Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life

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!

E.T., The Extraterrestrial

E.T., The Extraterrestrial

Aliens!

Aliens!

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.

Enter Christianity.

An expanding picture of the universe

The Aristotelian Universe in a Ptolemaic Model

The Aristotelian Universe in a Ptolemaic Model

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?

Galaxies in space - Hubble Space Telescope

Galaxies in space – Hubble Space Telescope

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 flatting 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?

Not really.

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 hat 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:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All About God, Science Philosophy and History
86 comments on “Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life
  1. Craig says:

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Craig,

      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.

      • Craig J Todd says:

        Thanks Lee for your detailed and thought-provoking reply.

        • Doug Webber says:

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          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.

        • Doug Webber says:

          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:

          http://youtu.be/Lnylz-FW_Wg

          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:

          http://youtu.be/sTZ7O9cfpPQ

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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.

        • Richard Neer says:

          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.’ 😉

        • Lee says:

          Hi Richard,

          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

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

        • Richard Neer says:

          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!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

        • Richard Neer says:

          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

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          As for these UFO sightings confirming what Swedenborg wrote about extraterrestrials:

          They don’t.

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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.

        • Richard Neer says:

          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….

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

        • Richard Neer says:

          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!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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”:

          They also said that many on their earth believe that the spirit of the body has been from eternity, and was infused into the body at conception. But they added that they now know it is not so, and that they repent having been in such a false opinion. (Earths in the Universe #149)

          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.

        • Doug Webber says:

          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.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi Doug,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          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:

          In their bodily life, they had held the opinion that they had been spirits from eternity, so that only with difficulty would they be convinced of having been born, insisting that they had been spirits from eternity. Convinced nevertheless that this was not the case, because they do not at all like to deceive anyone, they said that they now know that they are not from eternity, but had been born like everyone else, but that they had had this opinion that their spirits had existed from eternity, as some do also on this earth, and had then been poured into bodies. They are indeed so upright that they moved me deeply, also for the reason that they were sorry for having had this idea, since they now realize they are not from eternity, but only the Lord is from eternity. 1748, 23 March. (Spiritual Experiences #1673)

          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:

          These spirits were altogether unwilling to think of their body, and indeed of anything corporeal and material.

          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:

          like clouds, and for the most part like a dark cloud, in which is mingled something of a bright human appearance.

          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.

  2. Babs says:

    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

    • Lee says:

      Hi Babs,

      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!

      • Babs says:

        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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Babs,

          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?

  3. Doug Webber says:

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Doug,

      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.”

  4. Richard Neer says:

    Hi Lee,

    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.

    Rich

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      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.

      You say:

      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.

      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.

      • Richard Neer says:

        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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      You say:

      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 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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      The monkeys in the ol’ brain are starting to go bananas, so I’ll just fling one o’ them bananas at one more thing:

      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.

      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. 😉

      • Richard Neer says:

        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!!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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.

    • Craig J Todd says:

      Thanks for your fascinating comments Richard. I wholeheartedly agree with you!

  5. Richard Neer says:

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      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.

      • Richard Neer says:

        Hi Lee,

        Doesn’t this still all boil down to perspective only coming from our first-person “human” point of view?

        Rich

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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! 😉

        • Richard Neer says:

          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!

  6. Lee says:

    Hi All,

    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.

    Hi _____,

    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.

  7. Brian says:

    Hi Lee,

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brian,

      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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brian,

      Speaking of Star Trek, I just re-edited and posted an old sermon of mine that you might enjoy: Spirit: The Final Frontier

      • Brian says:

        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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brian,

          Good question.

          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.

  8. Cristian says:

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Cristian,

      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.

      • Cristian says:

        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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Cristian,

      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.

  9. SeunAlaba says:

    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

    • Lee says:

      Hi SeunAlaba,

      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?

      • SeunAlaba says:

        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

  10. tfouto says:

    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi tfouto,

      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.

      • Richard Neer says:

        Hi Lee,

        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

        Rich

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          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! 🙂

        • Richard Neer says:

          Of course I read the article! You and I have already had much discussion on this…

          Looking forward to your next blog post…! 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rich,

          I know. I’m just tweaking you. 😛

      • tfouto says:

        Lee,

        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.

        • tfouto says:

          Lee,

          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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi tfouto,

          Good question.

          Are you familiar with Stephen Jay Gould’s on-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:

          1. Science is a poor tool for discovering and drawing conclusions about spiritual subjects such as the existence and nature of God and the spiritual world. And:
          2. Religion is a poor tool for discovering and drawing conclusions about physical subjects such as the nature of the material universe.

          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.

  11. tfouto says:

    Lee sure.

    So from wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter

    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.[2][3] 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.[4][5][6][7] 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.[8]”

    Now my words.

    What science can tell us is only about 10% of the mass in the universe. All the rest is simply unkown.

    • Lee says:

      Hi tfuoto,

      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?

      • tfouto says:

        Lee,

        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 🙂

  12. Frankly Frank says:

    Hi Lee,

    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!

    Frankly Frank

    • Lee says:

      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.

  13. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    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?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      Thanks for your long comment and question. I’ll respond to the rest of it later, but I wanted to immediately respond to this:

      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.

      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 Lord cannot manifest himself to everyone in person, as has been shown just above [§§776–778], and yet he foretold that he would come and build a new church, which is the New Jerusalem. Therefore it follows that he is going to accomplish this through the agency of a human being who can not only accept these teachings intellectually but also publish them in printed form.

      I testify in truth that the Lord manifested himself to me, his servant, and assigned me to this task; after doing so, he opened the sight of my spirit and brought me into the spiritual world; and he has allowed me to see the heavens and the hells and to have conversations with angels and spirits on a continual basis for many years now. I also testify that ever since the first day of this calling, I have accepted nothing regarding the teachings of this church from any angel; what I have received has come from the Lord alone while I was reading the Word. (True Christianity #779, italics added)

      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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      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.

      • Rami says:

        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?

        • Lee says:

          Yes, one more reply coming, about the culture and technology issues. I’m squeezing them in here and there when I get a chance.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      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.

  14. tfouto says:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160811120405.htm

    Venus may have been habitable, NASA climate modeling suggests

    Date:
    August 11, 2016
    Source:
    NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
    Summary:
    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.

    • Lee says:

      Hi tfouto,

      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.

      • tfouto says:

        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.

        • Lee says:

          Hi tfuoto,

          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.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Featured Book

<

Click to buy on Amazon

Join 867 other followers

Earlier Posts
Blog Stats
  • 1,531,778 hits
%d bloggers like this: