The New Philosophy Vol 108 No 3-4, July-December 2005
I will begin with a thought experiment. If I mention the years 1688 and then 1772, what do you then visualize? Between these we can put 1745, which is for many of us of special significance. If you think about it for a while, what comes then into your mind? I would guess that you imagine it like a line between 1688 and 1772, the line of life, or the thread of life. Perhaps this line bends and turns, and has a distinct angle at 1745? Am I right? My research on Swedenborg takes its departure from this kind of cognitive phenomenon, that we imagine something in terms of something else. For example “time” is like a line, “life” as a journey, “thinking” as a journey. This is the metaphorical mind. Metaphors have a crucial, central role in the human mind. In this human ability, perhaps no one has reached so far as Swedenborg. In this lecture I will present some of Swedenborg’s metaphors in his early science. The central metaphor is the metaphor of the machine.
In this essay, I explore correspondences between the natural and spiritual worlds in relation to concepts and measures of ecological science, especially those of species diversity and community structure in nature. This includes perspectives on variety and communities in the spiritual world as described in Swedenborg’s Writings for the New Church. First I will define diversity and variety as general terms, then as they compare to Swedenborg’s use of the terms, and finally in terms of ecological science. The discipline of correspondences is reviewed and dealt with, using diatoms (my favorite research organism), and paleoecology (the study of past ecosystems), as examples. Included is a survey of the specific uses of the study of correspondences as described in Swedenborg’s publications and the applicability of that study for philosophy and science courses. The theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) contain a new revelation for understanding God and our relationship with God; these teachings have been important in the establishment of the New Church (also known as the Swedenborgian Church). Swedenborg writes that there is an internal sense or spiritual meaning to Scripture that is not generally known.
We know that numbers are important in the natural world and particularly in understanding the natural world through science. From the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg we learn that numbers are important in a spiritual sense as well. From beginning to end, the Word (Bible) is filled with numbers, and one of its books is so named. Swedenborg explains the significance of these numbers in many of his works. In the Apocalypse Explained (§ 336) he says that numbers or measures denote the quantity of a thing in the natural sense and the quality of a thing in the spiritual sense. He also refers to the fact that numbers are used as a kind of language in the spiritual world, with each idea represented by a unique number, in a way that only those in the same heaven can understand (HH § 263; AC § 4495).