Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Swedenborg So Far

I'm doing lots of house work today, like running the vacuum cleaner, concentrating on Tara's room (with her permission), so I have time to process some of this Swedenborg syllabus I've been plowing through.

Some contemporary authors like to bridge Emanuel's visionary writings to modern particle zoo physics, casting him as prescient regarding the quantum machinery of today. Ursula Groll, author of Swedenborg and New Paradigm Science (translated by Nicolas Goodrick-Clarke), falls into this category. Her approach to Swedenborg reminds me of Alex Gerber's to Bucky in his Wholeness: On Education, Buckminster Fuller and Tao (ISBN: 0963536710).

Quantum mechanics, many writers feel, rescues "consciousness" from mere epiphenomenalhood, from any second class status as a purely passive passenger "just along for the ride" vis-รก-vis some all-controlling roller coaster. They see in particle physics a way to fight fatalism in other words, and in a science-endorsed language.

I'm sympathetic to those wishing to break free from any such straitjacketing views and encourage them to do so. If Swedenborg helps with that, so much the better. And apparently he has helped many in this way, starting way back in his heyday.

Other authors focus on Swedenborg's historical matrix. He's firing booster rockets, trying to revector the Church, by reminding readers of the symbolic nature of the Book of Revelations.

Probably the designers of the Bible were acutely aware of their limited ability to see into the future, and in hopes of keeping their good book relevant, allowed in some of this highly imaginative material as a kind of psychological mirror for any age.

As Wittgenstein would later point out, the idea of a Final Judgment is orthogonal to our experience of A World in Time (like a soap opera). If we judge its Logic to be "shoddy," then that's really an eternally valid condemnation, as any later fix won't address the fact of a deep existential flaw on that particular day. Our experience of the world then wans accordingly, in light of this judgment.

Christians have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with power structures, given their Jewish roots in reaction against Egyptian and later Roman excesses. For the first few centuries, Christianity played the underdog against all odds, only later coming to inherit vast institutional powers of its own, after which turning point came whole new forms of temptation.

Swedenborg, having established his credentials as one of the cognoscenti, according to some of the strictest criteria of his day, then risks his reputation by talking to ghosts, who merely tell him what today we all know: that the Book of Revelations is meant to be used as a mirror for steering contemporary affairs, and that it works in this way because we read into it according to the aberrations of our day.

In other words, if you really think a literal dragon is going to show up and stage bloody orgies of lions literally eating little lambs for the benefit of some ruling mob idiocracy, think again (see: pp. 295-96 in Emanuel Swedenborg : Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason, 2002, by Enrst Benz and translated by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke).