Hi everyone —
First, just to share how much I appreciated the long thread of conversation that unfolded in last week’s Discussion Forum. Thanks to all who contributed: there were so many good insights, provocative statements, beautiful anecdotes and stories shared, that I found myself wishing there could be more ample space for unraveling the import of all that you had to say. We are off to a great start for “greening Swedenborg,” and I am so grateful to you all for your words.
Catherine wrapped up last week’s thread by asking if “a focus on Swedenborg’s influence on ecological thought will ultimately bring God back into the conversation,” and if “Swedenborg’s ideas are to become the basis for radical new theologies of ecology and the environment for next century?” Indeed, this is the question to grapple with. Much theology connected to modern-day environmentalism has embraced pantheism: the making of matter sacred, so that there is no (perceivedly problematic) division between mind/body, no “other world” beyond the transcendence located here in this one we smell and see and hear with our phenomenal senses. For the pantheist, God / the Divine is synonymous with the cosmos. However, Swedenborgian theology doesn’t easily fit into this space at all; “the sun is dead,” Swedenborg writes earlier in Divine Love and Wisdom, and all the natural life that springs from it is also “dead” — until it is seen as an emanation of divine love from God (writes Swedenborg), coming through the more interior spiritual world. We will be wrestling with moments like these later on in the course, when we examine some related excerpts from Swedenborg’s earlier Heaven and Hell.
But for now, for this week’s conversation, I’d like you to think about two particular questions:
1) First, after seeing the mini-documentary on Swedenborg by Cartwright and Jordan (under Minilecture for Week 2), and reading through parts of my chapter “Visionary Science,” what is something compelling about Swedenborg’s biography that strikes you? In particular, if we are to read this 18th century scientist/mystic/revelator through a green lens (someone prior to the advent of modern environmentalism and ecology, as we have discussed), what jumps out at you as relevant for us in the 21st century?
2) Secondly, I’d like you to practice doing some “green hermeneutics”, and approach the Divine Love and Wisdom excerpts with Catherine’s closing comment from last week’s thread in mind. What of this material might contribute to “a basis for radical new theologies of ecology”? Why or why not?