draw any doctrine from any spirit or angel.  Does this mean his works, in themselves, are Divinely inspired?  No.  They are not written by symbolic correspondences.  They are explanatory doctrines.  Like the letters of Paul, there was a general spiritual influx on what Swedenborg should write about.  In many situations, the answer to a problem is not given directly, but a problem is given and we are asked to deliberate about it.  I would say that like Paul, Swedenborg was guided in what to write about.  But the writings themselves are not Divinely inspired.  Like doctrinal writings, they are explicit.  The words of God, by their very nature, are implicit.  You have to discover its meaning by an inner spiritual path.  That meaning is kept hidden from the many.  The works of Swedenborg are similar to the writings of Ellen G. White of the Seventh Day Adventist Church - doctrinal, but not belonging to scripture. I only write this section for Swedenborgians, as some may have been taught differently.