We have chosen this approach because we have sensed an increasing doubt among us as to the value of studying Swedenborg’s philosophical works. After all, we are reminded that the establishment of the New Church depends not upon philosophic abstractions, but solely upon a life of love to the Lord and of genuine charity toward the neighbor. We can learn how to receive these heavenly gifts only by entering ever more deeply into the understanding of the spiritual truth now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrine. This is our primary responsibility; and the field to be explored is so vast that even a lifetime of reading and study seems all too short. Why, then, should we turn aside from this all- important duty to pore over the philosophical works which Swedenborg himself abandoned when he was called to serve as the instrument of the Lord’s second coming? Has not the Lord made available to us in the Writings His own Divine answers to those very same problems which Swedenborg vainly attempted to solve by human reason?
As educators we have a continuing interest in thought—our own and that of our students. Unless we have brought to it sustained and disciplined thinking, our presence in the classroom is an impertinence ; and unless our students find in the instruction offered a stimulus to thought, and a directed challenge to broaden the scope and increase the depth of their thinking, the work of education is not being done. So it seemed appropriate to attempt to bring together what the Writings have to say about the nature of thought and present it for your consideration. It is not likely that you will hear things you have never heard or read before; but there can be value in ordering under a single view many things which in themselves are quite well known. The educational implications will for the most part, and quite safely, be left to you, with confidence that they will be seen and brought out in the discussion that is to follow this address.
By an extraordinary series of circumstances a confirmation appears to have been found for one of Emanuel Swedenborg’s more unusual doctrines—that man’s life depends on his relationship to a hierarchy of spirits. Out of my professional role as a clinical psychologist in a state mental hospital and my own personal interest, I set out to describe as faithfully as possible mental patients’ experiences of hallucinations. A discovery four years ago helped me to get a relatively rich and consistent picture of the patients’ experience. Though I noticed similarities with Swedenborg’s description of the relationships of man to spirits it was only three years after all the major findings on hallucinations had been made that the striking similarity between what Twentieth-Century patients describe and Swedenborg’s Eighteenth-Century accounts became apparent to me. I then collected as many details as possible of his description. I found that Swedenborg’s system not only is an almost perfect fit with patients’ experiences, but, even more impressively, accounts for otherwise quite puzzling aspects of hallucinations. I will first describe how I worked and my findings, and then relate this to Swedenborg’s work.