Rational Scientific Theories from Theism


Can there be Permanent Spiritual Changes?

We may experience elevation, insights and ecstacies – even to the Infinite – but it does not seem to last: we always come down again to our selves. Are we changed?  Do Near-Death Experiences change us for the good? How do we grow with permanent effect?

Permanent spiritual growth, according to Swedenborg, comes from

Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom.

Spiritual Life in Us:

We have to conform ourselves to receive Love and Wisdom,
so that they can act again in us.

Method of Regeneration: the ‘bottom line’ of application:

Permanent spiritual growth occurs after you
freely resist temptation by means of truths.

Reasons for this

Permanent spiritual growth, according to Swedenborg, comes from

Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom.

      NOT from any one of the following things by itself:

        belief (faith),
        personal acceptance of vicarious atonement,
        knowledge, even of truths (wisdom),
        good intentions or love,
        elevated, expanded, rotated, vibrated (etc) consciousness,

      Swedenborg gives reasons for all these claims (see later).

Spiritual Life in Us

We have to conform ourselves to receive Love and Wisdom, so that they can act again in us.

Method of Regeneration

Permanent spiritual growth occurs after you
freely resist temptation by means of truths.

This is because:

  1. We receive love and wisdom when we act appropriately: not when we wait inertly.
  2. This is action from your will and your understanding.
  3. All our love and wisdom comes from the Source, but still we must act as if it is our own.
  4. If an action was not free, it would not be your act, and you would not experience any delight as your own, but forced upon you resentfully.
  5. These acts are your acts when it is your love and wisdom which freely act.
  6. Love and wisdom in us are what makes us conscious, and human.


Spiritual Love and Wisdom

Reminder about what is the spiritual?

The spiritual is the internal part of the mental, or, rather, the mental is the external part of the spiritual.

It is the states of love and wisdom within us: the love of what is good and the wisdom about what is true.

It is not any continuous transformation of our natural minds, but a discrete change.

Think of the innocent love of a young child (love & innocence of ignorance), along with the wisdom of an old person who is ‘young at heart’, and combine them to form love & innocence of wisdom. Now we have some idea of spiritual love and wisdom.

The spiritual is not equal to another dimension, or finer material, or elevated consciousness.

Rather, the spiritual is our own ‘internal human’ that is our life: the life of our will and of our understanding. The ‘external human’ consists of the cognitive and sensory minds, as well has the physical body.

Recognising the difference between internal insight and external knowledge is an essential preliminary step to spiritual growth (regeneration).

Stages of Spiritual Growth


Spiritual State (internal/esoteric)

State (external representation)

Initial state Prior to regeneration: no spiritual form without form and void
First state Knowing that the good and the true are something higher. light and darkness
Second state Distinguishing those spiritual things of the Source (internal man), from those of oneself (external) heavens and earth
Third state Acting from knowledge, not from the heart tender grass, tree bearing fruit
Fourth state Love and Insight begin in the internal sun and moon
Fifth state Actions to confirm oneself in truth and good: deep principles & rising thoughts whales of the sea, birds of the heavens
Sixth state Actions from insight, and hence from love: alive at last – ‘spiritual’ living soul, beast, ‘image of God’
Seventh state Actions from love, and hence from insight: ‘celestial’ day of rest;
‘likeness of God’

Knowledge of these spiritual processes may be esoteric, and hidden from the public, but it should be common knowledge. It should be part of any science of consciousness, not least for its practical applications.

Regeneration by Temptation

What is Temptation:

Temptation is the need for a decision on what to do, where we receive multiple loves pulling in different directions.

  • ‘Fighting Temptation’ is deciding to do one thing rather than another: to follow one love rather than another.

Everyone of us experiences temptations all the time: we have a continual influx of various prompting ideas & desires for what to do; along with a conscience which tells us which of these are good to follow. We can always reflect, using truths from our conscience, and look down on our desires as from above.

Influx of tempting ideas into the mind is not itself temptation, if the will is not attached to those ideas. (this is only ‘temptation of the understanding’)

These tempting ideas can let our imagination draw out our loves which would lead to temptations. (this often happens anyway!)

Temptations may be at the point of acting, or we may perceive ahead which of our (selfish) loves may lead to selfish actions, and deal with them in advance.

Examples of Temptation

  • Do we apologise to others, when we know we have made a mistake?
  • Do we do something just because it would enhance our reputation, or to be useful?
  • Do we earn acquire possessions for themselves, or to help others?
  • Do we willingly help others and be hospitable, or only grudgingly?
  • In general: ‘Do we live by the truths we know from conscience?’

Love and Freedom:

We find out what we love, by seeing what we do when we are free from external constraints & opinions. If we are not free, our loves (good or bad) are hidden, even from us. There is more freedom these days!  ‘Freely resist’ means that: it is our love which is deciding, and the decisions are ‘owned’ by us, so the results are part of our permanent spiritual nature.

Resisting by Means of Truths:

Resisting temptation for other reasons (eg convenience, reputation, laziness, misconceptions) does not lead to permanent spiritual growth.

Knowledge of spiritual truths is a necessary prerequisite for permanent growth of the spirit.

We need to know those truths which distinguish selfish loves from those unadulterated from the Source. That is, we must be able to recognise adultery!

Temporary elevation of the understanding is not permanent spiritual growth.

Temptations about temptation

In times of temptation, we may be tempted to believe one or more of the following:

  1. Temptations do not exist.
  2. Decisions do not have any permanent effect
  3. We can easily recover later from making a poor choice now.
  4. There is no basic difference between good and selfish loves, only belief or tradition.
  5. I am not strong enough to make a decision.
  6. I am erroneously claiming merit if I decide myself.
  7. I must wait, doing nothing, until I am inspired.
  8. I must wait, doing nothing, until God acts for me (saves me).

All wrong!

  • Recognising these errors is where wisdom is needed!

Where the Spiritual Comes From?

Quick Summary of the Basic Principles:

Love is the substance of all spiritual things, and wisdom their form.

The Divine God is the Source of all Love and Wisdom:

  • The Spiritual and Natural worlds are active only from that Source in God.
  • Love and Wisdom of the Source are what makes God Conscious, and Human.
  • We have to conform ourselves to receive these, so they can act again in us.
  • All permanent effects are from the joint action of love and wisdom.
  • The spiritual grows when it has a permanent foundation: acts ‘on earth’.

For wisdom to participate in any action, it must act from truth and reason.

  • That is, it must act by means of reasons and truths.
  • For wisdom to act with love, it must decide how to accomplish what is loved by consideration of truths by means of reasons.

Ten guidelines for what to do and what not to do

Remember: The spiritual life generates the outer actions, and
The natural actions contain and confirm the spiritual life


Spiritual Guideline

Corresponding Natural Guideline

1 No one is to be loved above all except God, nor anything except what comes from God. There is not to be any other God before my face.
2 Do not misuse what is from the Divine. You are not to take the name of Jehovah your God in vain.
3 Seek the final stage of regeneration: heavenly peace and protection. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.
4 Honour God, and the Church from the heavens. Honour your father and your mother.
5 Do not be angry or seek revenge against others, nor against the Divine. You are not to commit murder.
6 Do not adulterate the various kinds of good from the Divine, nor falsify truths. You are not to commit adultery.
7 Do not deprive others of their truths, nor God, for possessing these yourself. You are not to steal.
8. Do not deliberately persuade others that false ideas of faith are true and that evil ways of life are good, or that true ideas are false and good ways are evil. You are not to bear false witness against your neighbour.
9. Evil actions (any of the above) must not be done, nor even longed for. You are not to covet your neighbour's house
10 These commandments are not merely for the external man, but also for the internal. You are not to covet your neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant nor his maid-servant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbour's.

    In all cases, do not ... means do not actually, nor intend to, nor seek, nor long for, nor imagine it allowable, nor let in lie in our mind, ...
    Swedenborg tell us "Insofar as one shuns evils, so far does one will good actions."
    The ‘natural guideline’ refers to the straightforward consequence of the corresponding spiritual guideline.
    Keeping the external makes keeping the internal easier, as the outer contains the inner.
    Keeping the internal makes keeping the external easier, as the inner generates the outer.
    So there has to be some emphasis on both sides!

Duality and Nonduality

  • Some of us lean toward Eastern advaita philosophy, in which only the Divine is ultimately real and all else is eventually illusory, and dissolved into unreality.
  • Swedenborg explains, by contrast, how there is always something ‘fixed and permanent’ about natural actions which terminates and contains spiritual life. This explains how, after experiences of complete unity that appear to support advaita metaphysics, our individual life always returns. He provides a comprehensive framework of ‘discrete degrees and correspondences’ that always maintains dualist distinctions, while still explaining the details of the many interconnections that sustain the spiritual and natural worlds together.
  • Some distinctions are necessary for regeneration, so we must not apply nonduality indiscriminately:
    1. Knowledge of spiritual truths, as distinct from external appearances, is a necessary prerequisite for permanent growth of the spirit.
    2. The separation of ‘light’ from ‘darkness’ is the first stage of growth.
    3. We need to know those truths which distinguish selfish loves from those unadulterated from the Source. That is:
    4. We need to distinguish our own fragmented loves from those whole loves received from the Divine Source.
    5. We need to distinguish (a) love in the will, from (b) ideas in the understanding, from (c) actions in the body,
    6. And many others.
  • None of these differences are illusory, or end up dissolved into unreality, if we want to have permanent spiritual growth.

What Regeneration is NOT

Permanent spiritual growth, we saw according to Swedenborg, comes from Joint action of (good) love with (true) wisdom. NOT from any one of the following things by itself:

  • Belief: since this is just in the understanding, and does not change loves in the will.
  • Personal acceptance of vicarious atonement: this again does not mean we examine our lives and deal with temptations.
  • Blind obedience: obedience to truth is fruitful, but blind obedience has no input from wisdom in the understanding.
  • Knowledge, even of truths (wisdom): knowledge of what is true, even of what is good, is no use unless it is used to reform the will. It is ‘faith alone’ to think that only knowledge is efficacious.
  • Good intentions or love:love needs wisdom in order to act for good purposes. Good intentions ‘mean well’, but often stray through lack of insight, even lack of common sense.
  • Suffering: suffering by itself is something that happens to us, not something we do. There are many causes of suffering (natural and human); what is spiritually significant is how we respond to these. (See eg Matt. 15:17-20)
  • Elevated, expanded, rotated, vibrated (etc) consciousness: Expanding our consciousness even to the whole universe and over all time, or making it run fast or slow, does not show us what is spiritual, let alone help us regenerate our spiritual nature.
www.TheisticScience.org Author: Ian J. Thompson, Email: IanT at TheisticScience.org