Summary of Swedenborg's Spiritual Philosophy

"The Lord regards nothing else in a person but the person's aim or purpose. Whatever the thoughts and deeds may be, varying in countless ways, they are all good provided the purpose is good. But if the end in view is bad, they are all bad. . . . . A person's aim is his very life."
Emanuel Swedenborg: Arcana Caelestia, from paragraph 1317

"Every man as to his spirit is in some society - in a heavenly society if he is in the affection of good, but in an infernal society if he is in the lust of evil. Man does not know this while he is living in the world, but nevertheless as to his spirit he is in some society; otherwise he cannot live... If he is in an infernal society he can only be led out of it by the Lord according to the laws of His Divine Providence, one of which is that he must see that he is there, must desire to go out and must himself endeavour to do this of himself. This he can do while he is in the world, but not after death, for then he remains to eternity in the society in which he has placed himself while in the world. This is the reason why man is to examine himself, see and acknowledge his sins and repent, and afterwards persevere right on to the end of his life."

Emanuel Swedenborg: Divine Providence 278:6


It is well recognised and accepted today by people everywhere that life is multifaceted and very complex. There are no easy answers for coming to terms with who we really are, or with the purpose of our life, or with our various relationships, let alone the bigger questions concerning a Divine Being and the spiritual domain. What we can sense is that all these issues are interconnected and any degree of understanding will only come as the larger picture emerges.

The spiritual philosophy in Swedenborg's writings draws together the many and varied dimensions to life in a universal and wholistic way at both the micro and macro levels; universal in the sense that it has application for every individual in whatever circumstances they find themselves, wholistic through the drawing together of the many aspects in a way that each supports the other. The atom exists through a complex interrelationship of energy forces and the same pattern applies at the level of the human mind.
This summary is simply an outline of some of the basic concepts analysed by Swedenborg, each of which relate to the whole.


Divine Love and Wisdom continuously creating and maintaining what is created

The Divine Itself is the unity of love and wisdom. Whilst in reality one does not exist without the other, our intellectual mind sees them as distinct. Divine Love, being the very substance of creation, is invisible; Divine Wisdom, which gives form and direction to Divine Love, is visible in what is created. United Love and Wisdom is not static but a source of power which continually creates and sustains what it has created. The closest example that we have in this world is through the heat and light of the sun acting together and providing the power for sustaining natural life. The Divine is outside the constraints of space and time, which exist only in this natural realm, and our own reflecting on the Divine nature must recognise that this is so.


We are each a unique soul receiving and responding to the Divine Life which animates us.

We are finite spiritual beings born with a material body in order to function in this natural world. As a unique soul formed at the time of conception, we each continuously receive the Divine Life of Love and Wisdom enabling us to live as feeling and thinking beings. As the highest form in creation, we have the ability to reason and make choices about spiritual matters as if we had our own life. The true person - the spirit - is immortal and on discarding the material body we become fully conscious of the spiritual realm. The qualities of love and related intelligence - our ruling love - that we have made our own in this world remain with us and become the basis for our spiritual development to eternity.


We are constantly under positive and negative influences from the spiritual realm

As spiritual beings living in the worldly plane of existence, our internal minds are open to both positive and negative influences from spirits in the same way that our conscious minds are directly affected by our external circumstances. These influences - positive from spirits in heavenly states and negative from those in hellish states - are kept in equilibrium by the Lord to preserve our freedom. As part of the total mind processes, the spiritual influences filter into our consciousness and impinge on our choice processes. But we need to become aware of them, especially the subtle and persuasive hellish influences, and only take on board those influences for good in our decision making if we want to be in tune with the Divine to achieve lasting spiritual growth.


The Divine constantly works in every detail of life according to spiritual laws that look to our eternal welfare

Just as this world operates in accordance with natural, scientific, laws which apply consistently and coherently, so there are corresponding laws which govern all aspects of our spiritual life. These laws are the Divine Providence in action, which has for its end the eternal happiness of every person. The purpose of our existence here is to become sensitive to the Divine Will and act in ways that are harmonious with the laws of Providence. When we do live in accord with the Divine plan, as we understand it to be, our lives will be blessed ultimately, if not at once. Yet, even if we do act contrary to them, the Lord works untiringly giving us countless opportunities to return to the stream of Providence. In this world we always remain open to the possibility of misfortune but that will not be detrimental to our eternal welfare if we respond positively to these apparently adverse circumstances.


We cannot always choose what happens to us; we can choose how we respond to it

We are all creatures of our heredity and environment. The worldly life of most people is determined by circumstances outside of their own immediate control - the law, governments and social expectations all impinge. Nevertheless, our internal response to such circumstances is something over which we have total control.
The God-given gift of freedom to choose rationally how we will act and react in any given situation remains available to us at all times unless our mental capacity becomes impaired, at which time we are no longer responsible spiritually and our eternal welfare is protected by God.
All of these internal choices placed before us are character building and we gradually build up the type of person we want to become.


A purifying process which through an inner struggle to overcome selfish motives we can enjoy the peace
and joy of the Divine within

The whole purpose of our life in this realm of existence is to grow spiritually and achieve a transformation of our inner self - a lifetime of choices and change! We are born with inclinations towards selfishness - clearly displayed in early childhood behaviour - which if left to develop unchecked will eventually dominate our whole being and motivation. We can do something about it.
Temptations - the inner struggle of choosing between higher and lower motives - are very much part of the process even being something we should expect and welcome. Nature is full of examples of beauty and perfection coming through struggle; it is the same spiritually. We may only just begin the process here, but in doing so we will engage in dynamic and expanding awareness and growth patterns to eternity.


Through loving what is good and true and applying in life our understanding of it for the eternal welfare of others (Karmic principle)

All health and disease have spiritual origins. Bodily ill health often appears to result solely from external reasons but nothing in this material world exists which does not have a spiritual cause and connection. The spiritual plane is the plane of causes, the physical one is the plane of effects. Thus, all types of disease are caused by states of evil and falsity either coming from specific spiritual states within us or from the general causes of evil inflowing into the world.
Irrespective of our bodily condition, we are in a state of spiritual health when our mind or spirit is in the love of what is good and truth - those things which bring us lasting delight and thoughts we love to dwell on. If we are caught up in fear, worry, hatred, greed, lust for power, revenge, and so on we are in spiritual ill health.
Spiritual health automatically involves our own personal growth and a genuine concern for the welfare of others which, in turn, brings inner peace, humility and joy - spiritual riches beyond measure.


The Divine reveals Itself through the imagery of sacred scriptures and in the functioning of created forms

"God" has always provided communication with men and women both by divine revelation and through nature.
Without direct revelation we cannot know of, or acknowledge, the existence of a Divine Creator. Sacred scriptures, especially the Word, give us this knowledge even if rather obscurely at times until we accept them in a psychospiritual framework concerned with our inner world - spiritual truths contained symbolically within natural images and stories.
This relationship between the outer and inner worlds also applies to nature, being the result of the continuous divine creative process. The functioning and usefulness of each individual part reflects the love and wisdom of the Divine so that through an understanding of how the material world operates we can gain insights into the nature of the Divine.