Aliens are very popular these days.
Not that we’ve ever actually seen a real one. (No, I don’t go for all the UFO stuff.)
But just try to tell Hollywood that!
To judge by the movie releases, the galaxy is packed with aliens! And though Steven Spielberg’s endearing E.T. captured millions of hearts in the 1980s, aliens are usually bad guys. Alien vs. Predator (2004), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), Cowboys and Aliens (2011). The list goes on.
Today, in honor of the season, I bring you a new cosmic drama: Aliens vs. Advent!
The plot is rooted in thousands of years of debate over extraterrestrial life. In ancient Greek culture alone, philosophers such as Anaximander, Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus argued that there are infinite worlds, and therefore room for infinite races of intelligent beings on an infinite number of planets.
However, the more famous philosophers Plato and Aristotle argued that our earth is the unique center of the cosmos, and that earth-dwellers are the only race of intelligent beings in the universe.
Similar debates played out in other ancient cultures.
An expanding picture of the universe
Christianity quickly adopted the Aristotelian view that our earth is the center of the universe, and the only place where life exists. This was in accord with what the Bible said about God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. The Bible makes no mention of any living beings anywhere else. In fact, the very idea that there are other planets, let alone intelligent beings living on them, was suspect. What we know as the other planets in our solar system were thought to be a special type of wandering star.
And yet, the idea of other inhabited worlds continued to be a strong undercurrent in Western thought. A fascinating 1982 book by Steven J. Dick titled Plurality of Worlds The Extraterrestrial Life Debate from Democritus to Kant (which, unfortunately, is currently out of print) provides the history.
In the 1600s, when Christianity had long been established as the dominant religion throughout most of Europe, we started making telescopes and pointing them at the night sky. It quickly became obvious that those wandering stars were, in fact, other planets. As new discoveries came pouring in about just how vast the universe actually is, the belief that there must be intelligent life on other planets grew by leaps and bounds. Within a century, many scientists, philosophers, and ordinary people came to see it as almost a given that there are people on other planets.
This popular belief in alien races did not come only from the realization that there are many planets in the universe besides our own earth. It also came from Christian concepts of an infinitely powerful and creative God. Here’s how Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) put it in his book Other Planets (traditionally titled Earths in the Universe):
Anyone with a sound intellect can know from many considerations that there are numerous worlds with people on them. Rational thought leads to the conclusion that massive bodies such as the planets, some of which are larger than our own earth, are not empty masses created merely to wander aimlessly around the sun, and shine with their feeble light on one planet. No, they must have a much greater purpose than that. . . . What would one planet be to God, who is infinite, and for whom thousands, or even tens of thousands of planets, all full of inhabitants, would be such a trifling matter as to be almost nothing? (Other Planets #3–4)
In other words, if God is infinite and omnipotent, how could one paltry little planet possibly be sufficient to satisfy the infinite love, power, and creativity of God?
The conclusion seemed inescapable that such a great God would not stop at one planet, but would create millions of planets, all teeming with life. And the newfound vastness of the universe made it seem utterly preposterous that our small planet could be the only inhabited world.
In light of the immensity of the universe and the infinity of God, rationality dictated that there must be many advanced civilizations on many different planets.
Christians vs. Aliens
Unfortunately, this whole line of thinking was on a collision course with the traditional theology that was taught and accepted throughout the Christian world.
Here’s the problem:
Jesus Christ was born on our planet.
And according to the Christian theology that reigned in eighteenth century Europe, without a belief in Jesus Christ there could be no salvation.
Swedenborg was well aware of this issue. In Other Planets #161, he speaks of traveling to another planetary region in the spiritual world accompanied by a prominent (but unnamed) Christian clergyman. This preacher “absolutely could not believe that there were other worlds besides our own because while he was living on earth he had thought that the Lord [Jesus] was born only on our planet, and without the Lord no one could be saved.”
As narrow-minded as it may seem to many people today, to the vast bulk of eighteenth century Christians it seemed quite reasonable that only Christians could be saved. After all, Christian missionaries were traveling to all corners of the known world. If the “heathen” did not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, it was their own fault.
But this belief would become impossible if there were people on other planets. Unlike here on earth, people on other planets could not possibly know about or believe in Jesus Christ. They would all inevitably be damned to an eternity in hell. And that idea was intolerable because it flew in the face of the love and mercy of God, who provided a path to salvation for all people.
Because of this, traditional Christian theologians rejected the idea of other inhabited worlds, and clung tenaciously to their small Aristotelian universe in which our planet was the center of the universe and the only inhabited planet in God’s creation.
Today, of course, Christians take a much broader view.
Or do they?
Yes, the weight of scientific evidence has forced even most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians to abandon the ancient Biblical and Aristotelian conception of the universe as a rather small affair roughly the size of the earth’s orbit around the sun. A vast universe with trillions of stars in trillions of galaxies is troubling for their theology, but it is very hard to deny.
But these Christians do continue to deny that there is life on other planets. The same theology that caused the Christian church to deny extraterrestrial life in the eighteenth century drives these modern-day Christians to the same seemingly inescapable conclusion: Since Jesus Christ was born on our planet, and salvation is possible only through belief in Jesus Christ, there cannot be people on any other planet besides our own.
See for yourself. Search the Internet for “the Bible and extraterrestrial life.” You will find webpage after webpage in which fundamentalist and evangelical Christians argue strenuously that our planet is the only inhabited planet.
This is the cosmic drama of Aliens vs. Advent.
According to traditional Christian theology, the existence of extraterrestrial life is incompatible with the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was born on this planet and on no other.
Aliens vs. religion
A recent article by Damon Linker in The Week titled “Could religion survive contact with extraterrestrials?” suggests that given the vastness of space and the prohibitive expense of interstellar travel, it is highly unlikely that we will ever meet an alien in the flesh. Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists are probably safe in their alien-denying beliefs for the foreseeable future. However, as Linker also suggests, if we were to encounter extraterrestrials, the consequences for traditional Christianity would be devastating.
Yes, there is the thorny doctrinal issue of people from other planets not having access to salvation in Jesus Christ. Beyond that, it strains credulity to believe that our average planet orbiting an average star somewhere toward the edge of an average galaxy just happens to be the one planet in the entire universe where God chose to be born.
Hinduism would have no such problem. In Hinduism, God can take on a human form as often and in as many places as is needed for the spiritual life of humankind. God could be born multiple times on every single planet in the universe.
But in Christianity, the advent of the Lord is seen as an event unique in all time and space. Just as Christianity teaches that we humans live in a physical body only once, it also teaches that God was born as a human being only once—and Jesus Christ was that one time. In Biblical language, Jesus was “the only Son of God” (John 1:18; 3:16–18).
Swedenborg’s interplanetary error
These were the thorny issues that Swedenborg set out to solve in his famous or infamous book Other Planets. And though it still strains the brain, his solution is both powerful and not very flattering for us humans on earth.
But first, let’s deal with that pesky ol’ elephant that puts its big ol’ self right in the middle of the room whenever Swedenborg’s 1758 book about people on other planets comes up.
Here’s the problem: Swedenborg believed that every planet has people on it.
Today, that looks just a wee bit optimistic. Present-day science makes it clear that none of the other planets in our solar system is now or ever was capable of supporting complex life forms.
But way back in the eighteenth century, Swedenborg didn’t know that. He calmly described people living on every then-known planet in our solar system, from Mercury to Saturn, including Earth’s moon. (He also described the inhabitants of five planets in other solar systems.)
How could Swedenborg have been so wrong about every planet being inhabited? How could he describe people living on planets that we now know are uninhabited? And if he’s wrong about that, doesn’t it mean he’s probably wrong about a lot of other things, too?
This is exactly why some devout followers of Swedenborg’s theology continue to believe to this day that the other planets in our solar system are—or at least used to be—inhabited. And it’s why many of them don’t want to talk about the book Earths in the Universe.
Unfortunately, the belief that all of the planets in our solar system are inhabited flies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. I’ll put it plainly. Swedenborg was wrong about this. Our earth is the only habitable planet in our solar system. There are no people on the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn.
According to current science, no solar system is likely to have more than one or two habitable planets. Many solar systems will have no planets capable of supporting advanced forms of life. And some of the planets Swedenborg described as inhabited could not possibly support intelligent life.
For example, in Other Planets #167, Swedenborg says that the planet he is describing is very small, having a circumference of “five hundred German miles.” This equates to about 2,300 of our English miles. By comparison, the earth is 24,901 miles in circumference at the equator, and earth’s moon is about 6,786 miles in circumference. So the planet described by Swedenborg would be about 1/3 the size of the moon.
The problem is, a planet that small would not have enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere, or even to have liquid water on its surface. If the water didn’t freeze, it would boil away rapidly into space. Like our moon, such a small planet would be an airless wasteland, incapable of supporting life.
But Swedenborg didn’t know that. The knowledge of planetary mechanics was not very advanced in his day. Swedenborg described lakes, streams, fields, sheep, flowers, houses, men and women, and a relatively small sun beaming its rays down genially upon them all, blissfully unaware that this was completely impossible on a planet that small.
In short, Swedenborg’s belief that all planets are inhabited simply doesn’t fly in light of today’s greater scientific knowledge about how stars, solar systems, and planets work.
The science in Swedenborg’s writings
This bothers a lot of Swedenborg readers. Many of them wish Swedenborg had never written that book!
Does it bother me?
For one thing, I love science fiction, and especially stories about aliens. If nothing else, Other Planets can be read as Swedenborg’s contribution to the genre. It’s full of fascinating details about alien races!
When we were about to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon in the late 1960s, even at my young age I was just as excited as anyone at the possibility of finding people on the moon. When instead we found a barren world incapable of supporting life, it was a huge disappointment for many Swedenborg readers—and also very confusing, considering that Swedenborg had written about people living on the moon.
But there’s been plenty of time to think about it since then. My conclusion is that Swedenborg’s theological writings were never meant to tell us about science, technology, and the material world. They are meant to tell us about spiritual realities. Yes, Swedenborg was a brilliant scientist and philosopher in his day. But his knowledge of science was still limited by the era in which he lived.
I’ve also come to realize that the angels of any given era don’t know any more about science than the people living on earth at that time. Science is the study of material reality. Angels are living in the spiritual world. All of their information about science comes from people on earth.
The only science available to the angels that Swedenborg talked to was the science that existed on earth in Swedenborg’s day. And based on the science he knew, Swedenborg believed that uninhabited planets would be useless in God’s scheme of creation.
Today, we have a much more complex view of the universe. We now know that multiple generations of stars and planets are necessary to create the conditions necessary for habitable planets. Planets have a role to play in forming a universe capable of supporting life even if they themselves aren’t inhabited. For example, gas giants such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are vast chemical laboratories in which organic compounds are formed that can furnish the building blocks for life in future solar systems.
Due to the limitations of the science of his day, both Swedenborg and the angels and spirits he met in the spiritual world thought that certain races of spirits had come from the planets in our solar system. I believe that Swedenborg actually did meet the aliens he describes in Other Planets. It’s just that they didn’t come from the planets he thought they did.
So yes, Swedenborg was mistaken about the other planets in our solar system being inhabited. But it’s an understandable mistake. For more on what Swedenborg’s writings do and don’t tell us, see the article, “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?”
Attracting people who are curious
Unfortunately, the issue of Swedenborg saying that Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Earth’s moon are all inhabited has distracted many people from the real purpose of the book Other Planets.
Okay, it had at least two purposes.
One was to take a subject that fascinates millions of people, and use it as a hook to draw people into his theology. Swedenborg tips his hand on this one in Other Planets #124. After a discussion of the reality of angels, spirits, and the spiritual world, he continues:
What I have said so far, and what I am about to say, about angels and spirits is for those few people who have faith. However, so that other people may be drawn to at least some belief, I am allowed to talk about subjects that fascinate and attract people who are curious.
You can’t get much more direct than that!
If you read Other Planets, you’ll discover that once Swedenborg has gotten his readers hooked on fascinating details about the lives of real aliens, he manages to cover most of the major topics of his theology in the course of the book. If nothing else, Other Planets is a masterful piece of eighteenth century PR for Swedenborg’s theology!
Resolving the aliens vs. Christianity issue
But the other purpose of Other Planets goes deeper, and it is present throughout the book. That purpose is to resolve the issue of aliens vs. advent.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch.
First, in Swedenborg’s theology, the birth of God into our world as Jesus Christ is not merely a local phenomenon. Jesus Christ, in Swedenborg’s view, is the infinite human presence of God. As such, the Lord (as Swedenborg commonly calls Jesus Christ) is available not only to people of our planet, but to people of all planets. This is how he puts it in Other Planets #7:
Here is the general picture of how the inhabitants of other planets worship God: Those who do not worship idols all believe in the Lord as the only God. After all, they worship the Divine Being not as an invisible being, but as a visible one. This is because whenever the Divine Being appears to them it is in human form, which is the same way Abraham and others who lived long ago on our earth saw God. And everyone who worships the Divine Being in human form accepts the Lord.
In other words, when God became human as Jesus Christ on our planet, this made it possible for God to appear as a human being to the inhabitants of every other planet in the universe. In Swedenborg’s theology, the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s human presence throughout the universe. This means that anyone on any planet anywhere in the universe who believes in a human God is believing in the same Divine Being that we know here on earth as Jesus Christ.
Incidentally, Swedenborg’s definition of human is broad enough to include all beings everywhere who are sufficiently advanced and intelligent to have rationality and free will. In Swedenborg’s view, being human does not mean merely having a human-shaped body, but having the mental and spiritual capabilities that set us apart as human. And when Swedenborg says that God is human, it means especially that God is a being of infinite love, wisdom, understanding, and compassion.
This broad view of Jesus Christ as the human presence of God resolves the conflict between the existence of many inhabited worlds and the Christian belief that God was uniquely born as a baby on our earth two thousand years ago.
Why our planet?
There’s still one more pesky little problem to deal with.
Why our earth?
Why not one of the possibly millions or trillions of other inhabited planets in the universe?
Even I have to admit that this one strains credulity. It seems so fantastically unlikely that we would just happen to be the one planet in this unimaginably large universe where God chose to be born!
Swedenborg, however, doesn’t bat an eye.
He says there are many reasons, but confines himself to a few. Mostly to two.
First, he says, other planets have not developed written language or printing technology. God chose to be born here because we have had written language from ancient times—and written language is necessary for a permanent, written Word of God.
On other planets, revelation of spiritual knowledge happens mostly by angels talking to people—especially to preachers and heads of households, who pass it on to their audiences or their families. This spiritual knowledge does not spread beyond the local area, and it lasts only as long as the people who receive it are still alive.
On our earth, by contrast, we have the ability to write things down in permanent form. So here on our earth the story of God’s birth as Jesus Christ could be recorded, copied, and eventually published in print not only for all the people on this earth, but also, by way of the spiritual world, for the people of all the other inhabited planets in the universe. You see, there are books in heaven just as there are on earth.
Our lowlife planet
Why does our planet have written language and technology while other planets do not? This gets to the other, unflattering reason God chose to be born on our planet and not on any other.
It seems that the people of our planet are the lowest of the low among the many inhabited planets of the universe. Using the comparison of the human body, Swedenborg says that we are like the sensory organs of the skin. He even suggests elsewhere in his writings that we are like the skin on the bottom of the foot.
To put it bluntly, the people of our earth are the most materialistic, superficial, sense-oriented, and unspiritual people in the universe! That’s why we generally focus on material things such as science and technology instead of developing our spiritual character.
Oddly enough, according to Swedenborg our external focus is precisely why God chose to be born on our planet, and not any other planet in the universe.
Here, among the lowest, most superficial, materialistic, and worldly people, God could become complete right down to the lowest and most external parts of human existence and experience.
Any other planet would have been missing that most outward and external skin-like layer that we humans embody in our externally focused lives. And God wanted to be complete from the very center of the Divine Being right down to the skin, the rind, the outer husk of physical existence.
By being born as Jesus Christ in our lowest-of-the-low world, God was not only able to face and overcome all human evil from top to bottom, even in its most physically brutal forms, but also to become fully divine and fully human from top to bottom. Here on our earth, God could truly become “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13).
Our planet’s responsibility
Aliens vs. advent?
I don’t think so.
The advent of the Lord God Jesus Christ is the one event that ties together all the people of all the inhabited worlds in the universe. And we humans on earth hit the jackpot precisely because we are the lowest of the low.
The fact that Jesus was born on our planet doesn’t give us any bragging rights.
But it does give us a great responsibility.
We are the keepers of the written Word of God.
We are the keepers of the story of the birth of the God of the universe as an infant. We are the keepers of the story of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord God Jesus Christ.
It is our responsibility and our job not only to preserve that sacred story, but to spread it far and wide.
While we are living here in the world it is our job to spread the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection to the far corners of the earth.
And when we move on to the spiritual world it will be our job to spread the story of God becoming human to the far corners of the universe.
For further reading:
- Swedenborg’s Solution to the Fermi Paradox
- If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative & the Spiritual Aspirations of Atheists and Agnostics
- “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
- Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach
- Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg
Very interesting article Lee.
I have my own take on Swedenborg’s “Other Planets.”
I personally believe (but could be completely wrong!) that life DOES exist on the planets Swedenborg refers to. I reached this conclusion by realizing that our science exclusively studies material things.
How about spiritual energy and matter? Just as some psychics can see ‘beyond the veil’, I believe Swedenborg witnessed life on other planets that we can’t view.
I believe that there are different dimensions, and only by being attuned can we see dimensions outside our normal Earth materialism.
Sensitive people often report seeing ghosts, where others see nothing. Science of course falls into the latter grouping.
Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the article.
The idea that the people Swedenborg describes on other planets exist on another dimension where we can’t see them is one of the theories that various Swedenborg readers have come up with over the years in order to make sense of what he wrote in that book. I’m sympathetic to such efforts. There seems to be a human urge to want our solar system to be well-populated. Swedenborg is not the only one to have spoken about inhabitants of the other planets in our solar system. Not long ago I watched a video in which a New Age spiritual teacher gave a very detailed description of a whole civilization living in underground caverns on Mars.
However, I find the new, more complex, and much vaster view of the universe discovered by modern science to be much more satisfying and much more reasonable than the rather small view of the universe that was still the reigning view in Swedenborg’s day, and that seems to still obtain in the minds of many who want the other planets in our solar system to be inhabited by humans like us.
To get specific about that particular theory, I did consider it years ago, but it just doesn’t square with too many of Swedenborg’s statements about human life, life on other planets, and also with what he did not say.
The biggest problem with it is that Swedenborg is very clear that for us to be complete and eternal beings, we require an initial physical life in the material world. This, he says, is why God created the material universe in the first place. If the people Swedenborg describes living on other planets were in some other, non-material realm, and could get their start toward angelhood without physical bodies, this would completely undo the whole reason for the existence of the physical universe as Swedenborg presents it.
I suppose there could be other material dimensions that are not perceptible to us. But this begins to blur the lines between science and science fiction. Some modern models of the universe do posit many dimensions. But as I understand it, all but the three ordinary spatial dimensions we perceive and live in are folded up into such tiny (subatomic) spaces that they do not provide enough room for life as we know it to exist in them.
And this leads to the question of, if the people on other planets lived in some other dimension, why didn’t Swedenborg say so? Everything he describes in Other Planets shouts out that he saw these people as living on the planets that we see, which have the characteristics that he knew them to have. For example, he mentions the absence of atmosphere on the moon and how that affects the physiology of the people there, and also the rings of Saturn and how they appear to the people living on that planet.
It seems clear enough that Swedenborg considered these people to be living in our solar system, on the planets that we see, right here in the three material, spatial dimensions that we occupy.
I just don’t see the justification or need for whole other material dimensions in which humanoid beings could live out their physical lives as the seedbed for heaven. Not when we now know that there is an incredibly vast universe out there with trillions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, providing countless possibilities for inhabited planets throughout the universe without resorting to theories that go well beyond both current science and what Swedenborg reported about the nature of life on other planets and the purpose of our brief time in the material world.
Of course, I could also be wrong. But to my mind, what I’ve outlined in this article does a better job of taking into account everything we know about the universe from present-day science, and everything Swedenborg said in his theological writings about the nature and purpose of the material universe, and about the people living on its habitable planets.
Thanks Lee for your detailed and thought-provoking reply.
There is this book called “Extraterrestrial Contact from Nolca,” published in 1967, of an extraterrestrial contact that started in 1920, which contains scientific information that was verified in later years. They said they dwelled underground on Venus and Mars, but originated from the solar system of Tau Ceti. In another completely separate contact (Howard Menger and Frank Stranges), they again said they lived underground in Venus.
An obscure and unknown book, the dialogue recorded is highly scientific and historical in nature. The odd thing is Swedenborg said those of Venus tended to specialize in the “memory of material things.” I think they regard Jesus as a “highly evolved master” and believe in reincarnation.
This happens over and over again, everyone declares fraud despite the evidence, and in reality the contactees get nothing but ridicule and financial loss.
If there were real scientific evidence for extraterrestrials, it would be all over the headlines.
As I’ve said to you elsewhere, I believe that “alien contactees” are seeing these things with their spiritual eyes, not their physical eyes. The belief in reincarnation is a dead giveaway that there are spirits involved. I feel sorry for the contactees, but their experiences are evidence of contact with spirits, not of contact with aliens.
The surface of Venus has such intense heat and pressure that probes sent down there generally haven’t lasted more than an hour or two. The idea that interstellar travelers would make a home on Venus, even underground, strains credulity.
Mars would be a better possibility. But we’ve mapped the surfaces of both planets fairly thoroughly. If intelligent beings were active there, some evidence of that would have been found by those mapping projects.
I can’t accept the notion that there’s some vast conspiracy by NASA, the U.S. government, and every other space agency and government in the world to keep the knowledge of aliens from the public. Any space agency would jump at the chance to be the first to report real evidence of extraterrestrial life. They would thereby earn themselves a permanent place in the history books.
There is no good reason to keep such knowledge from the public.
Besides, governments aren’t that competent. They’ve made a mess of just about everything else they’ve done. It’s not believable that suppressing the knowledge of UFOs and alien contact is the one thing government is highly effective at doing. 😛
Sorry, I just don’t buy it.
Oh, and the Jesus as “highly evolved master” thing is another dead giveaway that these are not real aliens. Do intelligent beings who have presumably lived on other planets for thousands of years, and developed their own beliefs, really go for modern Earth-brand New Age beliefs?
Neither the reincarnation thing nor the Jesus as evolved master thing squares with what Swedenborg reported about the people of other planets.
Swedenborg said that the people of other planets believe in the Lord as God, not as a highly evolved master.
And Swedenborg’s refutation of reincarnation is quite clear, as covered in my article on the subject:
The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation
No one is required to believe Swedenborg either. But one thing should be clear: these “alien contactee” reports about aliens and their beliefs do not support what Swedenborg wrote about the inhabitants of other planets.
Yes Lee, we will endlessly disagree on this. But to your point, they were in the headlines across the nation. See this short clip of a documentary of the UFO sightings from 1952 which was all over the press, after which the CIA and military decided to squash such stories in the U.S. media:
And here is a short video clip from 1952. According to the Air Force official explanation, these are “natural temperature inversions.” Even though they were caught on radar proving they were solid objects, and would constantly shift direction to evade approaching fighter jets:
The censorship continues to this day, but in other countries, such as China and Mexico, such stories still make headlines. The NSA recently said they “lost” all such UFO reports that they were supposed to disclose – before they had released them with many lines blacked out. Certain mass sightings they can’t keep out of the headlines, such as the Phoenix lights of Arizona, and I believe a similar mass sighting in St. Louis recently.
As for the view of Jesus, if another intelligent race came to this planet that is probably the first conclusion they will reach. As for the reincarnation belief, Swedenborg did encounter one race that had such a belief as well.
Yes, we will continue to disagree.
Old film and reports from the 1950s are not convincing. We have no way of determining what was going on, or even whether the footage is real footage and not some sort of re-creation or staged scenes.
I simply don’t believe that races technologically advanced enough to create space ships capable of interstellar travel would travel all the way here only to play cat-and-mouse games with U.S. fighter jets. Any species that advanced would have well-developed rational and intellectual capacities. They would not waste their time playing hard-to-get, but would make contact and initiate a dialog.
Plus, if the U.S. government were so successful at suppressing all evidence, why do these films keep showing up in very public places such as YouTube? The whole thing makes no sense.
But many people want to believe, and they’ll grasp at any quasi-scientific-sounding “evidence” that supports their desire to believe, while chalking up all doubt and counter-evidence to shady government conspiracies.
If there were real aliens visiting our planet, everyone would know about it. Heck, they can’t even keep their “secret” program of monitoring the phone calls of all Americans secret. There is no way they could keep a story as explosive as alien contact that secret for so long.
This is a psychological and spiritual issue. Now that we’re capable of making spaceships, we see spaceships everywhere.
Does that mean all that old footage of man landing on the moon is highly questionable too, as so many believe it to be? After all, ‘We have no way of determining what was going on, or even whether the footage is real footage and not some sort of re-creation or staged scenes.’ 😉
No, the footage from the Apollo missions is well documented, and corroborated by scientists around the world. The U.S., Russia, and China have all put landers on the moon. The information gathered is mutually corroborating, and also accords with earth-based observations of conditions on the moon.
Plus, scientists around the world with access to the proper equipment can confirm that we’ve been to the moon by bouncing a laser beam off the retroreflectors we’ve placed on its surface, and receiving and measuring the reflected signal. You can read about it here:
Lunar Laser Ranging experiment
We’ve also taken photographs very recently of Apollo landing sites from over 40 years ago. The lander base and other equipment are still there. See, for example:
Apollo 11 Moon Landing Site Seen in Unprecedented Detail
And if you can suspend disbelief based on NASA conspiracy theories, 😛 here’s a page with additional recent photos of Apollo landing sites:
Apollo Landing Sites Revisited
You can not only see the equipment we left behind, but the tracks made by rovers and astronauts.
I never said I disbelieved.
But the rampant collage of conspiracy theories, and the evidence they offer up, can be an entertaining read from time to time. Some of it can actually make you stop and ponder for a bit!
What those theories do for me is to confirm something Swedenborg said over two centuries ago: People can believe anything they want to believe, and convince themselves of it so firmly that to them it seems like the solidest of truth, even though it is pure fallacy, fantasy, and illusion.
I don’t spend a lot of time reading UFO literature and conspiracy theories. But every time someone points me to something that’s “the real stuff,” it looks just as flimsy as ever.
And I bet some young talent can just as easily make those photos of a bad skin condition look just as authentic with a bit of Photoshopping! ;-p
Of course, the conspiracy theorists think that all the NASA photos and video footage are fakes produced in studios.
However, as stupid as the things governments do often are, usually they’re easily explained by a desire for money and power on the part of politicians and corporations.
How is anyone making any money or gaining any power by engaging in a highly sophisticated worldwide effort, spanning multiple governments that are commonly at war with one another, or at least in competition with one another, in order to create convincing photos and other fake evidence of moon landings that never really happened?
Once again, the conspiracy theories make no sense.
The whole UFO phenomenon is a case of people badly wanting to believe something, and therefore seeing what they want to see everywhere they look.
If you keep focusing on a particular idea, no matter how ludicrous, and keep it front-and-center in your mind all the time, eventually you’ll come to fully believe it even if to an objective outside observer it’s the silliest idea ever.
Where did Swedenborg write about an alien race that believed in reincarnation?
I just read Other Planets from cover to cover, and there is no mention of any such race there, nor is it mentioned in the section of Secrets of Heaven in which Swedenborg described a race that he did not include in Other Planets.
It would have to be somewhere in Spiritual Experiences, but I’m not aware of any such passage, nor do the various Swedenborg lookup tools come up with one.
What he does say is that some of the ancient philosophers on this earth (such as Cicero) believed in reincarnation. But that’s common knowledge.
As for these UFO sightings confirming what Swedenborg wrote about extraterrestrials:
Swedenborg said that our planet was the only one that had developed high technology. If even a single spaceship from another planet shows up, it would prove that Swedenborg was wrong.
And according to Swedenborg, races from other planets commonly worship God in human form, and very quickly accept the idea that God was born as a human being on our planet when they hear about it. If, instead, alien races think of Jesus as an “advanced master,” this, too, contradicts what Swedenborg wrote about the beliefs of people on other planets.
But it does sound a lot like modern New Age beliefs.
I’ve read some of your articles attempting to show how various reports of extraterrestrials corroborate what Swedenborg wrote. Unfortunately, there are huge holes in them, and major contradictions between those reports and what Swedenborg actually wrote.
None of it is convincing.
Not from a scientific point of view.
And not from the point of view of Swedenborg’s theology and his descriptions of extraterrestrial races and their lives and beliefs.
What the extraterrestrial sightings are characterized by is a pattern of mirroring our 20th and 21st century fears or dreams about extraterrestrial life. They are projections of our own modern angst and aspirations onto the skies in the space age.
Superstitious people in the Middle Ages used to see all sorts of signs in the stars and planets. Today we see the same signs in flashes of light in the sky that we interpret as alien spacecraft.
If and when real scientific evidence of aliens show up, there will be no mistaking it. That’s because it will be an actual, physical occurrence, not a projection of the hopes and fears of millions of people who truly want to believe that we’re not alone in the universe.
But I don’t think such evidence will ever show up. That’s not because it’s being suppressed by government, but because of the likely extreme rarity of species developing sufficiently advanced technology to engage in interstellar travel, and the vast spaces that would have to be crossed.
In fact, I think the vast distances between inhabited planets in the universe are a protection, under divine providence, against materialistic societies such as ours making it to other inhabited planets and corrupting or destroying the people there.
Hypothetically, one would only need sufficient technology to identify and reach a wormhole. Dimensional travel through it, and the vast distances and time covered, are but mere theoretical instances.
If approached correctly, efficient use of inherent properties in the fabric of the space time continuum would provide substitution for technology to physically travel the same distances under one’s own power, and thereby achieve much greater results.
And that technology is not too far in our distant future, from a ‘civilization growth in a technical era’ point of view. Not this year, or even this century, but not too far away….
Perhaps. But those modes of travel still remain science fiction. The idea that we can travel intact through a wormhole is probably wishful thinking. And I suspect that warping space and time to achieve faster-than-light travel would take prohibitive amounts of energy to accomplish, if it’s possible at all.
Unfortunately, if these things are ever achieved, you and I will most likely not be around to see them.
Meanwhile, once again, I prefer to draw conclusions based on what we do know rather than based on what we do not know.
Well, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL is already producing the stuff of science fiction, antimatter, in the form of antiprotons.
However, our current level of technology limits our ability to produce enough and make effective use of it one created.
So we are on the path, but the journey ahead is long indeed!
Yes, indeed! From what we can tell so far, there is no end to the journey. Only stops along the way. And even if we do settle in one place, the inner journey of the mind and spirit never ends.
I think I’ve found the passage you’re likely referring to about Swedenborg encountering a race that believed in reincarnation–although that’s not actually what it says. Here it is, in the Revised Standard Edition translation, in the chapter about “A Third Earth in the Starry Heaven”:
The belief that some of them held while still living on their planet was that the human soul existed from eternity. This does not necessarily mean that they believed in reincarnation. Only that they believed that the soul pre-exists the body. This would allow for reincarnation, but does not require it. The soul could simply be disembodied until it is infused into the body at conception. And since no mention is made of a belief in reincarnation on the part of these spirits, saying that they believed in reincarnation would be jumping to conclusions.
If you were thinking of a different passage, please let me know.
Yes Lee, Earths in the Universe #149 is the passage concerning reincarnation among extraterrestrials. It does not mention it explicitly, but as you pointed out, that they believe in souls existing from eternity, who then “infuse” themselves into the body at conception. These two concepts are almost always mentioned in the context of reincarnation. So although it does not mention it there, he does talk about it more extensively in another passage concerning the origin of the soul with those who were philosophers among the Christian world:
“[one said] “Souls sprang into existence when the ether gathered itself together from that great chaos, and then in the highest region divided itself into innumerable individual forms, which infuse themselves into men while they begin to think from the purer air; and these are then called souls.” Hearing this another said, “I grant that the individual forms, formed from the ether in the upper region, were innumerable; but still the men born since the creation of the world have exceeded their number; how then could those ethereal forms suffice? Wherefore I have thought with myself that the souls which go out of the mouth of men when they die return to the same after some thousands of years, and enter into and pass a life similar to the former; that many wise men believe in such things and metempsychosis, is well known.”” (True Christian Religion, #79)
So in this passage, reincarnation is mentioned alongside the souls existing from eternity. Moreover, I think the same word is used: the souls “infuse” themselves into the body at conception. So when one thinks of the problem, of the population multiplying and increasing, beginning with a finite number from eternity, the answer is typically reincarnation.
So other than that, other points in common between reported contacts and Swedenborg – they tend to communicate non-verbally, using telepathy or channeling to overcome the vast distances. Another is war is very foreign to them. They consider us violent and dangerous, and would rather keep us under “quarantine.”
Yes, it’s the same Latin root word for “infused” at both True Christianity #79 and Earths in the Universe #149.
However, even in TC 79 there are two different philosophers, one of whom says that souls came from the ether when the great chaos formed a ball, and the other of whom gives it as his opinion that there were not enough of these souls formed for all the bodies that later came into existence, so that there must be reincarnation.
In other words, believing that souls were pre-created does not necessarily require a belief in reincarnation. Reincarnation is required only if we think that there weren’t enough souls generated to supply all of the physical bodies.
Of course, this whole discussion is based on the idea that souls are material, and formed of the “ether” that was previously believed to exist as the medium of light, magnetism, and perhaps gravity. Even in that conception of the soul there’s no logical reason that enough souls couldn’t have been formed to supply all the physical bodies that came into existence. And if, instead, we think of the soul as spiritual rather than physical, then it makes even less sense, since spirit has a far greater variety of forms than matter does. So if anything, there would be too many souls for the available bodies.
I would also point out that these philosophers did not believe that souls existed from eternity, as did some of the inhabitants of the third planet in the starry heavens, but rather that they had been formed at an earlier time in the development of the universe.
Further, the first of the two philosophers did not place the infusion of the soul into the body at conception as some of the inhabitants of that planet did, but rather “when people begin to think on a level that is purer than air,” thus at some time after conception, and probably some time well after birth.
Of course, just after the part you quote, Swedenborg dismisses the entire preceding philosophical debate as mere conjecture.
Now about the belief of some of the inhabitants of the third planet in the starry heavens, I looked up the parallel passages in Secrets of Heaven and Spiritual Experiences. The version in Secrets of Heaven is almost identical to the version in Earths in the Universe, only specifying that these people are referring to their own souls.
However, the one in Spiritual Experiences makes it very clear that they are not referring to a belief in reincarnation. Here it is:
Far from believing that they had been born many times, these people did not want to believe that they had been born at all. Their idea was that they were eternal spirits, and not bodies at all. This is in line with the description of them in Earths in the Universe #148, which says:
Swedenborg goes on to say in #149 that because of their aversion to physical and bodily things, they appear to other spirits not in human form, but:
For the inhabitants of that planet to think that their souls had gone through multiple bodies would be pure torture. They are, in fact, about as far from believing in reincarnation as it is possible to get.
What did Jesus mean when he said, “I have sheep from many pastures?…”
Other planets? Many sheep…many pastures (planets?) Other people/beings…
I struggle with the view, also, that God is vindictive and controlling. It seems we were created to be like ‘lab animals’….(God created us with rational thought and feelings, yet He ‘set up’ rules and regulations to see if we can ‘make it’)….”Let us see if they can find Heaven (the block of cheese) by obeying all of My Commandments (which is practically inhuman to accomplish) by traveling through the travails and mysteries of life…”
Set-Up: We are commanded never to lie. What happens if lying saves someone’s life? (Thou Shalt Not Kill) oh…. but what about war?
I am in a sour mood about religion
Thanks for your thoughts–even if they are a glass of under-sugared lemonade! 😛
The very same saying of Jesus comes to my mind when I think about Christianity in relation to people living on other planets.
As for the rest of your thoughts, they are questions big enough for entire articles all to themselves!
My view is that we are not lab rats racing for the cheese because we, as human beings, have freedom and rationality, and the ability to decide for ourselves whether we will or will not follow God’s plan, and if we do, just how we will follow God’s plan.
God’s plan is not a single, set path that we must follow to the letter, but a complex, multi-faceted, open-ended process of spiritual rebirth and growth. For more on this, see the article:
Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
About the commandments, they certainly do require us to use our thinking minds in order to apply them intelligently and compassionately to the complex situations of life.
In particular, the commandment against lying actually says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” It applies especially to making false statements in order to harm or defraud people, or to avoid responsibility for one’s own actions–and especially in a court of law.
But if you’re walking down the street one day and see a terrified person run by, and fifteen seconds later an angry person brandishing a gun comes running up and demands, “Which way did they go!” are you really required to direct a potential murderer toward the victim’s whereabouts? I don’t think so!
Of course…I agree. I think part of the problem is that I work as a home health aide, and this requires a good deal of money from paying customers, who because they have money are 99% Republicans who hate ‘lazy people’….and have the Ten Commandments in their homes in different formats. I get bogged down by their attitudes. I think I had better give it up for the day…in a really bad mood. I will read the hyperlink message from you…soon.
Good idea. Give yourself a break. It sounds like you need it! That article can wait. 🙂
I will only add that “Christians” who spend their time criticizing and looking down upon others in comparison with themselves are somewhat, shall we say, unChristian in that regard?
Recently there has been a softening of the Catholic Church, the Vatican seems to be opening up a bit about this. Two Vatican astronomers say they are willing to baptize an extraterrestrial. The Vatican owns its own astronomical observatory in Arizona searching for extraterrestrial life. And the chief Vatican exorcist says that they do indeed exists, and should not be confused with demons. Which unfortunately, many fundamentalists do, and are unable to distinguish between the two due to their ignorance.
Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, the Catholic Church has a history of adapting itself to current scientific thinking when it can no longer resist it.
The article I mentioned by Damon Linker mentions the book you’re referring to, authored by the two Vatican astronomers. It has a catchy title:
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?: . . . and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory
The other book Linker refers to is more serious, and apparently written from a more secular perspective, even if it does deal with the beliefs of various religions:
Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?
Needless to say, fundamentalist Christianity is one of the religions that would be devastated by undeniable evidence of life on other planets–especially if that evidence came in the form of aliens visiting us and taking up residence with us here on earth. I think it would be very difficult for conservative Christians to maintain their particular theology in the face of such an event.
However, as I said in the article, I also agree with Damon Linker that “it’s extremely unlikely that humanity will ever make contact with intelligent life from another planet.”
Ooh, I was just waiting for this article – Those poor monkeys’ ears must have been afire!
OK, where to start?
Quite simply put, I can easily liken Swedenborg’s concept, or vision, of inhabitants on our uninhabitable planets to your tennis-playing angels. True, the science of Swedenborg’s day was limited compared to today, and his limited knowledge of planetary physical life-supporting capabilities renders his portrayal of life as we know it an impossibility by today’s scientific definitions.
But, why wouldn’t Swedenborg’s perception of physical life on planets of our own system, which are known to be incapable of supporting life, be any different from the material-based argument I presented to you previously? Could he not have simply ‘perceived’ life in spiritual reality to be the same as physical reality? Could not the physical attributes he applied in his presentation simply be those of a spiritual reality, boxed up neatly with a bow, based upon his own limited scientific knowledge at the time?
I’m not using dimensional reality as a foundation, as Craig mentioned above, but rather simply a perceived spiritual reality versus a material one, using Swedenborg’s own defined presentation of afterlife as basis. A spiritual reality every bit as physical as a material reality.
Now, to approach this from a more mind-bending angle, let’s be clear on something: God did not pen the laws of science, physics and mathematics any more than he did the scriptures of any religion, nor the canonical gospels of Christianity. Man did. Man created laws of science, physics and math to define and make sense of the world in which he exists, much the same way that man wrote scriptures and collated the perceived words of God to bring structure into a chaotic, structureless life and provide for sensible, righteous and civilized laws by which to abide and to govern one’s path in life.
However, man is fallible, whereas God, the most supreme being, supposedly is not. Though we continue to expound existing laws of science to further prove theories in our quest to expand our science-based knowledge, we erroneously expect the laws which we have created to define our own finite presence here on earth to also apply in our exploration and rationalization of the universe, as we perceive it. I would call that a very narrow-minded and error-prone approach. Our definition of life, and the requirements needed for the ability to sustain life, are purely based upon our own laws, which we, ourselves, have created.
It is ridiculously ignorant to consider that any other definition of life could not exist which does not fit within the structure of our own comprehensible parameters of science and physics. Our laws work for us because we have defined them based upon the material world in which we exist. I would certainly believe that inhabitants of any other alien world or realm would have created laws much the same way, albeit different in structure and definition, based upon their own existence. To think otherwise is quite naive and demonstrates one’s inability to think outside the box which we, ourselves, have created and apparently sealed tightly with multiple layers of Gorilla packing tape.
Now, if our scientific laws govern our own existence but not necessarily the existence of other beings or other worlds/realms, even within our own solar system, who’s to say that God did not present himself to any other world or realm in much the same way he presented himself to us on earth, as Jesus Christ? Not only would we have no knowledge of this (nor would the angels or our realm), it would be beyond our comprehension as well, since the entire concept does not fit into our definition of life and reality based upon our laws we have created. Our laws, our definition. Not God’s. God, in his infinite omnipotence, could certainly not only create other worlds dissimilar to our own, but also treat them similarly to our own without us having any ability to know or comprehend otherwise. Would he not?
Perhaps Swedenborg’s Other Planets is not necessarily the far-fetched Sci-Fi expression you interpret it to be. Of course, as you pointed out, it was a masterful PR campaign presentation to bring many more from the camps of uncertainty and doubt into his camp. And, even though he paved the road with the statement that Other Planets was for those who have faith, and for others looking for something to believe in, it in no way implies he was fabricating any of it any more than any of his other writings. If what he presented is what he believed to be true, based upon his ‘perceived’ experiences and his understanding of the universe at the time, it should hold the same credibility as your writings here, for which you have, for the most part, paved the road in the same fashion.
Even today, man’s mind is in mere infantile stages, with the most intelligent and intuitive of us using only a fraction of the grey matter we all have to work with. Our comprehension is not only defined by, but also limited by the scientific laws we have created. God, in theory, has no such boundaries, and therefore it should be no surprise that we could not fathom anything outside of our own definitions regardless of how far-reaching they may be.
So you’re the guy who’s to blame for the crazy idea of writing this article worming its way into my head?!? 😛
Nah, I’ve been contemplating these subjects for many years. It just had to await the opportune time to put some of them down in semi-organized fashion.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and reactions. You raise many big issues–more than I can do justice to in a reasonable amount of time. I’ll do my best to respond at least to some the main points.
Taking you a little too literally, I agree that God did not pen the laws of science, physics, and mathematics, in the sense that God did not write them down. We are the ones who do our best to write them down as we understand them.
However, I would say that God did create the laws of science, physics, and mathematics as they actually exist out there in the universe. What we humans do is to study the way the universe operates and extract from our studies and experience a formulation of the laws that seems to us best to describe the actual laws that are in operation in the universe.
To use the Bible comparison, yes, humans wrote it down. But that was in response to messages from, and experiences of, God, and experiences of life in this world and in the spiritual world. God provided the arena and the rules in which humans formed their partial and culturally influenced notions of how the arena and the rules work.
Based on this, I would call into question the idea that if we go somewhere else in the universe, different rules will apply. I would say, rather, that the same rules apply, but because of differences in the local topography, there will be endless variations in the particular forms of things. Even though other intelligent beings elsewhere may formulate and write down the laws differently, they will simply be different approximations of the same underlying laws.
I would suggest that the cosmological principle of physics is in operation in at least some form throughout both the physical and the spiritual universe. The laws are the same everywhere, but they allow for infinite variation in particular structures within that universal structure of reality.
Of course, it’s possible that God created more than one physical universe, and that different physical universes are structured and organized according to different laws. But since we happen to live in this universe, which, scientists believe, originated in a single Big Bang, and thus has the same initial parameters, or laws, governing the whole thing, I think that for all practical purposes we can assume that the same laws apply throughout the universe that is known to us.
And I would say that Swedenborg’s book Other Planets made similar assumptions about the uniformity of laws throughout the physical universe. Swedenborg saw the laws of the universe as originating in, and expressing the nature of, the infinite and eternal laws and structure of the Divine Being.
Meanwhile, the spiritual universe operates by its own set of laws, which are different from the laws of the physical universe if only for the simple fact that they are spiritual laws rather than physical laws. However, the same laws would apply everywhere in the spiritual universe. Those laws, too, allow for infinite variation in the particular structures, forms, and activities that can exist within that universe.
Well, I am conceited just enough to consider the notion of being one of your muses…. 😉
In context, I may agree (no, you’re not winning me that easily) that God created the arena, and perhaps the ball with which to play, in other words, the Universe, but man defined his own rules of the game. And each game, and the rules thereof, are different based upon structure and definition of life, cultures and derivatives of interests and and beliefs.
in some places man created and played the game of basketball. In others, football, golf or baseball. Each game is vastly different from the others, and the rules of play are equally different and hold different meanings. Yes, the fundamental structure(s) exist and may have been provided by a supreme being (or not – the jury is still out), but man devised his own game and rules by which to play. Suffice to say, the laws of science, physics and math you infer already exist by God’s creation, I would give credence to only so far as to debate that it is a journey into the ineffable, and that perception and interpretation are the only true core building blocks of any belief system, scientific or faith-based.
I think using the Cosmological Principle as a basis for example simply self-perpetuates the point I argued. The Cosmological Principal is fundamentally a notion, with a certain expectancy of behavior based upon perception. As long as we continue to perceive that laws of science and physics must apply to our known universe in order to make sense of the unknown universe, then this principle is appropriate.
But take, for example, the crazy notion that life can exist as a crystalline form rather than be carbon based and requiring some form of synthesis of an energy source to survive. This defies all known laws defining life, and yet, why is it not a possibility? Simply because we cannot make sense of it? In this example, life would exist, but in a different context, one we cannot currently, or may never, comprehend.
Who’s to say that, even within our known universe and the laws which we have defined and extrapolated to explain it, there does not exist many other realms of existence, each with their own defined and extrapolated laws completely different from ours in that, they too, only see the universe from their own perspective?
The universe, from our perspective, is still a material-based three dimensional world and therefore adheres to the defining laws which we have in place. Other realms of existence, in the same universe, may have a different perspective and therefore different laws by which they interpret it. From their perspective, nothing else would make sense either. They may perceive and define the physical mass of a planet to be something completely different, and not in a Monty Python kind of way. Time and space, as we define them, may have totally different definitions or interpretations, and their underlining principles may govern the existence of other realms operating within the same dimensional universe as ours, but at radically different levels that defy our logic.
Our theories of time travel, faster-than-light travel, and string theory itself all are founded in, and postulated by the existence and presence of matter. I believe you’ve stated in other postings that matter only exists because we perceive it to. Or in a more recent posting, that which we perceive to be solid is, indeed, nothing more than a reaction of attractive and repelling forces, which I agree with. And it is these forces, by our definition, which constitute the solidity or fluidity of matter.
You hit the nail on the head with your statement that you interpret Swedenborg made assumptions about the uniformity of laws throughout the physical universe. The key word is ‘assumptions’, akin to using the Cosmological Principle. Again, being limited to thinking only inside the box we created for ourselves. Even Swedenborg.
It all boils down to a matter of perspective. If anyone can imagine something so vastly different from what we know, it is considered science fiction by definition. Yet, it may be a definitive reality for others.
Thanks for your reply.
I suspect that the types of laws you are talking about and the types of laws I am talking about are two different animals. To use the example of the different sports, yes, each one has different rules. But they all obey the same laws of physics.
We humans can make up various civil and social laws that define what is culturally and socially right and wrong in our particular culture or society, and that set standards for how things are to be done in polite society according to our particular standards and traditions. However, we cannot determine what the laws of physics will be, nor can we determine the spiritual and divine laws by which the deeper levels of the universe operate. Those are set by God.
Though some of my statements in other posts may have been read as saying that matter exists only because we perceive it to, that was not the idea I was intending to convey. I do think of both physical matter and spiritual substance as existing independently of our consciousness. Having said that, there certainly are some very complex interactions between our consciousness and both physical and spiritual reality.
If, as I believe, reality does have an existence independent of our consciousness, then it is also important to make a distinction between reality as it actually exists in itself and reality as we perceive it to exist. While that distinction may not be quite as hard and fast as we once thought it was (some of the conclusions of quantum mechanics do blur the lines), there still is a distinction.
For example, if one society defines “gravity” as “bodies attract one another in proportion to their mass and in inverse proportion to the square of the distance between their centers,” while another society defines it as “stuff falls down when you drop it,” those differing definitions don’t change what actually happens. They only change the perception of it in those particular societies. The phenomenon itself is the same everywhere.
About other forms of life, such as crystalline forms or the ever-popular idea of silicon-based life forms (as compared to our carbon-based life here on earth), these are not necessarily ruled out by a universal set of laws that are true everywhere. Just as many different sports work with the same laws of physics, it’s certainly possible that many different forms of life could exist within the same laws of the physical and spiritual universe. Personally, I don’t know why that would be necessary, but then again, I’m not the one who designed the universe!
I’m not sure I’m completely grasping where you’re going with this part of your comment, but it does lead to an interesting avenue of thought in my mind that is more implied than made explicit in the article.
It does seem eminently reasonable that what Swedenborg would be able to experience in the spiritual world would be somewhat constrained by the level and nature of his experience of the material world. In fact, he himself said in some of his private correspondence that it was necessary for him to study all the known sciences and gain a solid grasp of the laws that govern the physical universe as a foundation for understanding what the Lord wanted to reveal to him about the spiritual world and the spiritual meaning of the Bible.
This means that like all writings made by human beings (including the Bible), there is a limit to what could be expressed in Swedenborg’s writings in human terms about the nature of spiritual and divine reality. He could only express what his mind had been formed to express by his experience in the material world.
However, this does not necessarily mean that “all truth is relative,” and that if Swedenborg had had a different experience of the material world, his writings would have expressed an entirely different spiritual reality as a result. That’s because this material world is not an arbitrary, separate creation from the spiritual world, but rather is a finely tuned expression on the material level of the spiritual realities and laws that exist on the spiritual level. So when we study and form a reasonably coherent and accurate picture of the material world, we are building the containers in our mind to be able to gain a reasonably coherent and accurate picture of the spiritual world.
This, I believe, is what happened with Swedenborg. His knowledge of science and the workings of the material world was remarkable and very encyclopedic for his age. He’s sometimes been called the last of the “Renaissance Men,” who were able to comprehend all the knowledge and wisdom that humanity had gathered up to that point (in the West, of course).
Still, his knowledge was not perfect, and it had its limits. In some areas his views of the cosmos were simply limited by the limits of scientific development. In other areas they were mistaken, as we’ve since learned. (See my article, “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?“)
About the subjects discussed in Other Planets in particular, I do believe that both the limits and the errors of his scientific thinking affected what he could hear from the angels and spirits he encountered in the other world. Since his mind was strongly predisposed to believe that all planets are inhabited, he would interpret what he heard on the basis of that. And I suspect that there was a certain amount of shaping of the details of what he encountered in various alien races to conform with what he knew about the moon and the other then-known planets in our solar system. This, I believe, is probably what accounts for some of the very specific statements he makes about particular features of various planets affecting the physiology and lives of the spirits that he believed came from those planets.
An interesting factoid about Other Planets is that although he mentions seeing the actual, physical planets of a few of the races he met (see, for example, Other Planets #134-135), none of these instances involved any of the planets in our solar system. I doubt it is coincidental that he did not see the physical conditions of any of the planets in our solar system. My speculation is that this would have made it too obvious that he had misidentified the planets, and that both his own mind and the spiritual atmosphere simply didn’t allow him to see something that would have brought him beyond what his mind was prepared to accept.
Once again, this does not necessarily mean that everything Swedenborg saw in the spiritual world was merely relative to his own experience. Though we humans do have particular, personal experiences, there are also universal human experiences. And Swedenborg was well-enough versed in universal human experience, and a broad range of variations within it, that he was prepared to see and understand the major realities of the spiritual world.
Another interesting factoid from Other Planets is that in some instances Swedenborg said that it took him many hours, and in one instance two full days, to go through the series of mental changes required to bring his mind into sufficient harmony with the mindset of the various alien races so that he could visit them in their planetary regions in the spiritual world and talk with them. This process of going through mental changes of state is the spiritual analog of our physical experience of traveling from one place to another. So according to Swedenborg’s descriptions, he was able, under the Lord’s guidance, to travel to “mental regions” that were not at all native to his own mind in order to experience alien cultures that were very different from the one he came from.
The monkeys in the ol’ brain are starting to go bananas, so I’ll just fling one o’ them bananas at one more thing:
Okay, this sounds like the ten percent of brain myth, which is a pet peeve of mine.
All areas of our brain, including all parts of the grey matter, are used quite regularly, if not constantly, throughout our lifetime. If that were not so, then the precise and rather merciless economies of nature would simply not allow for the overage to exist. It would be a waste of very valuable and expensive space in an highly efficient, densely populated, amazingly diversified, and precisely calibrated high-maintenance machine. There are no wasted organs or regions of the human body.
(I don’t go for the medical myth that the appendix is an unnecessary vestige of evolution. It has a function, and it is there for a reason. Same with the tonsils and various other parts of the body that we’re a little too quick to snip out at the drop of a hat. Just because we don’t understand the function a particular part of the body very well, that doesn’t mean it’s superfluous.)
Now when it comes to thinking, we may not make very efficient use of the cognitive centers of our brain. But we’re still using it all. We’re just making poor use of it.
Still, although I don’t accept the “fraction of the grey matter” myth, the bigger idea that it’s pointing to does hold true: There is far more learning and enlightenment available to us than we have so far grasped–so much so that what we know and understand compared to what we don’t know and don’t understand is like a single drop of water compared to the combined volume of all the oceans of the earth.
Just a little pet peevishness that you’re free to ignore at will. 😉
Yes, it was a reference to the ten percent of brain myth, a myth I also do not support. There is no question that the entire brain is used, just that certain aspects of its capability are not used as efficiently or as effectively as possible, barring lack of physical development, or handicap from birth, or as result of illness or trauma. But, the reference is good for driving home the point that far too few of us ‘think’ as well as we should 😉
The notion of superfluous body parts is a whole different animal. I do not profess to be any sort of medical specialist, and I wholeheartedly agree medical practice is too quick to remove things that may have a function, and certainly those which do, like tonsils or sinuses.
I can’t really comment on any possible function of the appendix except for its very small adjunct role of producing white blood cells, and to become a life-threatening organ once compromised. I feel comfortable accepting the possibility that it perhaps once had a role in our genetic makeup and no longer does, but that would be boldly strutting down the evolutionary path rather than the creationism path you choose to tread. And it’s your sandbox.
But since you support the creationism path, perhaps you’d care to enlighten me with regards to the superfluous remnant tail vertebrae, or coccyx, we have. Or that in some cases, some are born with an actual tail stub. I don’t think we, as humans, are ones to gleefully wag an appendage haphazardly in happiness without someone alerting authorities. Nor, as bipeds, do we have a use for something which, in a different environment, would otherwise provide additional balance and stability, or the capability to swing from while inverted.
Though, with the bad knees I have, I do see significant value in those three functions!!
It’s been a little too long since I did all my reading in anatomy and physiology, so I’m not going to go out on that particular limb! But at the time I did said reading, I satisfied myself that the organs usually deemed unnecessary and vestigial do have a function, even if not a function that is critical for continued life.
About the coccyx, I believe it is used for certain muscle and ligament attachments, or perhaps just as a structural support for some of the containing membranes of the lower abdominal cavity. But once again, I read up on that stuff decades ago, and the ol’ memory has refiled a lot of that material in the locked archives where the inactive materials are kept.
I do understand that some individuals are born with anomalous parts such as vestigial tails or webbed fingers and toes. But these are departures from the regular design of the human body. It is amazing, though, how similar structures are modified and repurposed in different species according to their particular form and function in the ecosystem.
Incidentally, “creationism” has become a technical term for the Christian literalist position that God created the universe as described in the first chapters of Genesis. That, of course, is not a position I subscribe to.
Thanks for your fascinating comments Richard. I wholeheartedly agree with you!
Glad you enjoy the discourse!
If I may add, the world in which we inhabit and exist is finite in nature, yet we strive to explore and define an infinite universe. It really is inconceivable to me, from a practical sense, that material laws we have created to define our existence would, or should, in any way apply as mandate to define that which we have yet to discover or unravel the mysteries thereof.
Though I also concur that we are probably in the ‘lowest of the low’ considering the vast and endless possibilities, I would disagree that other ‘higher’ worlds would exist without ability to document, preserve and present forth knowledge and historical accounts, whether they be scientific or faith based. The foundations of any civilization, from the lowest to the highest, would rely upon the ability to do so for its continued existence and growth as a society.
If Swedenborg saw other ‘human’ worlds without this ability, maybe what he really saw was indeed other worlds, but due to the limitations of his own science-based mind, he interpreted what he saw to be human when it was, in fact, not.
To be fair, Swedenborg described a grand total of twelve alien races in addition to our own (including one that he covered in Secrets of Heaven but left out of Other Planets). In such a vast universe that has potentially millions or trillions of distinct races living on as many different planets, thirteen races (including our own) is a very small sample from which to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions.
For example, I do find it very hard to believe that there is not a single other planet in the entire universe that has developed written language and high technology. Though I’m perfectly willing to accept that this may be unusual in the universe (hence an even remoter likelihood that we will ever encounter intelligent beings from other planets), it just seems a bit too far-fetched to think that no other planetary civilization has ever developed these things.
It might be a little more believable to think that we were the first to develop these things, and that God used the first opportunity in which the right conditions to “incarnate,” or be born in the flesh, occurred.
I have not studied current theories of the formation of the universe in sufficient detail to draw any solid conclusions. However, it does seem, based on our present knowledge of the subject, that generating planets capable of supporting advanced life forms involves immensely complex processes taking place over immensely large timescales. As I said in the article, it may take a few generations of stars forming and going through their entire life cycles before the basic building blocks required for life are available in sufficient quantities for life to develop on a planet. And I think the universe is still only a few generations of stars in–though I’d be willing to be corrected if I’m wrong on that.
Back to the point, the general picture Swedenborg presents is that the people of other planets are much more spiritually oriented than we are, and that they simply aren’t interested in mundane things like science and technology. They do have very subtle, precise, and sophisticated means of communication, many of which are non-verbal. But what they’re interested in communicating about is spiritual and moral issues, not the material issues that reign in the minds of the vast bulk of the population here on our planet.
And if we think that the material universe is complex and endless in the discoveries to be made and communicated to one another, the spiritual realm is exponentially more complex and endless in the knowledge, experience, and understanding to be gained and shared about it.
As a result of other planetary cultures’ focus on spiritual things rather than material things, they tend to live much more in the moment, and also in a much more local and tribal way than the vast bulk of civilized humanity on this earth. And yet, spiritually speaking they can develop to a very complex and sophisticated level. At least, they can by human conceptions of sophistication and complexity. Similar to your earlier comment, to God we are all still infants who have barely even begun to learn the basics.
I think it is difficult for us, in our technological society, to conceive of non-technological societies as being superior to our own. But from a spiritual perspective, that is precisely what Swedenborg says about the inhabitants of other worlds.
Doesn’t this still all boil down to perspective only coming from our first-person “human” point of view?
I suppose it boils down to how much you or I think we can trust the evidence brought to us by our senses, and reported by others based on their experience.
If we think that our experience and the experience of others is an unreliable source of information, and is likely deceiving us about the nature of the universe, then we really can’t draw any stable conclusions about anything.
Back to the cosmological principle, one of the assumptions behind it is that “the Universe is knowable and is playing fair with scientists.” If that assumption is incorrect, then everything is up for grabs, and we really can’t trust anything we “know.”
I prefer to think that although the information we receive from our senses and from experience may be partial and imperfect, it is possible to gain a reasonably reliable picture of what’s actually out there and how the universe operates.
And I prefer to think that although we may have some mistaken notions and faulty interpretations of the phenomena we experience, it is possible, through applying our minds and coordinating with the thinking and experiences of others, to move closer and closer to a genuine understanding both of the physical universe and of the spiritual universe.
When it comes to understanding the physical universe, I think the scientific method is a pretty good tool.
I don’t agree with all of the conclusions of scientists–especially when it comes to psychological things that are beyond the proper field of science.
I also think that whole branches of medical science have gone down a faulty and misleading track due to the influence of big money from big pharma. This introduces a profit motive into scientific research that distracts scientists and researchers from following the truth wherever it leads. They’re being paid by large corporations to come to conclusions that support the drug medical view of human health and disease. Therefore much of their research is of questionable value scientifically.
However, when it comes to the nature of the physical universe, I’m generally willing to accept that the community of scientists is uncovering real and reliable information about how the universe works, and that the scientific method we are employing to gain and interpret that information is leading us to a better understanding of cosmology.
What’s missing from science, of course, is the spiritual realm of existence. But as long as scientists don’t array themselves against spiritual reality, but stick to their own proper realm of study, which is physical reality, I don’t have a problem with that. From my perspective, the laws of the physical universe are based on and derived from spiritual laws. This means that the better we understand the physical laws of the universe, the better we can understand the spiritual laws of the universe if we apply our mind to that realm. This, at any rate, is how Swedenborg described his experience.
As for Swedenborg, the reason I rely so heavily on his knowledge of spiritual reality is that to my knowledge, he had the most experience in the spiritual realms of anyone who has lived in recent history. He therefore had time to get himself oriented there and investigate the nature of the spiritual world long enough and in enough detail to report reliable information about it.
This is unlike most people who experience the spiritual realms, almost all of whom have only brief experiences ranging from a few seconds to a few days. That’s just not long enough to get a good and comprehensive picture of the spiritual world–any more than a few seconds to a few days would be long enough for an American to get a good and comprehensive picture of the continent of Africa.
Back to my original point, I don’t think God is a whimsical trickster who plays a lot of magic tricks and hocus pocus in front of our eyes in order to confuse us and misdirect our attention into a faulty and unreliable picture of the universe. Rather, I think God has given us two sets of senses, physical and spiritual, and a thinking mind and perceiving heart that, together with the experience of our senses, enables us to gain a more and more accurate picture of the universe around us.
I am therefore skeptical of speculative theories about how reality might work based on what we don’t know. I prefer to build up a picture of reality based on what we do know.
If in the future we encounter experiences and information that require us to re-evaluate or abandon our former theories of reality, then we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. But that should be based on real experience and evidence, either physical or spiritual or both, not on mere speculation that maybe things are totally different than we think they are.
Apparently the monkeys weren’t finished typing! 😉
Those monkeys are slaves to the cause. Beware the ASPCA! 😉
And keep them away from the Gorilla tape! I don’t like being restricted to only thinking inside a man-made box!
The long comment below was originally written as a series of comments in response to a post on another blog. However, it has so far not appeared there. In order not to waste all of the time and energy I put into composing it, I’m posting it here instead.
Short version: present-day science does not support or allow for what Swedenborg said about the planet Mercury being inhabited, nor for Mercury to be inhabited at all, now or at any time in the past.
You say that Swedenborg was not given any surface information for Mercury, the Moon, Venus, or Mars. I would say, rather, that he gave very little surface information for these planets. Because he did give some information–and we can deduce more from the scant details he did provide.
You also say that scientifically the only problem with Swedenborg’s descriptions of life on other planets is related to his descriptions of the inhabitants and environment of Jupiter. But in fact, there are huge scientific problems with his descriptions of the inhabitants and environment of every single planet in our solar system (other than Earth, of course) that he describes as inhabited.
I’m now looking over what he wrote about Mercury in Earths in the Universe (EU), Arcana Coelestia (AC), and Spiritual Experiences (SE) (AKA The Spiritual Diary).
Here are some details related to their physical existence on their planet, keeping in mind that Swedenborg spoke with the spirits from the planet, not with the people living on the planet itself:
During their life in the material universe they had been clothed with a physical body, living on a physical planet, though they don’t like to think about it. (SE 1442) The inhabitants of Mercury prefer to think about ideas abstracted from material things.
They were familiar with earthly, surface environments such as meadows, fields, forests, gardens, and rivers, but also didn’t like to think about them (because they are material things). When presented with these things they blotted them out in their minds by filling them with snakes (another material thing) and turning the rivers black. (SE 1422, AC 7071, EU 32)
However, they didn’t mind thinking about birds, as long as their correspondence with thoughts and ideas was presented at the same time. (SE 1430, AC 7072, EU 33.
They didn’t like to think about sheep and lambs, because they didn’t know the meaning of innocence, which is what sheep and lambs correspond to. (SE 1442, AC 7073, EU 34)
They are also familiar with human-made things such as churches, palaces, houses, and streets, though they prefer to think only about what people said and did in those places, not about the physical places themselves. (SE 1416, AC 6809, EU 11)
With the exception of their knowing that they had lived in physical bodies on a physical planet, none of these observations necessarily means that the inhabitants of Mercury had all of these things on their planet; only that the spirits that came from their planet knew about them. But they do seem to discuss them as if they are ordinary occurrences. The implication is that the inhabitants of Mercury had things like these as well.
In addition to these, Swedenborg provides some direct physical descriptions of the bodies of the inhabitants of Mercury. They look similar to people from our earth, except generally slimmer. They wear close-fitting clothing without pleats and folds, and the women wear linen hats or head scarves. (SE 3262, AC 7175, EU 44)
They also have oxen and cows, similar to but smaller than the ones on our earth. (SE 3262, AC 7176, EU 44)
And speaking of technology, the inhabitants of Mercury do not have paper, printing, or a written language. (SE 3262-3263, AC 6930, EU 28)
Since the inhabitants of Mercury as Swedenborg describes them have bodies similar to ours, and there are other animals on that planet that have bodies similar to those of the animals on our earth, this would require all of the physical and environmental phenomena required to sustain those mammalian bodies. For oxen and cows, there would have to be fields for grazing. And since these are domesticated animals, presumably they would need some sort of enclosures to protect them from predators, and so on. Fields, in turn, must be situated on the surface of the planet, where they can receive sunlight and rain, and have soil to grow in.
The existence of linen cloth also implies the ability to grow flax, which would require a surface environment similar to that of Earth.
The people themselves would require food, a place to live, and so on. And since these Mercurians didn’t bat an eye at Swedenborg’s descriptions of human-made buildings, presumably such things were familiar to them, and they, too, lived in some sort of constructed dwellings on the surface of their planet. Swedenborg does describe the constructed dwellings of the inhabitants of some of the other planets. There’s no reason to think it would be any different on Mercury.
In short, though few details are given about the conditions under which Swedenborg’s Mercurians live on their planet, enough are given that we can conclude that they lived on the surface of the planet, in environments very similar to those on earth.
Swedenborg also makes general statements that the other planets have years, days, and seasons just as we do.
With regard to Mercury in particular, Swedenborg says that the people on the planet have a sun that appears larger than when seen from the other planets. However, they enjoy a moderate temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Swedenborg gives as a reason for this that the temperature at the surface of a planet does not depend on the nearness of the sun, but on the height and density of the atmosphere, and on the angle at which the sun’s rays hit the planet, as exemplified by the varying angles of the sun during the various seasons. (AC 7177, EU 45) All of this presumes that these inhabitants are living on the surface of their planet, from which they can see the sun, that they have a fairly thick atmosphere surrounding the planet, and that the planet is tilted on its axis such that the sun’s rays hit it at oblique angles, moderating its heat.
Contrast all of this with the actual conditions that we now know exist on Mercury:
Mercury has no significant atmosphere, being only slightly larger than Earth’s moon. As a result, it has a barren, rocky, crater-pocked surface. There are no fields, trees, streams, and rivers, no animal or plant life, no ecosystem whatsoever. This state of affairs has existed there for billions of years.
Mercury’s axis is tilted so little in relation to the sun (1/30th of a degree) that it has no seasons. The closest it has to seasons is that its egg-shaped orbit (the most eccentric orbit of any of the planets) causes it to be 1.5 times as far away from the sun at its aphelion than it is at its perihelion, presumably causing some variations in its surface temperatures over the course of its year.
Mercury is gravitationally locked with the sun such that it rotates on its axis three times for every two orbits around the sun. This odd phenomenon would cause a person on its surface to experience one day for every two Mercurian years. Its years are about 88 Earth days long; its days are about 176 Earth days long–or nearly half an Earth year. This would mean that a surface dweller would barely even be aware of the existence of years. The years would be completely subsumed by the two-year-long day. Once again, this is completely at odds with Swedenborg’s description of Mercury, among the other planets, as having days and years similar to those on Earth.
In its equatorial regions, daytime surface temperatures on Mercury reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit; nighttime temperatures reach -280 degrees Fahrenheit. At the poles the surface temperatures remain constantly below -130 degrees Fahrenheit. This is about as far as you can get from the “moderate temperatures” Swedenborg describes for Mercury.
It all adds up to this: Based on the few material details we can glean from Swedenborg’s descriptions of Mercury and its inhabitants and ecosystem, what he describes as existing there cannot possibly exist on that planet now, nor could it have existed there at any time in the past.
Put simply: Swedenborg was wrong about Mercury being inhabited by the beings he describes living there–or indeed, about it being habitable at all.
Mercury is only the first of the planets in our solar system that Swedenborg described as inhabited. We could go through every other planet in our solar system, and the conclusion would be the same:
The inhabitants Swedenborg describes on each of those planets could not possibly live there now, nor could they have lived there at any time in the past.
And incidentally, Swedenborg did not say that the inhabitants of Mercury travel from planet to planet. He said that their spirits travel from planetary region to planetary region in the spiritual world.
There’s a big difference!
Swedenborg himself traveled to other planetary regions in the spiritual world, as did other spirits from Earth. But with the exception of our few brief visits to Earth’s moon over forty years ago, no human being living on earth has ever physically visited any of those other planets.
Swedenborg’s description of the spirits from Mercury traveling to other planetary regions in the spiritual world does not mean that they were interplanetary and interstellar travelers during their physical lifetime on their planet in the material universe.
I’m so glad I found this article! Trying to find more on what Swedenborgians were currently saying about life on other planets is actually what led me to find your blogs here a few months back. Being a HUGE Star Trek fan, I always got a kick out of the idea that the universe was indeed populated -and that Swedenborg knew it over 200 years ago!
But the facts didn’t fit. Ever since I was a small boy we’ve been sending probes out into our solar system to the other planets. It seems like Earth is the only house on the block with it’s lights on! I’ve read Earths in the Universe more than once and to me it was too detailed, too real to think of as incorrect. On top of that, Swedenborg’s writings on Christianity, the afterlife and spiritual reality are the only religious interperatations I’ve ever found to make actual sense. Compared to other explanations, his just seem rational, even logical.
So what do I do with the idea that there’s men on the moon? I tried to rationalize the same theories mentioned by others here. My personal favorite was parallel universes, which quantum mechanics seems to allow for. My mom belived that maybe surface dwellers were uncommon, and that other planets’ inhabitants might live underground. That doesn’t sound very fun. Her hope was that if we ever found actual humans on any other planet that it would shake people’s beliefs that we’re all here because of some cosmic accident. She also felt that maybe more people would be interested in the New Church if Swedenborg’s 200 year old writings on planetary inhabitants were ever found to be correct.
People, however, believe what they want to – sometimes in spite of the facts. It drives me crazy when people try and debate religion vs. science. I say, “Why can’t we have both?” I see the laws of science being the “order” that could only be set in motion by the Divine. Even the Hubble’s deep field view of space shown on this article, that shows countless galaxies, each with billions of stars – I don’t see chaos, I see creation on a scale that could only have come from a much, much higher power.
Let me get back on course. I totally agree with your reasoning that Swedenborg got his planets mixed up. It’s possible that he was informed that those spirits were from inhabited worlds that were the closest to his own. Maybe he then assessed that they were from our system based on his scientific knowledge and beliefs of the 18th century. The thing that still bugs me though is how very specific he is in his descriptions of particular worlds – the Moon’s thin atmosphere, Saturn’s rings, the small circumference of the “Fourth Earth”. He even mentions how our own sun appears as a star larger than the rest to the inhabitants of the “First Earth” in the starry heavens, which would have to make them quite close by, astronomically speaking of course. It’s all so thought provoking.
Thanks for your thoughts. Earths in the Universe certainly does give Swedenborgians fits! I’ve been pondering that book for many years. And though I do believe the theory expressed in this article comes closest to a rationale for the book that works in light of today’s science, there certainly are details here and there that are hard to reconcile.
And yet, those details do seem more like what Swedenborg would have thought was the case than what we now know actually is the case on those planets. For example, inhabitants of Earth’s moon would still need an atmosphere to produce sounds by eructations from their belly. And the rings of Saturn seem to cause more shade than extra light to the planet’s surface. And of course, there’s the planet whose mass, based on the circumference Swedenborg assigns to it, would not even be able to hold an atmosphere at all, still less have the thriving ecosystem on its surface that Swedenborg describes. All of these things suggest that Swedenborg was “filling in the blanks” from his own ideas and his own knowledge of the science of his day, rather than that his science was somehow divinely inspired.
Beyond all that, I more and more think that it was providential that there are major scientific errors in Swedenborg’s works. It prevents people from believing his spiritual teachings for materialistic reasons.
What if there had been short little people on the moon who thundered from their bellies as Swedenborg described them? Sure, Swedenborg would have been an instant celebrity, and Earths in the Universe would become an instant bestseller. What then? How would people who don’t wish to believe in God and spirit continue in their disbelief? They would be practically forced to believe because there would be no other way Swedenborg could have had such detailed knowledge of extraterrestrials besides having heard it from spiritual sources. So for superficial, external reasons, people would be pushed to believe that the things Swedenborg wrote in his theological writings were true. And that would not be a good thing.
Believing in God and spirit should come from an inner conviction, and from a freely made choice, not from overwhelming external evidence that makes it difficult, if not impossible, not to believe. God wants us to freely choose to believe in, and follow, God and spirit, not be forced to believe by external, scientific evidence.
So I believe more and more that the scientific errors of Earths in the Universe, and various other less spectacular scientific errors found here and there throughout Swedenborg’s writings, were providentially included so that those who do accept Swedenborg’s teachings would not accept them for the wrong reasons, but because they see and accept the spiritual truth expressed there, for spiritual and not materialistic reasons.
For this reason, not only does it not bother me that Swedenborg was wrong about people living on the other planets in our solar system, I find it very comforting. I know that if people get into Swedenborg, it’s because they are truly touched by the spiritual message he offers, and not for superficial and materialistic reasons.
Speaking of Star Trek, I just re-edited and posted an old sermon of mine that you might enjoy: Spirit: The Final Frontier
Thank you Lee,
I can’t wait to take a look at that. For the sake of discussion on this post however, I was thinking about some of the things that Swedenborg mentioned about angels appearing directly to inhabitants of other worlds just as they certainly did here in previous times. Wouldn’t such visits in the same sense force, or at least convince those peoples to believe in heavenly things without as much of the free will aspect that is so vital to us here currently? Of course those worlds do have their own hells for those that don’t believe regardless. But again, in worlds such as those, wouldn’t it at least be easier for people to clearly see and accept the truth of spirituality and faith? Just food for thought.
The general answer is that in societies where everyone takes it for granted that there are spiritual beings, and that God and the angels and evil spirits are real, it does not violate human freedom for God, angels, and evil spirits to appear to people. Everyone believes in them anyway.
However, in a society where many, if not most people do not believe in the existence of anything beyond the physical universe, for God, angels, and evil spirits to appear would violate human freedom by forcing people to believe in something that they don’t want to believe in. In today’s society, even many religious people who theoretically do believe in angels and spirits do not believe that they have any real or practical impact or interaction with this world. And many people do not believe in them at all.
This, Swedenborg said, is why it was relatively common for angels and spirits to appear to people in earlier ages of humankind, and even for God to speak to people, but that it is much rarer in current skeptical, materialistic, and scientifically oriented society.
Glad I found your blog because not many out there talk about Swedenborg, much less specifically about his book on extraterrestrials.
It seems to me you’ve concluded Swedenborg’s intention with this book wasn’t to give spiritual insights but to attract attention and to prepare Christians for the idea of alien life. That we shouldn’t believe in God for lack of another option, but with our faith.
I think you made this conclusion mainly because there is no proof of life on Mercury, the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn or Jupiter. But this Swedenborgian blogger made a big effort to prove that Swedenborg was correct about there being life on ALL of those planets, the blog is: http://dream-prophecy.blogspot.com/2013/05/emanuel-swedenborg-was-right-and-nasa.html
And there are many posts like that that are convincing to me, please look at them when you have the time. Though I do think that Swedenborg’s aliens have oddly similar agendas to Swedenborg himself, it does have the feeling of a parable.
The reason I want to believe Swedenborg was not just telling a fictional story is because he wrote with the goal of sharing FACTS about the spiritual world. I always thought the reason the Swedenborg phenomena happened when it did was because we were entering a period of time dominated by atheistic science (and it is still mainstream to think after life – that’s it). Do you not think it must be easier for every other human in the universe to have “faith” when Swedenborg admitted they all have open spiritual contact? I think we all need some sort of motive to have faith, otherwise It’s just not enough to justify beliefs.
I am conflicted about these ideas because Swedenborg has influenced me very much. If it weren’t for Swedenborg, I’d revert back to my previous philosophy that there is no meaning in life. I just find it hard to need to believe everything Swedenborg says but ignore this part about aliens. He couldn’t have been lying rather our governments are lying. Science changes dramatically in a short period of time, will your conclusion change if mainstream science were to alter it’s beliefs on alien life? Maybe in the future it will be proven that there has been or is life on those planets. I am certain that every government is hiding information about alien life and UFO activity, perhaps this coming to light would change your mind.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and link. I’m aware of Doug Webber’s views, and have read a number of his articles. Doug has a very good grasp of Swedenborg’s teachings, which I do appreciate. However, I think Doug is mistaken in his views about extraterrestrials existing on the other planets in this solar system. You can see some of my debate with him in the comments above. I’ve debated him in the comments on several of his blog posts as well.
I am very comfortable believing in the spiritual doctrines and descriptions of the spiritual world that Swedenborg provided in his writings, while recognizing that his science was necessarily limited by the scientific knowledge of his day. Revelation does not exist to tell us about history and science, which we can figure out for ourselves, but to tell us about God and spirit, which we cannot figure out for ourselves unless God reveals it to us.
I would invite you to read the following article, which explains my perspective on Swedenborg’s writings, and why I continue to believe the doctrines he taught while recognizing that there are also scientific and historical errors in his writings: Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
Of course, if science came to the conclusion that the other planets in our solar system are inhabited, I would change my views. However, that is exactly the opposite of what’s happening. The evidence is now overwhelming that none of the planets in our solar system that Swedenborg described as inhabited is now or ever was inhabited by advanced, intelligent life forms. The most scientists hope for on any of them is simple, microbial life. That, and not little green men, is what scientists are hoping to discover on Mars, and perhaps on some of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn. The UFO enthusiasts are operating on pure wishful thinking, with not a scrap of real scientific evidence to support their belief in aliens inhabiting the other planets in our solar system.
Further, as I say in the comments above, I simply don’t believe the government information blackout conspiracy theories. If the government can’t even keep its top-secret spying programs secret, it certainly can’t keep secret contact with alien life, which would be the biggest news in the last two thousand years.
I welcome you to read through the comments above, and the linked article. After doing that, if you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
I have read it. I liked this part because it answered my question in the previous comment in a simple way: “The reality is that if any truth were to come to us direct from God, we wouldn’t be able to understand it. Pure truth as it exists in the mind of God is far beyond the capacity of our limited human minds to grasp.”
Then what do you think of NDE’s in comparison to Swedenborg’s experience? Though neither of them can give us infallible truth, should both Swedenborg’s and NDE experiencers ideas (even those that contradict Swedenborg’s views) be taken equally as truths they’ve experienced to the best of their limited human capacity?
Are mediums and shamans like Swedenborg? The bible specifically warns against this sort of attempt to contact the afterlife more than once, and It’s one of the criticism towards Swedenborg from other Christians, but even the bible was filtered by men. I think if their message is vaguely related to Swedenborg’s grand message of divine love and wisdom then they must be translating something true in their own way, just like NDErs come back with their own interpretations. Swedenborg says that all religions can lead to God, when psychics share similar ideas as the guy who talked directly to God does that mean they’re credible?
Also, I notice a lot of the primitive cultures’ religions have an air of truth because they can all be similair to Christianity. Is Swedenborg ultimately trying to tell us to just try to be good people? He once likened a child to an angel because children are more pure.
Btw, I appreciate your blog for replying to comments and writing about spirituality in a dry way like Swedenborg. Really good blog, wish more could see it. Doug Webber’s is also good.
As I hope I made reasonably clear in the article above, the purpose of Swedenborg’s book Earths in the Universe was not only to attract attention for his teachings, but also to resolve a serious problem traditional Christianity had (and in many cases, still has) with the idea of extraterrestrial life. That problem is how people on other planets could be saved if Jesus Christ was born on this planet, and it is necessary to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved (as traditional Christian churches generally believe). See especially the section in the above article titled, “Resolving the aliens vs. Christianity issue.”
Because of this problem, many traditional Christians reject the possibility that there could be intelligent life on other planets in the universe. However, even though we now know that there is no intelligent life on the other planets in our solar system, it seems increasingly likely that there is intelligent life out there, in other solar systems. We’re discovering more and more planets around other stars. And there are billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing billions of stars. Who knows how many other advanced civilizations there are out there in this vast universe?
Whereas many traditional Christians believe, because of their particular beliefs about Jesus Christ, that our earth is the only inhabited planet, Swedenborg provides a clear answer to the problem of how there could be intelligent life on other planets even though Jesus Christ was born only on ours.
Thanks for the article Sir. I think this was the first article I read on your blog about a year or two ago as I was having serious issues trying to make sense of the work Earths in The Universe after coming across Swedenborg’s writings(and frankly speaking Sir,i’ve enjoyed EVERY article I’ve read here-and i’ve read virtually every article I’ve laid my eyes on),and I have gone through the above article and comments a number of times,yet I still have some issues bothering me.
You said ‘…For this reason, not only does it not bother me that Swedenborg was wrong about people living on the other planets in our solar system, I find it very comforting. I know that if people get into Swedenborg, it’s because they are truly touched by the spiritual message he offers, and not for superficial and materialistic reasons’, I think Sir it’s not just about the personal reasons for which people accept his writings, it’s also about the veracity of Swedenborg’s Spiritual experiences,and the spiritual doctrines derived therefrom. You said that if he’s wrong on the issue of life on the other planets of our own solar system,who’s to say he’s not probably wrong on a whole lot of things,& I dare say indeed,including all the works in which he made references to extraterrestrial life,and that will mean quite a lot of his more influential works including Heaven and Hell,True Christian Religion & Arcana Coelestia.
Also, you said ‘if nothing else, Other Planets can be read as Swedenborg’s contributions to the genre of Science fiction’, well, it would then not be too far-fetched to consider ALL of his works,and spiritual experiences,and especially those in which references were made to this work,contributions to the vast number of works in the genre of Religious/Spiritual myths. I’m sorry to say sir, but just the same way I can indeed learn lofty virtues of courage and sacrifice from Greek mythology,and even my Yoruba myths & legends without considering them reason enough for a belief in the afterlife,or even God, I could without injury to conscience consider the Bible and Swedenborg’s works to be same.
I had to go through the work again,& I was laughing at somethings there cause seeing as he said he met persons who lived and died on planets we know were never inhabited(he went so far as to give the life expectancy on one particular planet). I couldn’t help but think that he was lying outrightly(i’m sorry I put it that way Sir),so this brings me to my final question…you said you believed Swedenborg actually met the aliens he described in the works,just that they were not from the planets he thought they were from,could you please kindly shed more light on this Sir. Thanks
Thanks for your comment, and for your kind words about the articles here. I’m glad you enjoy them!
Your questions are good ones. In fact, they get to the root of the issue of whether we can believe anything at all that we read or that we’re told. The Bible itself contains many statements that we know are not scientifically accurate, and some of the history in the Bible is questionable as well. The same could be said for any sacred text. How can be believe the Bible, or anything else we read, if it’s not 100% accurate?
The basic answer is that we are not meant to believe anything blindly. Instead, we are meant to use the thinking mind that God gave us to consider, evaluate, and decide over time what we will and won’t believe. In fact, it is a good thing to have some doubts about any belief when we first encounter it, and to hear and consider countervailing arguments and ideas. This causes us to think more deeply about what is and isn’t true. In the process, we gain a more well-rounded, flexible, and sound understanding of the idea or belief we are considering.
If God didn’t want us to use our thinking mind in deciding what is worthy of belief, why did God give us intellectual and rational capabilities in the first place?
So the general answer to your questions is that you shouldn’t believe anything Swedenborg says, or even anything the Bible says, without thinking it over, considering other possibilities, and deciding whether it really makes sense to your mind, and to your heart.
I appreciate the fact that there is scientific error, and even some historical, social, and philosophical error, in Swedenborg’s writings precisely because it forces us to actually think about the things he says, and consider whether they’re really true or not. Swedenborg doesn’t spoon feed us as if we were babies, but speaks to us as adults who have adult rational and intellectual capabilities, and can make our own decisions about what we will and won’t believe.
Now about Earths in the Universe (EU) in particular:
First, I was being a bit tongue in cheek about EU being Swedenborg’s contribution to science fiction. I don’t actually think it’s science fiction. But science fiction loves a good alien story, and Swedenborg provides some good ones in that book! 😉
But more to the point, the problem we in the 21st century have with EU is primarily the issue of whether those particular planets are inhabited. And that’s a scientific issue. It is widely believed that there is a high likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. But it’s now nearly certain that none of the other planets in our solar system are or ever have been inhabited by intelligent life as Swedenborg says they were in EU.
So how did Swedenborg “know” that the spirits came from those particular planets? He himself says that the people of other planets don’t have the advanced science we do. So it’s unlikely that they even knew they were living on a planet moving through space, let alone knowing which planet, in which solar system. Swedenborg says he was “told from heaven” which planet they came from. But how did the angels in heaven know? They don’t live in the material universe. So any information they have about the material universe must come from the material universe.
It all boils down to the reality that the science in heaven isn’t any more advanced than the science on earth, because science is the study of physical reality, whereas angels and spirits live in spiritual reality. It’s likely that the “science” that the angels were using was Swedenborg’s own science, from his earlier career as a scientist. And Swedenborg himself believed that all planets were inhabited. So it’s likely that the angels were telling him what he already believed based on his own scientific knowledge–which, in this case, was faulty.
However, it’s very different when angels, and especially the Lord, are talking about spiritual subjects. Angels live in the spiritual world, and they therefore know a lot about spiritual things, regardless of what Swedenborg or anyone else from the material world knows. And the Lord, of course, knows everything about all realms of reality. And yet, what the Lord wanted to communicate to Swedenborg was not earthly scientific and historical information, but information about spiritual realities.
So the answer to your question, once again in broader terms, is that neither the Bible nor Swedenborg’s writings are meant to tell us about science, history, sociology, and so on. They are meant to tell us about spiritual things. If you want to learn about science and history, don’t go to the Bible or Swedenborg; go to textbooks of science and history. But if you want to learn about spiritual things, that’s when to turn to the Bible, Swedenborg, and other books whose main purpose is to convey religious and spiritual understanding to us.
Can we trust that every single thing Swedenborg said on spiritual subjects is 100% true? Maybe and maybe not. That, once again, is where our thinking minds come in.
We’re not meant to accept these things on mere authority. Rather, we should read them, think about them, ponder them, consider other possibilities, consider the arguments of those who disagree with them and reject them, and then come to our own conclusions about whether we think Swedenborg’s overall system and approach on spiritual reality is sound. We can then have a much greater confidence that he’s not leading us down the wrong path, while still reserving our God-given right and ability to disagree with anything that simply doesn’t make sense to us, or doesn’t ring true in our heart.
Does that help?
Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it already, please do read my article, Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
It absolutely does help Sir. I’ve read that articles before,but I’d just go through it again to refresh my mind on what you said there. Thank you Sir
As far as i am concerns who knows if there is no life in moon, or venus, or Mars. What science can really tell us about it? Not much. It can tell us that there is not life in moon, venus, mars composed of electrons, quarks (visible and dectectable matter, our kind of matter). But do we really know that only this kind of matter exists? The particles which are unknow to us, do they dont exist, just because we can’t sense it? Scientists now know that there is dark matter and dark energy, but it’s invisible, and they really dont understand it very well. They know it exist because of their effect via gravitiy. The dark matter interacts only with gravity and weak force. Regarding quarks and electrons, and the other 2 forces (electromagnetic and strong force) they dont interact at all. Maybe aliens and their form are composed of that matter that it’s invisible to us. Even if its not dark matter, maybe it’s a different thing, not spiritually, but a different kind of particles that dont interact with quarks and electrons. Or maybe Swedenborg is dead wrong here. But the thing is we cant know for sure, that there is no life on the moon, as we cant tell that there is an afterlife. As an ant cant see, understand, and sense the reality of men even if they are composed of the same quarks and electrons. Men cant sense all there is, materially all particles in the universe and spiritually. Science it’s much more limited than we tend to think of. Trying to define reality based on what science gives us, its like atheists saying God cant exist because science cant measure it. We dont know. Its an temptation to assure us, to thing that common sense is what we can get from science. It’s reductive to impose such a reality. We have to be open minded, and just leave it open, without knowing.
Thanks for your comment. Of course, people can believe whatever they want to believe.
I happen to think that science is a pretty good method for discovering what exists in this material world. We can certainly spin speculative theories about how life might exist on the other planets in our solar system in some strange and as yet undiscovered form. But until we actually discover such forms of life, it’s completely speculative, and in my opinion, not particularly fruitful.
In fact, as science advances, the evidence has continued to mount in the opposite direction, making it more and more unlikely that there is or ever was intelligent life—if any life at all—on the other planets in our solar system.
Why spin theories about extraterrestrial that fly in the face of all known science? Why not simply accept what science has discovered so far?
If future evidence points in a different direction, then we can certainly revise our thinking. But until then, I think it’s to base our thinking on what we do know instead of on what we don’t know.
If, as you say, science is “making it more and more unlikely that there is or ever was intelligent life—if any life at all—on the other planets in our solar system”, wouldn’t this contradict Swedenborg’s assertion that life existed on other planets within our own system?
Or is there a distinction between what we, through science, perceive to be “life” versus what Swedenborg descried as “life” in the spiritual sense through his experiences?
I, personally, believe we can’t possibly be the only life in the universe. But until the jury is done deliberating, we’ll just have to contend with not knowing! ;-p
Yes, our current overwhelming scientific consensus that there is not, nor was there ever, intelligent life on any of the other planets in our solar system does contradict Swedenborg’s statement that all planets have intelligent life. You did read the article, didn’t you?!? 😛
I don’t think Swedenborg conceived of some alternate form of life composed of antimatter or some other such scientific phenomenon that was not even known in his lifetime. It’s clear enough to me from reading Other Planats (AKA Earths in the Universe) that he thought all of the other planets in our solar system, not to mention every other planet in the universe, had ordinary, carbon-based, flesh-and-blood life as we know it. And it’s clear enough to me that he was simply mistaken about that. Once again, you did read the article, didn’t you?!? 😉
I also don’t believe we’re the only life in the universe. I think Swedenborg was right that there are many planets in the universe that are inhabited by intelligent life. I just don’t think it was quite as common as he thought it was. Then again, our current concept of the universe is vastly larger than the science of Swedenborg’s day indicated. There are likely trillions and trillions of potentially habitable planets out there in all that vastness. It’s just a numbers and percentage game, not a “one planet, one civilization” system as Swedenborg thought.
The jury is still out scientifically on whether there is intelligent life out there, and if so, how common or uncommon it is. But there are massive efforts underway to find answers to those questions—which just happens to be the subject of my next planned blog post! 🙂
Of course I read the article! You and I have already had much discussion on this…
Looking forward to your next blog post…! 🙂
I know. I’m just tweaking you. 😛
The promised article is now posted here: The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative & the Spiritual Aspirations of Atheists and Agnostics
Why talking about God then? Science can sense it. It,s exactly the same thing.
I am just open. I don’t define realities. I am not saying that I believe. I believe that there is no life with quarks and electrons. What I am trying to convey is that is really reductive trying to impose realities based on science.Science can tell us something, not all.
Why wont we just wait for science for discovering God and wait until then.
I accept everything that science gives I am a science guy.
I just saying I don’t know. You are the one with certaints not me.
Are you familiar with Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) theory? The basic idea is that science and religion each have their own proper field of studies that don’t overlap with each other.
I don’t take NOMA as a hard-and-fast rule. But I do agree with the general principle that:
I look to science to learn about the nature and contents of the physical universe, including more definite information about intelligent life on other planets.
I look to religion to learn about the nature of God, the nature and contents of the spiritual universe, and the nature of our spiritual life here on earth.
So from wikipedia:
The following excert:
“The standard model of cosmology indicates that the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter constitutes 84.5%[note 1] of total mass, while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95.1% of total mass–energy content. The great majority of ordinary matter in the universe is also unseen, since visible stars and gas inside galaxies and clusters account for less than 10% of the ordinary matter contribution to the mass-energy density of the universe.”
Now my words.
What science can tell us is only about 10% of the mass in the universe. All the rest is simply unkown.
I understand that. I’m simply saying that until the unknown becomes known, it’s better to base our beliefs and our understanding of the universe on what we do know than on what we don’t know.
There’s no particular scientific reason to believe that all that vast quantity of dark matter means that there’s some unknown form of life out there. We can speculate about that if we wish, but it’s just that: speculation.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot that we do know about the nature of the physical universe, and that knowledge allows us to draw some fairly strong conclusions. If future science overturns those conclusions, that’s all part of the game. But until it does, why not pay attention to what we actually do know, and draw our conclusions—tentative as they may be—based on that?
Yes it just speculation, but i think it’s worse to define phrases such as:
“There is no life in our solar system.”
I prefer to say:
“Science say to us that there is no life within this 10% of know matter.”
It’s basically the same thing, just a different approach.
There is 90% of invisible unkwon matter within our solar system.
I prefer the i just dont know method, rather then the it doesn’t exist.
But it’s just me 🙂
I understand. I prefer to have somewhat more definite beliefs. 😀
So just for speculation what if there are indeed alien races. Does this mean there’s different heaven and hells for them or are we according to Swedenborg destined to “intermingle”?
The image of that Star Wars bar-night club scene IIRC where there are all these radically different looking creatures comes to mind. :). Not to mention Men in Black!
Hi Frankly Frank,
Yes, according to Swedenborg there are different areas of heaven and hell for people from the different inhabited planets. Each planet has its own character, and in heaven, birds of a feather flock together.
Most angels and spirits aren’t interested in traveling outside their own areas of heaven or hell. However, for those who are, it’s possible to visit other planetary areas in the spiritual world and interact with the people there, as Swedenborg himself did.
And of course, God causes all of the areas of heaven to work together harmoniously to form a vast, interconnected system, very much the way the different parts, organs, and systems of the human body form a unified whole not despite but because of their unique differences from one another.
Oh, and apparently the angels of the highest heavens sometimes are intermingled with angels from other planets. The angels in the highest heavens are far broader in their thinking and in their sense of kinship with all other good, loving, and heart-centered angels. They are comfortable crossing cultural and spiritual boundaries that divide angels of the lower heavens from people who are too different from themselves.
As you allude to in this article, the matter of Swedenborg’s accounts of extraterrestrial entities has proved troublesome for even the most committed of Swedenborg’s followers, if for no other reason that, outside of the obvious inaccuracies in these reports, he obtained this information through the same way he obtained much of his information on other, more fundamental matters: through conversations with spirits. This leads to wonder, then, if he was misinformed about alien lifeforms, what else was he wrong about?
For me, the more troublesome details concern his descriptions of these entities and their societies, rather than the more basic details like where in the universe and from what planets they come from. It sounds to me, from what you’ve written in this article about Swedenborg’s descriptions of aliens as lifeforms- beings who are spiritually developed, who live in simple, productive communities, upholding the truth of the scriptures, and who communicate telepathically on account of their more evolved condition- that they’re already angels!
We humans are flawed, imperfect beings who, according to Swedenborg, reside among the lowest rungs of spiritual existence, who are in serious need of growth, but it doesn’t sound as though these aliens had to go through that process of growth and development. Granted, it’s entirely possible that he just encountered beings who were at a much more advanced place on the development spectrum, but that would imply they also had to go through a type of primitive adolescence of their own, which, if they’re anything like us, involved the development of ‘high technology’ (in this case, writing), before we did. Of course this is all just speculation and conjecture, but it seems reasonable to believe that if they’re more developed than us, then they’re also older than us.
And on the issue of high technology- the term itself is an obviously relative one. Swedenborg himself was writing from a perspective from which he considered the tools of his day as ‘high technology,’ tools we would consider rather primitive compared to our wireless devices, which themselves we seem primitive to the people of tomorrow. So it’s hard to get a grasp on what the implications that the term ‘high technology’ actually has when describing the conditions of other societies, and the conditions by which he says Christ incarnated here on Earth (again, the fact that he dealt with beings and societies possibly far older than our own would seem to create problems).
Also, on the subject of those societies, the spiritually advanced aliens he describes sometimes don’t sound all that much more developed than us. In “Life On Other Worlds,” Swedenborg describes the upholding of Scripture as paramount to alien societies, so much so they will sanction, punish, and even pass death sentences on those who start falling into error. If violence is something that characterizes our primitiveness, it’s something that certainly seems present in the aliens he encountered.
Additionally, and this may a more marginal mental knot, but the idea that we just happen to be on the one world spiritually primitive enough for Christ (in large part) to have incarnated upon still seems to peddle the same question of ‘what are the odds that we just happen to be on that one planet?’
Finally, on the issue of alien visitations and extraterrestrial technology: I certainly don’t wish to come here in order to peddle conspiracy theories and conjecture about life in the universe, or about hotly contested historical accounts that some attribute to alien encounters here on earth. In that respect, and with respect, I stand a bit apart from the articles that Doug Webber has written in support of these theories and phenomena. That said, it’s still important to maintain an open mind, and I will say that of the millions of UFO reports made worldwide, the very small percentage that have been made by airline pilots- people who are qualified aviation professionals and trained observers- are the ones most worth listening to, if for no other reason than of the tremendous risk they’re taking in coming forward with accounts that open them to ridicule and could possibly end their careers. This obviously doesn’t substantiate an extraterrestrial hypothesis for their experiences, but again, it’s cause for keeping an open mind when dealing with accounts that, in the absence of hard evidence, can only be described as ‘other worldly’.
We’ll obviously never know for certain what Swedenborg saw and who we was speaking to, but what meaning do all these bizarre reports have in his theology? Taking it at face value obviously creates serious intellectual problems, and interpreting it spiritually neglects the matter-of-fact nature of his observations of the afterlife, and winds up cherry picking what we take literally and metaphorically so as to smooth away the rough edges. To what extent can we stretch our imaginations on this matter in particular before we begin questioning the veracity of his experiences in general?
Thanks for your long comment and question. I’ll respond to the rest of it later, but I wanted to immediately respond to this:
Unfortunately, this represents a common misconception about Swedenborg that is prevalent even among many Swedenborgians: that he obtained his information on fundamental matters through conversations with spirits.
Yes, of course, Swedenborg says that he spent many years visiting the spiritual world and having conversations with angels and spirits. However, this, he says, was so that he could learn what that world is like, and to provide a basis in experience for the things that the Lord wished to teach him so that he could publish them to the world.
In fact, Swedenborg specifically denies receiving information on the doctrines of the church and on the spiritual meaning of the Bible from angels and spirits. Here is his clearest published statement about the mission that the Lord called him to, and the source of the teachings in his writings:
The fact that he does not say that he learned about the inhabitants of other planets and their planets of origin from the Lord, but rather that he experienced them in the spiritual world, and heard “from heaven” what planets they came from, suggests to me that the general contents of that book are not meant to be taken as doctrine, or as “more fundamental matters,” but rather as interesting anecdotes about the inhabitants of other planets.
As I said in the article, I believe that the heart of the book is in the chapter about why the Lord chose to be born on this world rather than any other. And while it may indeed strain credulity to think that God just happened to be born on this particular planet among the millions, billions, or trillions in the universe, his statements on that subject at least make some sort of sense, and certainly could be the explanation.
And of course, the other primary doctrinal point of the book is that the people of all planets believe in, worship, and are saved by the same God, who is the Lord God Jesus Christ.
Now to respond about Other Planets in general:
Once again, I’m well aware that Swedenborg’s book about life on other planets is a real conundrum for many Swedenborgians. This, I think, is why some such as Doug Webber insist that there really are (or were) people living on the other planets in our solar system, even though the vast weight of scientific evidence is against it. They’re afraid that if they reject what he said about life on other planets, there will be a domino effect and everything Swedenborg wrote will be subject to doubt and denial. Other Swedenborgians interpret the book spiritually rather than literally. And others just avoid it as much as possible, because they simply don’t know what to do with it.
Speaking for myself, the book just doesn’t bother me. In fact, for simple reading pleasure, it’s one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for a good alien! 😉
But more than that, I don’t believe that Swedenborg’s writings are intended to tell us about material-world realities, but about spiritual realities. And I don’t believe that Swedenborg is infallible and inerrant. To my mind, the idea that everything Swedenborg wrote is 100% correct and infallible is the very sort of fundamentalism and blind faith that Swedenborg himself combated so thoroughly in those very same writings. He insisted that real faith is based on understanding, not on literalism and blind belief based on authority.
As I’ve stated in some of my other comments here, I’ve come to believe that Other Planets was written under Divine Providence precisely to ward off future people whose minds are stuck in literalism and authoritarianism, to prevent them for accepting Swedenborg’s teachings for the wrong reasons and making them into a materialistic, authoritarian idol rather than into a source of spiritual understanding.
In this way, I think it serves a purpose similar to Jesus’ dialog with the skeptics in John 6:25-69. Those of his listeners whose minds were stuck in materialistic and literalistic thought were repulsed by his insistence that if they wanted to have life in them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. But those who could think spiritually, though they were still confused, realized that he was not talking about cannibalism, but was speaking in metaphors that pointed to deeper realities.
So for me personally, Other Planets simply doesn’t bother me. As with everything else that we read in Swedenborg or anywhere else, we should read it with our thinking mind active, and evaluate for ourselves whether or not the things he says make sense to us. True faith is not based on authority, but on understanding. The fact that there are things in Swedenborg’s writings that we must intellectually reject—such as people living on Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—obliges us to think about what he wrote, evaluate it, and understand it before giving it our assent and our faith. Then our faith in the spiritual principles that he taught will be real faith, not blind faith.
Hi Lee, and thanks for getting back to me. I’d like to reply back, but first wanted to know if you had planned to add any additional answers to my comment?
Yes, one more reply coming, about the culture and technology issues. I’m squeezing them in here and there when I get a chance.
One more response dealing with some of the specifics in your comment.
First, Swedenborg says that the people from other planets that he encountered did not have written languages. So they do not look to Scripture. Rather, they have more or less open communication with heaven, and receive their spiritual instruction that way.
Also, the statement that people on other planets don’t have high technology is not Swedenborg’s terminology. It’s a conclusion drawn from the rather simple type of lifestyle that he describes on the other planets. They do build simple dwellings and do other “low-tech” things that show an ability to use tools. But he doesn’t describe anything like even the technology that existed in his own day, let alone what exists today. And given how fascinated Swedenborg himself was with science and technology, it’s not believable that we wouldn’t have described skyscrapers and fancy techno-gadgets if he had encountered them among extraterrestrial cultures. He says that they are more interested in spiritual matters than material ones, which is why they don’t bother developing the science and technology, including written languages and printing, that we have in this world.
Of course, we have only his reports on this. Absent any actual evidence from astronomy and science, we have no way of corroborating his reports. However, his description of non-technological human-style life on other planets would neatly solve the Fermi Paradox, which asks why, if there are likely so many planets in the universe that are capable of supporting intelligent life, we so far have found no scientific evidence at all of any such intelligent extraterrestrial life. If it is rare for intelligent life to develop technology, that would explain it.
Here on this earth, we tend to think that the development of science and technology is the measurement of advanced intelligent life. But in Swedenborg’s system, the develop of spiritual knowledge, awareness, and life is the measurement of advanced intelligent life, and our focus on science and technology on this earth is due to our materialism and lack of spiritual development. We may agree or disagree with Swedenborg on that. But it at least provides a reasonable and consistent explanation as to why we so far have detected no evidence whatsoever for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Yes, I’m well aware of all the UFO sightings. But I simply don’t believe that intelligent aliens would come to our earth only to play cat-and-mouse games with us. If we were being visited by aliens, that information would not be confined to wacky conspiracy organizations, but would be a matter of scientific study. It would be common knowledge throughout the world. I’m sorry, but there is no way that dozens of governments in conflict with one another would be involved in a vast conspiracy to hide the existence of aliens from the public. It’s all just too far-fetched and ridiculous for thoughtful, rational people to take seriously. It has all the hallmarks of spiritual experiences, hallucinations, and wishful thinking on a mass scale.
In short, if there were really aliens visiting our planet, we would have solid, scientific evidence for it, not shadowy conspiracy theories and fuzzy pictures of flashing lights whizzing around in the sky.
Back to the age and level of development of the extraterrestrial cultures Swedenborg saw, he did say that some of them were similar to the earliest people on this earth, who had open communication with the spiritual world and focused on spiritual understanding and development rather than on the material world. So even that is not entirely unearthly.
And as for the descriptions of people on other planets who persist in evil thoughts and behavior being punished with death, it bears a striking resemblance to Swedenborg’s description of what happened to the early people on earth represented by those who died in the Great Flood: their own evil thoughts and desires suffocated them both spiritually and physically so that they died off. But after the (metaphorical) Flood that sort of thing didn’t happen anymore because of spiritual and physiological changes.
Once again, we have no way of corroborating or disproving Swedenborg’s statements because so far we have not been able to detect or study any life on other planets, let alone intelligent life on other planets. So at this point we just have to take Swedenborg’s descriptions as interesting reports based on his experiences in the spiritual world. I doubt that scrutinizing them and looking for inconsistencies is really a very fruitful activity. Whether those people lived exactly as Swedenborg described them really isn’t all that important to our spiritual life here on earth.
But as I said earlier, if it keeps away materialistic, skeptical people and prevents them from taking Swedenborg seriously, that’s all to the good. It’s better to be ignorant of spiritual truth than to know about it and destroy it through shallow, earthly, materialistic thinking.
Venus may have been habitable, NASA climate modeling suggests
August 11, 2016
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history, according to NASA computer modeling of the planet’s ancient climate.
Thanks for the link. Fascinating article!
However, be aware that “habitability” as defined in scientific discourse means habitable by any form of life. If one-celled organisms could live on a planet, it would be considered “habitable.” It does not necessarily mean that the planet is habitable by complex or intelligent forms of life.
Further, although two billion years sounds like a long time, keep in mind that it took over four billion years of evolution on earth from the time the first forms of life appeared to the time the earliest humans appeared. See: Timeline of the evolutionary history of life.
In short, even if Venus was “habitable” for two billion years of its early history, most likely any life that existed there consisted of single-cell or simple multi-cellular organisms such as existed on earth for the first 3+ billion years. It is highly unlikely that Venus was populated by an intelligent, humanoid race.
Yes, the purpose of this link is not to say that it was a proof of inteligent life on Venus.
But several things in mind.
Science is really unacurate. We cant give to much certaint to number in science, because those numbers might be really wrong. There are several theories that say that earth might be younger than tought. Also life development might vary, it doesnt means it takes 4 billion year to reach developed life forms. Depends when water arises, when oxigen or cabon, etc… The triggers vary, so the timeline.
Just saying, that science clues over nature are really, really few. It’s like having a huge puzzle, but only a few pieces of the puzzle. really few, and sometimes we just have to move them around, clueless… 🙂
With this in mind, we are clueless about many things about life.
All very true. There is much more that we don’t know than that we do know. And it’s quite possible that future theories and discoveries could overturn major parts of what we think we know.
Still, I think it’s important to base our conclusions on the information we do have, and on what we do know, rather than on speculation about what we don’t know. If future discoveries overturn what we now think to be scientifically true, we can always revise our thinking.
If we were to discover life, or solid evidence for life, existing on other planets, no one would be more excited than yours truly. But I’d rather wait until we have actual evidence, and not get too far ahead of ourselves. As of now, the evidence is overwhelmingly against any of the other planets in our solar system being capable of supporting intelligent life now or at any time in the past. And unless and until the evidence starts pointing in the other direction, I think it’s best to go with what we do know, and what it points to, rather than basing our theories on what we don’t know.
Even in the highly unlikely event that we discover fossilized remains of advanced life on Venus or Mars, the idea that there was ever advanced life on Mercury, the Moon, Jupiter, or Saturn is about as close to a scientific impossibility as we could imagine. Mercury and the Moon are rocky planets like ours, but they’re too small to have sufficient gravity to hold an atmosphere in which life could develop, and Mercury is just plain too close to the sun. Jupiter and Saturn, not to mention Uranus and Neptune (which Swedenborg didn’t know about), are gas giants that have no real surface on which life such as Swedenborg described on other planets could exist there. If they do have a surface, it is probably semi-molten metal, and the heat and extreme atmospheric pressure would crush and destroy any life of the type Swedenborg describes living on those planets. Even if there is an outside chance Venus or Mars could have once supported advanced life, spinning theories as to how perhaps Swedenborg might have somehow, some way been right after all about the rest of the planets in our solar system being inhabited by intelligent, human-like life is just grasping at straws.
Swedenborg believed, and stated in his book on the subject, that all planets are inhabited by intelligent, human life. We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that is simply impossible. There is no scientifically plausible scenario in which he could be right about this. And Swedenborg himself would be the first to say that we should pay attention to the evidence, not base our beliefs on mere authority—even his own authority.
Hi lee , i know youve had discussions with Doug webber regarding aliens and i wanted your opinion on ufos and abductions ?
People have made the connection of ufos being more thought generated such as when people claimed to have seen fairies and things like that in ages past. They say that the ufo phenomenon is the modern version of that
Yes, I’ve had extensive debates with Doug Webber about his belief in UFOs and people living on the other planets in our solar system. As you suggest, I believe that people’s experiences of UFOs are really mental phenomena, not actual, physical UFOs.
If UFOs were real on the physical plane, scientists would be able to detect and verify them, and we would all know for sure that they are real. The lack of any credible scientific evidence for UFOs is sufficient for me to believe that they are mental rather than physical phenomena. I don’t think aliens from other planets would play cat-and-mouse games with us. And I simply don’t believe all of the elaborate conspiracy theories about how “the government” is keeping all of this information from us. As if dozens of governments around the world, many of them hostile to one another, would actually collude together to keep from the public the most important scientific discovery of all time. The whole idea is ludicrous.
Plus, government just isn’t that competent, as we keep learning over and over and over again. The NSA can’t even keep its ordinary political and espionage secrets. They keep getting leaked, so that people learn that their phones are all being monitored, and so on. If there were secret government knowledge about aliens, we’d all have heard about it long ago.
Yes, in the past people saw fairies and wood sprites and satyrs, when that was part of the cultural mythology. Now aliens and extraterrestrial spaceships are part of the cultural mythology, so people see them instead. It’s all the same phenomenon. People’s longing for the mystical gets translated into visions of whatever the “far out” things of their culture happen to be.
As for me, God and the spiritual world are perfectly sufficient to give me a sense of connection to the mystical side of things. I don’t need UFOs and aliens. Having said that, I do love a good alien science fiction flick! But that’s entertainment, not unfulfilled longing.
The surprising thing about Doug’s belief in aliens and UFOs is that Swedenborg says that other planets have not developed technology the way we have. None of the alien cultures he describes in Earths in the Universe are technologically advanced, such that they could have spaceships and visit us. This includes the people he believed were living on the other planets in our solar system. So how could they be visiting us in flying saucers?
That, to me, is the simplest answer to the Fermi Paradox. Where are all the people? They’re quietly minding their own business on their own far-flung planets, perfectly content to live simple lives close to God, spirit, and nature. They have no interest whatsoever in building rocket ships and visiting other planets and solar systems.
It’s only our sense of self-importance and our materialism that makes us think that intelligent life on other planets would inevitably develop the same way we do, along a technological path. But if people on other planets don’t build radios, and radio telescopes, there will be no radio signals coming from those planets for us to detect, nor would they detect any such signals coming from our planet.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if God, knowing how materialistic and how rapacious the civilization on our planet would be, provided that no other planets anywhere near us would develop life that we could discover, contaminate, and destroy.
That was a really good amswer lee that i can fully agree with, follow up question.
Those who claim to be abducted by aliens are they just being abducted by spirits ?
Yes, I think that “alien abductions” are full-sensory hallucinations brought about by spirits associated with the person. These experiences are no different from any other vision or hallucination. The positive ones come from God and the angels. The negative ones come from evil spirits and demons.
People who don’t believe in spirits, or who have no understanding of the spiritual world and how it works, will think of such experiences as events that happened to them in the physical world.
They will think, for example, that they were abducted by aliens who arrived in flying saucers from Planet Xenon on the other side of the galaxy. Their experience will act out all their hopes of a transcendent encounter with advanced, awe-inspiring aliens who telepathically communicate to them the secrets of the universe, including science and technology far beyond our current capabilities. Too bad the abductees never patent and develop any of this alien technology, or they’d be richer than Gates and Bezos combined.
Or the experience will act out all their fears of lying naked and restrained on a table under bright lights in a chamber full of weird technology while scary black-eyed aliens with many tentacles swarm all around them poking and prodding their body and all its orifices, including an especially thorough and intrusive examination of their reproductive organs. Aliens just can’t get enough of human genitalia! Of course, the women will be impregnated with alien DNA. Because everyone knows that an alien’s greatest desire is to have sex with our females! The men, meanwhile, will be seduced or forced into sexual intercourse with super sexy alien females whose greatest desire is to bear and raise hybrid human/alien babies. Apparently these technologically advanced aliens have not yet figured out how to do in vitro fertilization, so having sex with humans is absolutely necessary for them to accomplish their nefarious plans.
All of these scenarios “happen” to people because the spirits creating these experiences are drawing their material from the person’s own mind and imagination. They are the same human hopes, fears, and imaginations from which alien sci-fi and horror flicks are made. These hopes and fears, often centering either on advanced knowledge or on sex with overpowering otherworldly beings, go as far back in human lore as we care to look. It used to be “sons of God” (Genesis 6:1–4) or an incubus or succubus. Now, in our technological age, it’s alien abductions. It’s just a modern variation of an ancient phenomenon of the human mind expressing all its hopes and fears.
Many thanks for the reply it makes alot of sense, it also explains why some people will see a UFO and the person standing next to them will not,
I suppose it also explains why these ufos act against physics sometimes if person seeing them thinks it can do things against physics then it will do them
Yes, if it’s actually a spiritual experience (albeit not one of seeing what actually exists in the spiritual world), then it doesn’t have to obey physical laws.
Hi Lee, have you read Howard storms NDE where he describes aliens he was shown?
It surprised me how much his nde experience agrees with swedenborg
If, as Swedenborg and others who have been there say, the spiritual world is a real place, we would expect there to be a certain amount of agreement between different descriptions of it because they are describing a real place. Of course, there will be differences as well, because different people will go to different parts of the spiritual world, and will see it differently depending upon their particular character and interests. But overall, the spiritual world is a real place, and that’s why so many people who have been there describe it in similar ways.
On aliens in particular, if, as Swedenborg says, there are other inhabited planets in the universe, then we would expect that Swedenborg would not be the only one to have contact with and knowledge of people in the spiritual world who lived on other planets besides earth.
Incidentally, Howard Storm did become aware of Swedenborg’s writings, and read several of Swedenborg’s books, shortly after he had his NDE, as he says early on in this interview:
Hi Lee i know this has taken forever to reply too but it was a subject i thought i was past and yet have come back to it, if as you say people seeing UFOs are mental phenomena and not physical how are their videos either from the navy or radar that shows the UFO ?
Supposedly there are videos from the Navy showing UFOs . . . according to the UFO nuts. But you might want to check with the Navy on that. Or NASA. Or any of the other government agencies that have supposedly “proven that UFOs are real!!!!!”
I have yet to see a “UFO” video that is at all convincing. They’re all fuzzy, shaky, blurry things. And the “spaceships” they show look like they were designed by a five-year-old. Or they look like a retro-futuristic 1960s cooking pot lid. If some alien civilization had the capability of traveling hundreds or thousands of light years through space, I think they’d be a little more sophisticated in their spaceship design! Even the ships on the campy original “Star Trek” TV series look better than what I’ve seen in those supposed “UFO” videos. Heck, a Boeing 747 looks better than those “UFOs.”
If the US Navy and Air Force, and NASA, and Roscosmos, and the China National Space Administration, and all the rest of the agencies, companies, and people around the world who fly up into the air and into outer space had actual pictures and videos of UFOs, it would be all over the news. There is no way they could keep it secret. The whole UFO thing is just a big wacky conspiracy theory. Entertaining, but there is no evidence whatsoever for actual UFOs.
Is it possible for people from Earth to live among communities from other worlds after death? Can people from Earth even “rise above” the low spirituality of Earth to a level comparable with the rest of the universe? Or would that require a superhuman Buddha-like level of spirituality?
(I’m also guessing monogamy is the overwhelming norm on other worlds.)
The general picture is that people in the lower “spiritual” and “natural” heavens tend to live with other people of their own time and culture, whereas those in the highest “celestial” or “heavenly” heaven are more likely to mingle with people from other cultures and areas, and even from other planets. That’s because the highest heavens are the heavens where love especially reigns, and love brings out the commonalities within all people, and binds them together across the usual human dividing lines. In the spiritual heaven, truth generally reigns, and truth tends to distinguish and divide people according to beliefs, religions, cultures, and so on. In the lowest heaven, outer good behavior reigns, and therefore people tend to group together with others who have similar cultural and behavior patterns.
I believe that it is because today we are moving into a more heavenly (love-based) state here on earth, despite many appearances to the contrary, that we are finally starting to bridge many of the former hard barriers of religion and culture, and are becoming a worldwide community that embraces all of the different races, cultures, and religions.
Going to the highest, heavenly heaven doesn’t require a “superhuman Buddha-like level of spirituality.” Rather, it requires reaching a stage of spiritual development in which we see everyone around us from a position of love, no matter who they are, and no matter how different they are from ourselves. It requires overcoming within our own mind all the old barriers of race, sex, religion, culture, and so on, and appreciating each person for the unique and beautiful person they are, and having the same feeling about other countries, cultures, and religions as a whole. This includes, as Jesus taught us, even loving our enemies, and even loving people who are evil and destructive—though of course, we do have to treat them differently in some ways than we treat good and thoughtful people. It is not loving to condone and enable destructive behavior.
In short, though reaching the highest heaven requires serious dedication to love, understanding, and goodness, it is perfectly achievable for people who are willing to go the full distance in their spiritual life and in their relationships with the people around them.
And yes, I think monogamy is the norm in human marriage relationships around the universe, not just on this earth. It may not be universal, just as it is not universal among people on this earth. However, marriage is a reflection of the marriage of love and wisdom in God, and that marriage is fully reflected only in monogamous marriages. If, as Swedenborg says, the people on other planets are mostly more spiritual than we are, they would find monogamy congenial, and polygamy horrible.
Thanks for the well thought out reply.
Also this may sound odd, but do you think it’s possible that people on other worlds can freely explore the universe with out of body experiences (OBEs), since they’re not mired in materialistic thinking to the degree Earth is?
Based on Swedenborg’s descriptions, the inhabitants of most planets would not be interested in traveling around the universe. They are very content living within their own families and clans.
However, Swedenborg does say that the inhabitants of the planet Mercury (as he believed), who correspond to “the memory of abstract concepts, apart from things that are earthly and merely physical” (Other Planets #10), do love to travel around the universe learning about the people of other planets, and absorbing all of their non-physical knowledge. You can read about these spirits starting at Other Planets #9. (The link is to the Chadwick translation, since the New Century Edition translation is not yet posted online at that website.) #12 suggests that even while they are still physically alive on their planet, they can learn about a wide variety of spiritual phenomena through communication with their planet’s angels in heaven.
Technically, this does not mean that they travel around the universe through OBEs, which ordinarily refers to people traveling in the physical realms in a state disassociated from their physical body. They would, rather, be traveling through the spiritual realms in their spiritual bodies. It is not clear whether Swedenborg’s Mercurians were actually able to do this while still living in the body, or whether they only learned such things from the angels of their planet, who travel freely around the spiritual universe, visiting spirits that come from many different planets. #26 mentions Mercurians who knew “many hundreds of thousands of [inhabited] planets in the universe.”
Hi Lee two questions.
1. Do you think the U.S navy released / said these videos are real to throw people away from looking in to their blacklisted aircraft and thus further the UFO story ?
2. Do you think people so desperately want to belive they are aliens so that the universe dosent feel lonely and it would give more meaning to the universe ?
1. No. The U.S. Navy wants people to stop talking about “UFOs” so much that they have changed their terminology to “UAP”: “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Just because the U.S. Navy doesn’t know what it is, that doesn’t mean it’s aliens. Most likely these particular UAPs were produced by glitches in newly upgraded radar technology. See:
No, the UFOs or ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ in those grainy Navy videos probably aren’t aliens – Business Insider
2. Yes, I think people are looking for meaning, and without a spiritual orientation, they look for aliens to make them not feel alone in the universe. Science is their new religion, and aliens are their new gods. Not that alien visitation has anything to do with science. Once again, there is not a shred of evidence that we are being now or have ever been visited by aliens from other planets. If there were, it would be all over the news.
sweedenborg says that non of the alien races he saw were technological and that does seem to be the real reason we havent met aliens yet, i know on other comments regarding aliens its been said that when people have seen ufos or been abducted it wasnt with their physical eyes but their spiritual. So of people see a ufo its almost a hallucination.
Many ufo “experts” say that they belive that ufos that cant be put down as military veichles or weather are from another dimension.
My question is do you think this is the experts keeping a more materialistic view on ufos rather than resorting to spirits wether evil or good influencing our minds ?
Every time I have looked up “proof” of real UFOs, I have found the “evidence” to be entirely unconvincing. Fuzzy photos of barely distinguishable “spaceships” and people who swear on their granny’s grave that they saw a real UFO. If there were real, physical UFOs, it would be reported on the nightly news with crisp, clear pictures of the craft. We see nice, clear pictures of airplanes and military jets flying through the sky all the time. But so far, I have not seen a single clear, crisp picture of a UFO. That’s because they don’t exist. Besides, real aliens wouldn’t travel all the way to Earth only to hide themselves and play cat-and-mouse games with us.
I think the UFO “experts” dearly want some sense of awe and wonder at otherworldly things and beings. But precisely because they commonly do not accept the reality of God and the spiritual realms, they look to the physical skies, and see what they long to see there.
And yes, as I’ve said here before, I think that the reason we haven’t detected any alien life is most likely that people on other planets haven’t bothered to develop technology as we have, since they are more focused on spiritual things than on material things.
From a New Church perspective, is it possible that extraterrestrial peoples could be more or less “humanoid,” but differ significantly in size, appearance, and composition from Earthlings? For example, could there be green-skinned plant people on one world, and aquatic mermaid-like people on another? Or did Swedenborg think alien people are like Star Trek aliens — maybe some forehead bumps or other different features, but otherwise fairly Earthlike?
The extraterrestrials that Swedenborg encountered in the spiritual world were definitely human, and he called them “human.” He viewed the universe as filled with human life. The people from other planets that he spoke to did have minor variations in their physiology, such as being considerably smaller in stature in one case, or having differently colored skin where many humans from earth would have a beard. But they were unmistakeably mammalian humans.
As to whether there could be extraterrestrials who are considerably different from us physiologically, I would not want to say that it’s not possible. But the default view on this for me is that they would likely be as Swedenborg said: basically human, but with minor physiological variations. They would be like Star Trek humanoid aliens, as you say. This is based on the idea that humans are created in God’s image, and not the reverse. Swedenborg saw the human form as being non-arbitrary, but being a reflection of the human soul, which, in turn, is a reflection of the divine nature.
This is not to say that evolution isn’t the mechanism for producing humans biologically. I do think that evolution is the means by which God arranged for the various plants and animals to populate this earth, and that the same mechanism will operate on other habitable planets in the universe.
Based on evolutionary theory, many scientists believe our particular physiological form is an “accident” of evolution. Evolution, they think, could have produced just about any form, but happened to produce our particular form due to a whole chain of semi-random natural occurrences and conditions. Under that view of evolution, intelligent beings on other planets could be entirely different from us because the particular conditions on the planets where they developed were very different from those on our planet.
That’s possible. Once again, I wouldn’t want to say that there couldn’t be plant people or lizard people or mermaid people or other sorts of people that we can’t even conceive of.
However, given my belief that God created the universe, and that God has a human form, I believe, with Swedenborg, that there is a tendency toward the human form in the created universe, and that evolution is not aimless, but tends toward that form.
Further, looking at human physiology, it is marvelously adapted to expressing the human heart and mind. Swedenborg wrote a large volume of material on exactly how the human physical form reflects the human mind or spirit. For just one example, the structure of our lungs, trachea, mouth and nasal passages, lips, and musculature of the face makes it possible for us to have an articulated language. Other animals don’t have a facial physiology that would make articulated speech possible for them. Their physiology allows them to make largely non-articulated sounds that they use to communicate, reflecting the fact that they do not have the rational level of the mind that humans have, from which we produce our articulated speech. This, I think, is not a fluke. The human form reflects and expresses the human spirit.
That’s why, though I remain open to discovery, and wouldn’t want to confidently predict that we will never find an intelligent life form out there that’s very different from us, I tend to think that the universe will indeed be like the Star Trek universe, in which most, if not all, aliens we encounter in the future (if we encounter them at all), will be a lot like us, with only minor physiological differences.
Thanks for the reply. Personally I think a universe where everyone is more or less exactly like us would be “boring,” and it would undermine free will.
Swedenborg said that Providence works in such a way that we can freely see it as providence or chance. I think that if most – if not all – sentient life was carbon-based land-dwelling vertebrate primate life, it would contradict that. It would show that there’s a deliberate intent to make this kind of people, and then it would be harder to choose whether or not to believe in God.
However, I read somewhere that a humanoid form is best for sentient life. This is why I think that sentient life out there can tend to be humanoid, yet vary in makeup, size, and color. Like jellyfish-like marine people in a world like Europa – with 2 eyes and so on, but lacking bones or air-breathing lungs. Or plant people on some world where animal life never appeared for some reason, but plants got mobile. Or plasma “energy beings” if such a thing is possible.
Once again, I would not want to say it’s impossible that intelligent life elsewhere in the universe could take a very different form than our familiar mammalian humaniod life. So far we haven’t seen even one other instance of life elsewhere in the universe, or even in our own solar system. Who knows what we’ll find if and when we ever do discover life somewhere else besides our planet?
However, even within our carbon-based land-dwelling vertebrate primate life, there is a tremendous amount of diversity. No two human beings are exactly alike (even “identical” twins), and some humans are very different from other humans. The wonder of carbon-based molecules is precisely their complexity and ability to take greatly diverse forms. I don’t think there will be any significant limit on diversity even if all life in the universe turns out to be carbon-based.
How much of Swedenborg’s credibility would you say rests on the accuracy of his depictions of alien life- not in the particulars, as we know how his accounts of aliens on other planets were the product of both observation and the limited knowledge of the cosmos during his time- but with the more basic, overall scheme of life he sketches out?
You remarked, based on Swedenborg, that it’s not that intelligent life is scarce, but it’s rather technologically advanced life that’s scarce, which accounts for why there exist no credible account of extraterrestrial contact here on Earth; whatever technology is necessary technology to traverse the cosmos, most alien civilizations simply aren’t interested in developing.
But certainly not all. After all, we’re an alien civilization to other life forms, and while ‘advanced technology’ is a relative designation, we’re hardly an agrarian society, despite barely being able to get to the moon, much less planets light years away. So surely, there are some alien worlds that are at least as advanced, slightly more advanced…perhaps far, far more advanced than both us and our very concept of technology? And if that’s so, isn’t it at least possible that those who have developed it could conceivably visit us?
I ask because while most UFO sightings are dismissed as either hoaxes or misidentifications, there are those few-those very few- that even the most ardent UFO debunkers, while not concluding ‘they must be aliens,’ must concede as being true unknowns, which at requires that we take the aliens hypothesis at least more seriously. And as I mentioned before, the most credible of these accounts have come from both civilian and military pilots, not only because they’re trained observers, but because they have nothing to gain and a LOT to lose by coming forward. As one pilot remarked about coming forward with his own account, ‘no one wants to fly with the guy who sees UFO’s.’ Again, I’m not prepared to conclude ‘aliens,’ but I’m prepared to entertain that conclusion as a possibility.
Basically what I’m asking, is if it’s true that some societies have advanced technology, and if it’s possible that some of them are advanced enough to travel between the stars (as we will one day so ourselves), would it be consistent with or contradict Swedenborg if a UFO lands on the white hours lawn tomorrow morning?
First of all, if Swedenborg’s credibility depends upon everything he said in Earths in the Universe being accurate, then he has already failed the test spectacularly. He thought that every planet in the universe must be inhabited by human life, even moons, and he described people who came from all of the then-known planets in our solar system, plus earth’s moon. Grade: F. (He didn’t, incidentally, describe people living on any of the other moons in our solar system, even though in his day four moons of Jupiter and five moons of Saturn had been discovered.)
Clearly, intelligent life is nowhere near as common as Swedenborg thought it was. On the other hand, the universe is far, far vaster than he could possibly have imagined. Even if habitable planets are rare in the universe, and habitable planets with advanced life forms are even rarer, there could still be vast numbers of planets out there inhabited by Swedenborg’s humans.
As for UFOs, they are literally “Unidentified Flying Objects.” Meaning “We don’t know what the heck they are.” I think a better hypothesis than that they’re aliens from another galaxy playing cat-and-mouse games with us is that they’re experimental blocks of self-propelled green cheese developed by the Wakondans. Considering that we have no idea what they are, I really think we have to take this possibility seriously. Eventually, the Wakondans will be delivering green cheese all around the world, and will likely put Amazon out of business. So consider that when you make your investments.
Now, if an alien spaceship (which by then would no longer be a UFO) lands on the White House lawn tomorrow, then we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, it’s just pure speculation and mind games.
As for the possible existence of alien civilizations that have advanced technology, though Swedenborg didn’t see any, and said basically that people on other planets don’t bother with technology, his sample of alien civilizations was fairly small. Depending upon just how many alien races there are, there could indeed be others that are materialistic enough to develop technology. Apparently however, either such races are not very common in the universe, or faster-than-light travel is technologically impossible. Otherwise, at least one of those technologically advanced races would have swarmed our planet by now.
If there are very few technologically advanced alien civilizations in the universe, it’s possible that the few others that exist are so far away that either they can’t make it this far with their technology or there are such a vast number of other places to visit that are closer and more interesting than our planet that they just haven’t gotten around to visiting us yet.
If faster-than-light travel is impossible, then getting here is probably limited to aliens who live in our galaxy, or at most in our galactic cluster. And unless they’re pretty close, or they’ve been around and technologically advanced for a very long time, and are breeding like rabbits and building gobs and gobs of spaceships to go everywhere in the galaxy, once again, they probably just haven’t had time or interest to get here yet.
Plus, if there were any others reasonably close by, it’s likely we would have detected some sort of electromagnetic signal from them by now. And we haven’t.
I still think the most likely explanation is that if Swedenborg is right, and the universe is teeming with human life, other races of humans on other planets simply haven’t bothered to develop technology.
If we ever do encounter actual aliens, and not wispy, unsubstantiated reports of something that we imagine might be amazing aliens, then we’ll have a little more actual information to go on.
I see and understand your point, paralleling the idea of alien visitation with something equally fantastical, but what strikes me is how much it resembles the same types of arguments that atheists use to discredit miracles and other supernatural claims, suggesting that what we attribute to God could be equally attributed to a giant spaghetti monster orbiting Jupiter, because both are equally plausible, in that both are equally imaginary. For them, the idea of God isn’t one they simply reject, but one they deem impossible, and so they accuse theists of positing ‘God’ where an otherwise prosaic explanation would suffice.
Apply this thinking to ‘aliens’ in the cases of unidentified flying objects, and you’re essentially replicating the same type of argument, which at best is a kind of ’ET of the Gaps’ argument, and at worst a kind of solipsism where we question how we know everything we think we know until we conclude that we essentially can’t know anything other than the self. After all, you say that, should an alien spacecraft land on the White House lawn tomorrow, we might have something to go on, but how would we know that this isn’t merely an illusion propagated by the Wakondan planet, or some kind of super sophisticated mind altering hoax that looks and feels every bit as real as anything else we accept for granted?
I agree, UFO means just that- unidentified flying object, which in no way or sense implied ‘unidentified flying extraterrestrial object.’ But whether you can allow for the possibility- however slight, or ever remote- that a given UFO might be of extraterrestrial origin comes down to whether you believe intelligent life capable of traversing the stars could theoretically exist. And while not pertaining to UFO’s, the scientific community has allowed for the remote possibility of identifying unknown phenomenon with extraterrestrial activity.
I’m sure you at some point heard of KIC 8462852, a star that was exhibiting some very unusual fluctuations, fluctuations so unusual that astronomers had no choice but to allow for the possibility of a massive alien megastructure orbiting the star, as all other attempts to accounts for the the repeated darkening had been inadequate. It was a very remote possibility at the very bottom of their lists of possibilities, and as far as I know it has since been eliminated, but it was one there, as it was conceivable, because they accepted that the idea of advanced alien life- advanced enough to create such a structure- was, itself, conceivable.
Why can’t we approach certain incidents of unexplained aerial phenomena the same way?
If you maintain the belief that advanced alien life could exist, and you read an account of unexplained aerial phenomena made by a civilian or military pilot, which involves a craft
-performing [I]impossible[/I] aerial maneuvers (the Belgian Black Triangle wave, USS Nimitz incident)
-that [I]responds[/I] to the movements and actions of the pilot (JAL Flight 1628 Incident)
Then you can infer:
-it’s not a natural phenomenon
-it’s a craft of no known design
-it’s performing movements that are impossible by any known craft
-it’s under some kind of intelligent control
And if you couple these inferences with an existing assumption that alien life, advanced alien technology and visitation by advanced alien lifeforms is theoretically possible, then why [I]shouldn’t[/I] ‘aliens’ be on the list of possible explanations, albeit at the very bottom?
And these aren’t merely wispy accounts of unexplained phenomena. The Belgian Black Triangle wave was one of the most widely witnessed, widely documented periods of UFO sightings in recent history, including detailed accounts from the Belgian Air Force pilots who were tasked with intercepting the objects, the JAL Flight 1628 incident went one for a reported [I]fifty[/I] minutes, and the USS Nimitz incident even includes onboard camera footage that is considered to be the most compelling ever recorded, though other explanations have been offered. All of these incidents are detailed on wikipedia, and constitute but a small number of the larger body of UFO incidents that defy explanation witnessed by airline pilots.
Again, ‘aliens’ is at the very, very bottom of possible explanations, but considering the above, and the requirements necessary to accept it as possible, I feel it deserves a place on the list. In the end, all of these accounts- even the most detailed, most credible ones- are most likely destined to remain unexplained, and so ‘aliens’ will forever be a most remote explanation, which means these incidents will never be able to further our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it.
But bringing this back full circle, to Swedenborg, do you believe that a proper reading of Swedenborg would make even ‘it might be aliens,’ much less ‘it must be aliens’, an unacceptable position?
Once again, I don’t think it’s a good idea to use Swedenborg as an authority on scientific subjects. Yes, there is some interface between science and spirit. But my view is that it’s best to study science based on the observations and experiments of scientists, and spiritual things on the basis of spiritual text such as the Bible and Swedenborg’s writings.
A “proper reading of Swedenborg,” then, would be not to attempt to make his statements about extraterrestrials definitive in a scientific, natural-world arena. Yes, it can give us some ideas, such as the idea that the reason we haven’t yet detected any aliens could be that they simply haven’t bothered to develop technology. But no, I don’t think a proper reading of Swedenborg would rule out the possibility that alien spaceships could visit our planet, because I don’t look to Swedenborg for answers about material phenomena.
As far as the UFO sightings you mention, I don’t doubt that the people who reported seeing these things actually saw them. But I also don’t think there’s any particular warrant, beyond wishful thinking, for concluding that they were alien visitors.
I just don’t think aliens visiting our planet would do silly things like zooming around near fighter aircraft or appearing to multiple people in a particular location, but never actually landing or making definite contact with Earthlings. If we were to construct spaceships capable of carrying us to an inhabited planet elsewhere in the universe, would we really go all that distance only to zip around in the sky here and there and confuse the heck out of the planet’s inhabitants? The whole idea that aliens would behave in this way is ludicrous.
And yes, every time some new celestial phenomena is discovered, if there is no immediate scientific explanation, some people will start talking aliens. Tabby’s Star (KIC 8462852) and the Dyson Sphere hypothesis is just one of the latest examples of this. PSR B1919+21, the first radio pulsar ever discovered, in 1967, was briefly, albeit jokingly, referred to as “LGM-1” (for “Little Green Men 1”) after it was discovered. But soon other pulsars were discovered, and it quickly became clear that these were not signals from alien civilizations. I didn’t believe the Dyson Sphere hypothesis for Tabby’s Star, either. And yes, now that’s been convincingly disproven as a possible explanation for the fluctuations in brightness in that star.
If there is ever any real evidence of alien visitors to our planet or alien civilizations out there in the universe, it will be on the front page of every newspaper and news site in the world. When that day comes, I’ll take alien visitation seriously. Until then, it’s just a cultural and psychological phenomenon that won’t die because people are lonely, and they want to think that we’re not alone in the universe.
It’s similar to the continual reports in tabloids and click-bait “news” sites that a massive asteroid is in danger of striking earth in just three days! People are afraid of extinction-level catastrophes, so they’ll keep clicking and clicking on those faux-news “headlines.” It always turns out to be an asteroid that will approach fairly close to Earth, but will come nowhere near actually hitting earth. But an asteroid that is going to miss earth isn’t news. However, they’re still properly reported in reputable astronomical sites.
For the sake of clarity and fairness, i don’t wish to suggest you maintain the impossibly of alien visitation per se, but I do feel the need to take issue with suggesting that the alien hypothesis and the mythical Wakondan hypothesis are on equally fantastical footing, as there are some possibilities about life and the universe that we may be justified in allowing for, such that alien life has a basis of possibility that the Wakondons do not, since they are obvious figments of our imagination.
I was aping atheist arguments against God.
Hi Lee , theres a good amount of evidence that show that the ufos encountered in the navy videos could of been man made test flights unknown to the pilots due to being highly secretive tests, Michael Talbot (a sweedonborgian) in his book (the holographic universe) talks about how things like UFOs, yetis and in olden times fairies and what not are holographic projections.
Would you say both these explanations explain UFOs and abductions and if so is it in line with what swedenborg explain about the link between the spirit world and physical ?
Hi lee i know The swedenborgian issue with aliens is a thorny one as there isnt a clear consensus to help with swedenborgs writing to pinpoint the planets and societies he mentions.
I have always liked your explanation of it as it makes sense. Simply and as swedenborg reiterates the spirit world cannot see the physical and thus dont know about it so if aliens dont have sciences and technology they dont know where they are from and because swedenborg knew about some planets he said they were from there.
I have recently found a small article about it and what the author says back up your theory by saying that although swedenborg said they were from the planets in our solar system he excluded i think 3 planets and what do you know the three planets he excluded had not been discovered in his day so the spirts of aliens couldnt draw them from swedenborgs memory and say that was their home because swedenborg and the world didnt know about them.
Yes, in Swedenborg’s day only the five classical planets (other than Earth) that are visible to the naked eye were known: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, plus Earth’s moon. These are the planetary bodies whose inhabitants Swedenborg believed he had met in the spiritual world.
Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, which are not visible to the naked eye in the night sky, had not yet been discovered, and Swedenborg clearly had no idea that they existed. In Other Planets #3:2 he refers to Saturn as “the planet furthest from the sun”—though some translations interpret this as “a planet very far from the sun.” Either way, he says that this is the reason Saturn has rings: to give additional light to this planet that is so far from the sun. But Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto have no such magnificent ring systems to give them additional light, even though they are all considerably farther from the sun than Saturn.
And . . . the plot thickens. In Swedenborg’s day, Jupiter was known to have four moons, and Saturn five. Swedenborg refers to Saturn’s moons in Other Planets #100, so we know he was aware of their existence. And of course he would be aware of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, which can easily be seen with a simple telescope. And, in Other Planets #3.1, Swedenborg writes:
In other words, Swedenborg believed that every planet must be inhabited. And he didn’t have our fancy modern definition of “planet.” He clearly included the Moon in his definition of “planet,” since he said that the Moon, also, was inhabited. And as noted in the above article, one of the planets in another solar system that he describes as inhabited would be only about 1/3 the size of Earth’s moon.
This means that if Swedenborg knew there were four moons of Jupiter, and five moons of Saturn, then logically, he would believe that they, too, must be inhabited. But he never describes any inhabitants of any of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.
Why not? Perhaps because these moons were not part of the popular imagination in Swedenborg’s day (or indeed, even today), and were therefore not thought of as inhabited worlds, unlike the Moon and the five then-known planets other than Earth in our solar system.
This suggests to me that indeed, Swedenborg attributed inhabitants to the particular planets he did because it was popular in Swedenborg’s day to think of them as inhabited, whereas he did not attribute inhabitants to celestial bodies that were known to the science of his day, but that were not part of the menagerie of inhabited worlds in the popular imagination of his day.
All of which is another way of saying that I believe Swedenborg filtered what he experienced in the spiritual world re: spirits from other planets through his own beliefs and ideas about the necessity of every planet being inhabited, and the other planets in our solar system that were commonly thought of as inhabited.
When you think about it, it seems unrealistic that of all the worlds and all the eons of existence, we had to be born on Earth now. Is there something that makes the odds higher that souls are born on Earth? Then again, one could say the same thing about someone born on any one planet at any one time elsewhere.
I suppose that if we looked at any event, the odds against that particular thing happening at that particular time would be astronomical. Yet unique things just keep right on happening every second of every day. The entirety of existence is colossally unlikely. Yet here we are, incredible beings in an incredible universe.
As far as souls being born on Earth, the most basic reason is that Earth has the right conditions for life, whereas most other planets do not. None of the other planets in our solar system look to be hospitable to anything but the simplest forms of life, if they are hospitable to any form of life at all. Our planet just happens to be in the “Goldilocks zone” around our particular star, in which the conditions are just right for life.
A whole army of astronomers is now searching for planets around other stars. So far we have discovered several thousand of them. Most of them are gas giants, since these are the planets that are biggest and easiest to detect. However, some of the “exoplanets” we’ve discovered have been identified as possibly habitable planets.
Keep in mind, though, that “habitable” means something quite different to exobiologists than it does to ordinary people. In the scientific use of that term, it means that a planet is able to host any kind of life, even it is only bacteria or other very simple forms of life. It does not mean that a planet has intelligent, human-style life on it. You can safely ignore the click-bait headlines that make it sound like scientists may have discovered Spock or Worf living on another planet. They’re probably talking about bacteria, not humanoids.
Given that so far we have not received any visitors or even any signals from civilizations on other planets, many scientists who think that there probably is life on other planets doubt that there is intelligent elsewhere in the observable universe. Still, finding intelligent life on another planet is the holy grail of the search for extraterrestrial life.
So, how unlikely is it that souls are born on Earth? We don’t really know yet. So far, this earth and its ability to support complex life forms looks like a rare commodity in the universe. But that’s still an open question—one that many scientists who don’t even believe we have souls are actively researching.
Here’s a rather crazy-sounding idea: what if Earthlings are the first humans to appear in the universe? And they later spread throughout the universe? And the aliens Swedenborg met are descendants of Earthlings from the future, as the spiritual world is beyond space and time?
Seems like this is likely not the case though.
However, even though there is no sense of time as we know it in the spiritual world, there is still sequence of events. And this does seem to track with time here on earth. For example, people who die earlier have to wait too see their friends and family who die later. Time travel does not seem to be possible in either world.
Also, Swedenborg was fairly emphatic that the aliens he met were quite different from the inhabitants of Earth. For one thing, they were not technologically advanced. It would seem unlikely that if Earthlings used advanced technology to colonize the galaxy, all of their descendants would be stuck at a rudimentary level of technology.
Still, it’s fun to speculate!
On the scientific side, it is possible that our generation of stars is the first to have the necessary elements to support life on its planets. The early universe consisted almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. The other elements had to be forged in stars, and spread out into the surrounding space as these stars died, so that rocky planets could form around subsequent generations of stars.
This is one possible solution to the Fermi Paradox: Earth just happens to be among the first generation of habitable planets, and there hasn’t yet been time for large numbers of technologically advanced civilizations to develop.
However, I think the general scientific consensus is that our solar system should not be among the first generation of solar systems capable of supporting life. So I don’t think this is a popular or well-accepted solution to the Fermi Paradox.
Back to the religious side, if our Earth is among the first generation of habitable planets, perhaps that is another reason the Lord chose to be born on this planet, and not on some other. Perhaps this was the first available inhabited and very materialistic planet. And the Lord took the first opportunity. But that’s just speculation on my part.
Follow-up: Here’s an article that takes up the issue of how early in the universe habitable planets could have formed:
What Was It Like When The First Habitable Planets Formed? by Ethan Segal
It doesn’t look good for my theory!
In the afterlife when people assume angelic or diabolic forms after the second state after death, can these forms still have variety, or does everyone have to have a “true form” resembling Homo sapiens from the 3rd planet of the Solar System?
Swedenborg describes all angels, no matter what planet they come from, as being in a human form that would be recognizable as such to a homo sapiens who originated on the third rock from our sun. There are variations in stature, skin coloration, beard, and so on, but they are all clearly human in form as we conceive of the human form. Spirits from a few of the planets like to imagine and present themselves in other forms, such as being orbs of light, but fundamentally they are still human-shaped beings.
In hell, there is a great variety of misshapen and twisted forms, but all are based on the human form, often with some animal characteristics thrown in. Perhaps they are satyrs or monsters of other sorts, and as a group they may appear from a distance as dragons or other beasts, but up close, individually they still look like some twisted or animalistic humanoid form. And to each other, they look like normal human beings.
This, at any rate, is what Swedenborg reported. Would a person from today’s society in which we imagine sentient, intelligent beings that are not at all human in physical form see something different in the spiritual world that Swedenborg couldn’t see because he couldn’t conceive of it? That is an excellent question—and one I’ll be very curious to find the answer to when it comes my time to move on from this world to the next.
I like to think there’s a variety of more or less humanoid aliens out there, maybe with different compositions and habitats – like underwater in a world like Europa. It’d be kind of boring if all aliens out there look like Homo sapiens and live in “standard” Earth-like environments.
Hopefully that’s possible.
Although I think all sapient life is human in mind, even if not quite like Homo sapiens in body.
It’s an interesting question. Swedenborg clearly conceived of and experienced people from other planets as being human in every sense, including having our familiar human form, with only minor variations in height, coloration, proportions, and so on.
However, Swedenborg did not know about evolution, and how particular plant and animal forms develop in adaptation to their environment. It does seem possible that other physical forms could develop, while still housing a human mind. That to me is an open question. It is a question that is unlikely to be answered in our lifetime, since it would require encountering life on other planets close-up, which is far beyond our current capabilities.
It’s also possible that Swedenborg is right in his view and experience of people from other planets being human in the usual sense. If, rather than being a random process, the beginnings and development of life are brought about and directed by spiritual forces from within, as Swedenborg suggests, evolution may follow a common path on any planet capable of supporting life because it is not purely dependent on the varying environments of different planets, but is responsive to a spiritual blueprint that uses the local environment as “raw materials” to build a human form based on that blueprint, with minor variations as needed to adapt to local environmental conditions.
Another possibility, looking at it from a purely secular perspective, is that the human form as we know it is the optimal form for expressing the mind of intelligent, self-aware creatures, and will therefore “win out” in the end in just about any environmental scenario. The particular form of our bodies does seem admirably suited to carry out our goals, plans, and wishes. This may not be mere coincidence.
As an example, it is common in animated movies to see animals talking like humans. But in reality, the skulls, jaws, and facial form and musculature of most, if not all other animals besides humans would be incapable of producing the wide variety of articulated sounds necessary for a fully developed vocal language. Animations commonly make animals’ mouths move like human mouths, but in reality animals’ mouths can’t move like human mouths.
And of course, there is the famous opposable thumb that makes our hands so much more dexterous and useful than the hands/paws of any other animal.
So it’s certainly possible that there will be intelligent, self-aware creatures on other planets that have very different forms than our usual human form, such as on a water world, where our land-adapted form would not be optimal. But it’s also possible that the humanoid form will be the rule wherever there is intelligent life.
As of now, that is still an open question—and a fascinating one!
Thanks for the reply.
Also, even though this universe may limit travel and communication by making 1 c an absolute limit, beings in the spiritual can meet despite their former homeworlds in the physical being even billions of light years apart? Like someone who used to live in a world in IC 1101 being able to see someone who used to live in GN-z11 in Heaven?*
*(that’s about a 30 billion light year distance in the physical BTW)
If we can believe Swedenborg’s accounts of his travels to the planetary regions in the spiritual world of planets outside our solar system, then yes, travel to other planets in the spiritual world takes place several orders of magnitude faster than it could happen physically here in the material universe.
The longest it took Swedenborg to reach any of the planetary regions outside our solar system that he visited in the spiritual world was two days (see Other Planets #138). Two other visits to extrasolar planets took him ten or twelve hours (see Other Planets #157, 168).
Meanwhile, in the physical universe, the closest star to earth, Proxima Centauri, is over four light years away. And no object that has mass can travel that fast. Even if we were to develop technology that could travel at 20% of the speed of light, as the Breakthrough Starshot initiative aims to do using tiny spacecraft, it would still take twenty years to get there.
So yes, travel in the spiritual world is apparently much faster than is even theoretically possible here in the material world. Of course, there are dreams of faster-than-light travel. But I doubt that will ever be possible. It would create all sorts of time paradoxes that would tangle the laws of physics up into knots.
Even with slower-than-light travel, there are limits on how fast humans can accelerate. The human body cannot withstand the g forces that machines can. We couldn’t just zap a human up to 20% of the speed of light in a few seconds as Breakthrough Starshot aims to do with its nanoprobes.
For the fastest human travel, we would need continuous drive engines that would accelerate steadily, ideally at 1g (1 earth gravity) for half the journey to another star, then turn around and decelerate for the other half of the journey. A nice side benefit is that the people in the ship would experience continuous earth gravity the entire trip.
Theoretically, this could get us anywhere in the universe in about one year more than the distance to the destination in light years, though actual travel times would likely be a bit longer. So Proxima Centauri would take maybe six years. However, that would be from the perspective of the people on the ship. From the perspective of people on earth, it would be much, much longer. See Wikipdia -> Space travel under constant acceleration. (The article gives a figure of 3.6 years to the nearest star, but this doesn’t seem correct based on the math.)
We are also very far from having the technology to achieve continuous 1g acceleration for years on end. Rapid acceleration of small probes via laser will come much sooner, but that would not be practical for large vessels that could transport humans.
Long story short, given current physics, it looks like the fastest we could ever reach any other star would be about six years. And there may not even be habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system. As of now, we have no idea how far away the nearest inhabited planet is. Based on current science, we do not even know for sure that there are any other inhabited planets in the universe, let alone planets inhabited by intelligent life. Meanwhile, the longest Swedenborg said he took to get to another planetary region in the spiritual world was two days, and this was to the most distant planetary region he visited. Closer ones took him half a day or less.
Based on all this, travel in the spiritual world is much faster than it is here in the material universe.
This does seem consistent with Swedenborg’s general account of how quickly people can communicate with and visit one another in the spiritual world, even over great distances. On earth, the fastest we’ll likely be able to get to the other side of the world any time soon is about 40 minutes on a rocket that takes a ballistic trajectory through space. This is what SpaceX plans to do using Starship for point-to-point travel on earth. But in the spiritual world, people from our planet, living in our planetary region in the spiritual world, can visit with one another instantaneously just by thinking about one another.
Also I take it that “distances” (differences in state) in the spiritual world aren’t necessarily the same as in the physical, so in Heaven, a community of people from a galaxy 10 billion light years away could be “a short walk” away from a community made of people from a planet just 10 light years away, assuming their spiritual differences aren’t too great?
Conversely, I assume 2 communities of people who came from 2 different worlds in a same solar system could be on the “opposite sides of Heaven” because of how vastly different they are spiritually.
Once again, if Swedenborg’s experiences of people from other planets are any guide to go by, it’s not as simple as that. The way he describes it, even in the spiritual world, the planetary regions of all of the (then-known) planets in our solar system are in a single region of heaven, in an arrangement similar to their arrangement relative to the sun in our physical solar system, but all of them fairly quickly accessible to the others, whereas planetary regions associated with planets in other solar systems are at much greater distances from one another in the spiritual world.
If this is so, then physical distance in the material universe does correlate with spiritual distance in the spiritual universe—which, instead of being determined by space, is determined by people’s state of heart and mind. This would mean that people from planets in a galaxy ten billion light years away would be more distant in the spiritual world than people from any planet in our own galaxy.
However, even in Swedenborg’s writings, there are indications that this may not be a hard-and-fast rule. Consider this statement in Arcana Coelestia #6701:
Tantalizingly, of the three places that Swedenborg wrote and/or published his experiences of people from other planets in the spiritual world—Spiritual Experiences (aka Spiritual Diary), Arcana Coelestia, and Other Planets (aka Earths in the Universe)—this statement occurs only in Arcana Coelestia. However, he did write and publish it, so we can’t just ignore it, even though it throws into turmoil his whole schema of planetary regions in the spiritual world based on their great differences in spiritual character. All of a sudden, in the highest heaven, angels from all planets all around the universe are all living together with one another in harmony!
Honestly, I can’t really picture how this works. That would be a vast number of people! Surely there must still be some order and organization even in the highest heaven. Even that heaven, Swedenborg says, consists of different communities. This is something I’ll be very curious to inquire about once it comes my time to enter the spiritual world.
Meanwhile, given that we now know Swedenborg was mistaken about the planetary origins of all of the groups of spirits that he assigned to the other then-known planets in our solar system and to the Moon, it’s probably best not to be too fundamentalist about Swedenborg’s schema of planetary cultures being near to or far from one another based on how near or far their planets were from each other in the physical universe.
If Swedenborg did indeed meet cultures from other planets, they didn’t come from other planets or moons in our solar system. They must have come from other, far more distant planets orbiting other stars. And current science suggests that not every star has a planet orbiting it that is capable of supporting complex life forms. Far from it.
In short, at minimum, Swedenborg’s schema of the planets in our solar system having neighboring planetary regions in the spiritual world is way off. If that schema can be salvaged at all, it would have to be planets in nearby regions of the galaxy, or, if inhabited planets are quite rare, planets from within a single galaxy, or even in a galaxy cluster.
But once again, I’m not going to get too fundamentalist about this schema. I do tend to think there are other inhabited planets in the universe, and I have no problem with the idea that Swedenborg might have met people from a small number of them, and mistakenly assigned them to the other planets in our solar system. That’s covered in the above article.
As for whether there is any correlation between distance between them in the physical universe and distance between them in the spiritual universe, that seems shaky to me. The only physical basis I could see for this would be that different planets would have different surface conditions, and therefore might be suitable for different types of cultures. But given our current knowledge of cosmology, those differences probably wouldn’t have anything to do with how close or distant solar systems are to each other, but rather with the types of stars around which the planets orbit (G-type including our sun, K-type, M-type including red dwarfs, etc.), and the particular course planetary formation took around that star. And the different types of stars should be relatively uniform in distribution around the universe on the largest scale.
So is it possible that people who came from planets in galaxies ten billion light years from each other could be just a short walk away from each other in the spiritual world? Based on Arcana Coelestia #6701, at least in the highest heaven, the answer is yes. And I suspect that in general, the answer to this question is much more complicated than Swedenborg could understand or describe. He barely even knew what a galaxy was, let alone having the complex understanding of the universe and its origins that we have today.
Swedenborg’s universe was considerably larger than the Scholastic/Aristotelian universe that basically consisted of our solar system, the stars being affixed to its outermost sphere. But at most Swedenborg’s conception of the universe was probably no bigger than the Milky Way galaxy. In the 18th century, other galaxies were known only as cloudy somethings that didn’t quite seem to be stars. In short, Swedenborg probably thought of the Milky Way as being the universe.
Cosmology has made huge strides since then. We can’t fault Swedenborg for not knowing what we know today about the nature of the physical universe. But we do have to adjust our thinking about his theological writings in the awareness that although his knowledge of the physical sciences was excellent for his day, much of it is now quite dated, and that dated knowledge affected the way he composed his theological writings. I don’t think it greatly affects the spiritual teachings in his writings. But it does make it impossible for us to take everything he said as literally true and accurate, especially when it comes to science and history.
All of which is a long way of saying, in answer to your question, “I don’t know for sure.” But I’ll be very interested to find out once my time on this earth is complete!
The most I can say is that yes, communities of people who are very different from one another in their ruling loves will be very distant from one another in heaven, whereas those who are very similar in their ruling loves will be close together. As to how this will relate to their planets of origin, for me, that is an open question.
What do you make of this video? Other planets even better for life than earth.
With all the trillions and trillions of stars out there, most of which seem to have planets around them, it would be surprising if our Earth were the only, or even the best, planet in the universe for hosting life. I expect that eventually we will get some actual evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, and possibly even in our solar system, though it may be only simple microbial life that we discover at first.