Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Between heaven and hell

"From all this it may appear, that man was so created that, while living amongst men in the world, he might at the same time live in heaven amongst angels, and contrariwise, so that heaven and the world might be together with man, and act as a one, and that men might know what passes in heaven, and angels what passes in the world; and that when men depart this life, they might pass thus from the Lord's kingdom on earth into His kingdom in the heavens, not as into another, but as into the same kingdom, in which they had been during their life in the body. But as man has become so corporeal, he has closed heaven against himself."

Emanuel Swedenborg, “Earths In Our Solar System Which Are Called Planets, and Earths In The Starry Heaven Their Inhabitants, And The Spirits And Angels There."

I read this rather short book for the most part during this trip. A striking and highly unusual piece of work, it bears comparison, in some ways, to Gurdjieff's Beelzebub, since, most unusually, it is a report of interplanetary travel, and the spiritual nature of beings in other parts of the universe. Since — as I have pointed out before — Gurdjieff would have been hard put, considering his interests and studies, to have avoided exposure to Swedenborg, one has to wonder whether this unique piece of work was one of the sources of inspiration for the form of Beelzebub, if not its content.

 Leaving aside the fact that Swedenborg, an accomplished scientist for any generation, comes up with a set of observations and reports that are so strikingly unusual one has to wonder whether he didn't, after all, get them in exactly the way he says he did, the book makes one statement after another regarding the nature of the cosmos and Being which echo things that Gurdjieff and other spiritual masters and traditions said.

 The book is available for free at the Project Gutenberg website.

What strikes me about the statement quoted at the beginning of this post is the way in which it describes mme. de Salzmann's practice of standing between, so eloquently described in The Reality of Being. Swedenborg's remark imparts a cosmological context to the aim of the practice, which is not often expounded upon. At the same time, those who have read The Next Attention will recognize both the practice and the taste of the cosmological aim; there is a unity of understanding and purpose underlying all of this material. Swedenborg, unlike the others, pulls back the curtains, something esotericists are generally very reluctant to do.  Perhaps their reluctance can be explained by another quote from Swedenborg:

“...for compelled faith, such as is the faith which enters by means of miracles, does not inhere, and would also be hurtful to those with whom faith may be implanted by means of the Word in a state without compulsion.”

The critical phrase here is "without compulsion." It turns on Swedenborg's inexorable understanding that a man can only come to faith through his own understanding, and that faith imparted by any other means is almost worthless. This is because it is our choice that makes the difference in terms of the inward direction we face in: and we are emphatically asked to face towards God through voluntary action.

The connection between this fundamental premise of Swedenborg's and de Salzmann's emphasis on voluntary inner action — as Gurdjieff described it, intentionality — are unmistakable. It's not the road to hell that is paved with good intentions — it's the road to heaven.

But those intentions must be inward ones, not outer.

Tellingly, Swedenborg said that "All the inhabitants or men of every earth, on the termination of their life in the world, become spirits, and remain near their own earth." 

Any close study of In Search of the Miraculous will reveal how close this is to Gurdjieff's explanation of the matter; and there is certainly a great deal worth pondering once one collects this material and tries to get the taste of it from an inward point of view.

May your soul be filled with light.


  1. Another fine post. As you know mme de salzmann does give a description of the astral body in 'the reality of being'...a kind of mesh (if i remember correctly) which accumulates the 'higher' energy/ies. In your experience and also in your wide reading have you come across accounts of this indispensable body? The third world which comes from 'on high' ('Life is real only then, when "I am"', p.173)?

  2. In other words 'the soul' or psyche which G claims we are definitely not born with...


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