Tuesday, July 7, 1984

Location - FNCA 1984

I suspect you won't mind if I review very briefly what I covered Monday morning. I'm

working in these lectures on the assumption that we understand ourselves as spiritual

beings by means of models drawn from sensory experience. Newtonian physics, which treats

matter as exclusively made up of particles, has provided us with most of the models that

are currently popular. Contemporary physics, though, finds that matter also has wave

properties; and this discovery has unlocked unexpected potential.

I find Swedenborg describing spiritual reality as having conspicuous and important wave

properties, especially in dealing with influx and with the nature and the communication of

love and wisdom. I might mention one explicit instance of this, from T.C.R. 173.2, where

Swedenborg states that in heaven, no one can pronounce a trinity of persons each of whom

separately is God, because "the heavenly aura itself, in which their thoughts fly and

undulate the way sound does in our air, resists it."

As my title indicates, the particular wave phenomenon I'm working with is the hologram.

This is a recording on photographic film of the interference pattern between two sets of

light waves, one coming directly from the source, and the other indirectly, reflected off

the object being recorded. The resultant plate has two distinctive characteristics. Light

shining through it in a particular way will recreate a three-dimensional image of the

object recorded, and the whole image is recorded on every segment of the plate.

I find this phenomenon helpful in understanding a number of things Swedenborg says about

immediate and mediate influx, about the pervasiveness of the human form in macrocosm and

microcosm, and about the communication of thoughts and feelings in the spiritual world. I

got as far as talking about boundaries, and that is where I want to pick things up this

morning. By way of review, I'll just quote my summary sentence from Monday's lecture: "To

summarize the suggestion, it is that we need boundaries, that the holographic model is

open to a multiplicity of boundaries, and that it is then vital that we stop regarding our

boundaries as somehow inherent in the nature of things, and start evaluating them for

their appropriateness."

Our sensory experience is a continuum. Day and night, our senses send us continuous

signals, without any gaps. We make sense out of this by means of our selectivity, which

takes at least two distinguishable forms. One is that we mark things off from each other

and group them into categories. The other is that we ignore a large percentage of what is

going on. I'll pursue the former device in a minute, but I'll remind some of you and

inform others of the fovea of the eye. This is the area in the center of the retina, the

only area where the photosensitive cells are packed densely enough to allow us to see

detail. It constitutes one forty-thousandth of the total area of the retina. If you want

to check this out, sort of, take a printed page, fix your gaze on one letter, and see how

many words you can read without shifting your center of focus.

As to the other device, we need only to look at the way language works. There is a

spectrum of colors, a continuum shifting from one end to the other. We draw boundaries in

it, and label red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Other languages divide it

differently. In a book called The Universe Within, Morton Hunt has a page filled with line

drawings of objects, the central theme being "cups." But these are all of different

proportions. Take one of our coffee cups here, broaden the base, and at some point it

won't be a cup but a mug. Make it gradually taller and slimmer, and at some point it will

be a vase with a little handle on it. Make it flatter and broader, and it will be a bowl

with a handle.

The point is that the word "cup" does not refer directly to one particular object

different by creation from all other objects, but to a mental category of objects. The

boundaries of this category are quite arbitrary, but they are also widely accepted among

the native speakers of a given language. Further, it turns out to be best to regard the

meaning of any given word as having a kind of core meaning or center, with rings of

extended meaning spreading out from that center, oddly like what happens when you drop a

pebble in a pond. And finally, these areas of meaning overlap all over the map. I can

refer to our cat as a cat, a pet, a problem, an idiot, a lump, a fierce hunter, a snob,

and so on-- always referring to the same furry object, but putting her in different


Now if this is true of the way language relates to observable physical reality, where we

can point to something and say, "Now that is a cat" (or "Now that is a baby"), it must

inevitably be more true of the way language relates to things we cannot see. It is not

easy at all to decide what someone else means by the word "love," for example. Theology is

very largely a matter of drawing such boundaries in the unseen realm, and it behooves us

to do so with some care, always with attention to the appropriateness, to the use, of such


The boundaries we draw around ourselves are particularly important-- what I call "me" and

"mine." Swedenborg is quite clear and consistent in telling us that spiritually, we decide

who we are. We "appropriate" certain qualities to ourselves; we claim tham as our own, and

they are then functionally our own. Now I'd like to call your minds back to that pond with

all the pebbles dropping in, and suggest that each of us is like the impact of one of

those pebbles-- an area in this continuum of reality where the Lord's direct inflow

intersects the horizontal, indirect inflow.

In this model, what gives us our individuality is not our boundaries, which are really

quite arbitrary, but our center, our location. This again gives a particualar cogency to

some of Swedenborg's descriptions. From the Arcana (n. 2057.2), "The very form of heaven

is of such nature that everyone there is like a center, a center especially of

communication of happiness to all, arranged according to all the differences of . . .

love, which are beyond counting." Or try this one (A.C. 3833):

When we are being led into the true and therefore into the good, everything we then learn

is fuzzy; but when the good is united to us and we look at the true from that standpoint,

then things become clear, more and more so as time goes on; then we are no longer in doubt

as to whether things are true or not, but we know what exists and that it is true. When we

are in this state, then we begin to know countless things, because we are proceeding then

from the good and the true which we believe and perceive as if from a center to

surrounding things, and as we proceed, we see the surrounding things over a wider and

wider area, constantly extending and expanding our boundaries.

I'd also refer you to the discussion recorded in C.L. 380.7 on the relationship of center

and expanse, quoting only the question, "What is crazier than saying that the center is

derived from the expanse?" If it is true that we are centers, that we are held in being

through our inmost, then what could be crazier than trying to define ourselves by our


Monday I promised you something I hoped would be a surprise, and this is the place for it.

Listen for a moment to a paragraph from Heaven and Hell (n. 438).

I may add to this that every individual, as long as he or she is living in the body, is as

to spirit in a community with spirits without knowing it-- good people in an angelic

community and evil people in a hellish community-- and that each one arrives in that same

community after death. People who are arriving among spirits after death are often told

and shown this. People are not visible in this community as spirits while they are living

in this world because then they are thinking naturally; but people who are thinking

withdrawn from the body, being then in the spirit, are sometimes visible in their

communities. When they are visible, they can be readily distinguished from the spirits who

are there because they move along lost in thought, silently. They do not look at others:

it is as though they did not see them. And the moment any spirit talks to them, they


This, for me, raises a question. What happens to these silent individuals when they

vanish? They can't stop existing on that level of reality-- we all exist there. That is

where we now are as to our spirits (cf. T.C.R. 1). In fact, if any level of our being

ceased to exist or were missing, we would cease to exist. Swedenborg says we have all

these levels, but that they are opened only by the way we live. Why aren't we always

visible on all levels?

I begin to get a glimmer of an answer from our wave properties, namely, that it is our

consciousness that draws boundaries around us and makes us visible. Otherwise we are just

part of the general pattern. We sort of blend into the landscape.

It would seem as though things are different here in the physical world, as though our

bodies continue to be discrete from other bodies whether we're conscious or not. But

listen to this sentence from A.C. (n. 7270): "Inflow is patterned by these stages [namely

"discrete degrees"], for the divine-true that emanates directly from the divine-good flows

in by stages, and in its course, or at each new stage, it becomes more general and

therefore coarser and hazier, and it becomes slower, and therefore more viscous and


If you'll cast your minds back a bit to that pot of white sauce cooking away on the stove,

it will serve as an illustration. When it is just starting, it's pretty thin. You stir it,

and you get lots of quick little ripples that bounce off the sides of the pan. You stop

stirring it, and it quiets down pretty quickly. As it gets thicker, two things happen.

The ripples get slower, and they last longer. They have pretty slow reflexes.

This suggests to me that we should regard matter as viscous rather than as permanent. It

does respond to spirit, but slowly. It is our consciousness that holds our bodies

together; but when that consciousness leaves, it takes these sluggish bodies quite a while

to disintegrate and become part of the landscape again. By contrast, spiritual substance

is immeasurably more responsive. All kinds of effects are quite promptly visible that

might take years to manifest themselves in this material realm.

Another of my favorite little passages supports this-- one that has been mistranslated by

reason of the mortal sin of ignoring the subjunctive. It's from N.J.H.D. (n. 36), and

reads as follows:

We are so created as to be in the spiritual world and in the natural world at the same

time. The spiritual world is where angels are, and the natural world is where mortals are.

And since we are created in this way, we have been given an internal and an external-- an

internal through our involvement in the spiritual world, and an external through our

involvement in the natural world. Our internal is what is called the inner person, and our

external is what is called the outer person.

Everyone has an internal and an external-- good and evil people alike. . . . But for evil

people, the internal is in the world and its light, and their external is too. So they

don't see anything from heaven's light, only from the world's light. . . . This is why

matters of heaven are in thick darkness for them, and matters of this world are in the

light. We can see from this that good people have an inner person and an outer person, but

that evil people have no inner person, only an outer one.

I'd paraphrase this in our present context by saying that we all have these levels all the

time, but that we gather as persons, we come into human form with human boundaries, only

as we begin to become conscious-- to see in the appropriate light.

Even as physical creatures, we are in a constant process of change. We eat, digest, and

eliminate matter. If we were to draw a simple diagram of this, matter would be flowing

into us and out of us, and it would be "alive" while it was inside us. For me, at least,

this makes it easier to understand my physical body as something whose integrity and

boundaries are maintained by my consciousness rather than as something inherently discrete

from the rest of the world.

To return to more general considerations, though, to live and to function as finite

creatures we need boundaries. I don't find this problematic in the holographic model,

which is susceptible to all kinds of boundaries. It becomes possible and necessary,

though, to use boundaries with sensitivity to their effects, realizing that they are

concessions to our need rather than intrinsic features of the Lord's creation.

I want to illustrate this by returning to the example of "my" lectures, which in a way

contain nothing I can call exclusively "mine." But in order to see more clearly what is

involved, I think it will help to have another look at the holographic model.

I've made only slight reference to one of its startling and paradoxical features, the

presence of the whole image in every segment of the plate. I mentioned in Monday's

lecture, but not in today's review thereof, that the smaller the segment, the less detail

there is.

So let's look at a familiar principle and see what we can do with it. It's succinctly

stated in N.J.H.D. 11. "Everything in the universe that is in accord with the divine

design goes back to the good and the true. Nothing exists in heaven, and nothing in this

world, that does not go back to these two. The reason is that these two, the good and the

true, emanate from the divine, the source of everything." An implication of this is

explicitly stated in D.L.W. (nn. 77ff.): "The divine is the same in the largest and the

smallest things."

This means that a baby opening its eyes for the first time sees a complete image of the

divine. It means that the divine is wholly present in each one of us. It means that it is

absolutely pointless for me to try to give you anything good and true that is not already

within you, because there's no such thing. The D.L.W. passage continues,

It does seem as though the divine were not the same in one person as in another-- that it

were different, for example, in a wise person than in a simple one, different in an

elderly person than in an infant. But this appearance is deceptive. The person is a

recipient, and the recipient or recipient vessel may vary. A wise person is a recipient of

divine love and divine wisdom more aptly and therefore more fully than a simple person,

and an elderly person who is also wise more than an infant or child. Still, the divine is

the same in the one as it is in the other . . . .

It seems to me that in order to deal with things and people as they are, we need to take

this into account. We need, that is, to recognize what's the same in all of us, and what's

different. To this extent, I'm even prepared to be guided by something like common sense.

And for me, the clear implication of this section of D.L.W. is that while I can't give you

anything that isn't already in you, I may be able to help you recognize what is.

There's a confirmation of this from common experience. Think of a recent time when you've

been "enlightened," when some book or person has presented a new idea that really worked

for you. If your experience is anything like mine, along with the sense of newness there

is also a very strong element of recognition. This is something I've been looking at all

my life, but I've never been quite able to see it. I almost knew it, but not quite.

If I think of this in terms of that pond with all the ripples, what has happened is that

instead of seeing a mass of confusion, I suddenly see a pattern. It's as though someone

pointed out to me the place where one pebble had landed, and I saw its ripples as primary

and others as secondary. What I'm seeing is in a way no different; how I'm seeing it has


So I do have a potential use in your lives, and you in mine. That use does not depend on

what I possess in the way of knowledge, not in any mechanistic sense. It is not that I

have more of one thing inside my boundaries, and you more of something else. That's an

awfully common assumption which I'd suggest is awfully misleading. Everything I "have,"

everything you "have," is flowing in from the outside-- from each other, and ultimately

from the Lord.

No, what's distinctive about me is not how much my boundaries include, but where my center

is, where I am in the overall pattern. So I don't need to defend my identity by defending

my boundaries, by claiming anything as exclusively mine. The only way my identity could be

threatened would be for someone else to be exactly where I am spiritually-- to have led my

life and made my decisions just as I have. I don't think I need to lie awake nights

worrying about that.

In my closing lecture, I'll suggest some things it probably is worth worrying about, which

will finally get us a bit closer to the matter of health and healing. By that time, I hope

some of all this will have begun to come together a bit.

contact phil at for any problems or comments