The Dharma of Emanuel Swedenborg: A Buddhist Perspective

By David Loy

Arcana (Journal of the Swedenborg Association)
Vol. 2, No. 1 (1995)
pp. 5-31

Copyright 1995 by the Swedenborg Association



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... hidden under Judaic-Christian names, phrases, and symbols, and scattered throughout dreary, dogmatic, and soporific octavos, are pure, precious blessed truths of Buddhism.
Philangi Dasa, Swedenborg the Buddhist (1887)

Revolutionary in theology, traveler of heaven and hell, great man of the spiritual world, great king of the mystical realm, clairvoyant unique in history, scholar of incomparable vigor, scientist of penetrating intellect, gentleman free of worldly taint: all of these combined into one make Swedenborg... Those who wish to cultivate their spirit, those who bemoan the times, must absolutely know of this person.
D. T. Suzuki, Swedenborg (1913)

In January 1887 a former Swedenborgian minister named Carl Herman Vetterling, who now called himself Philangi Dasa, began publishing the first Buddhist journal in the United States. The inaugural issue of The Buddhist Ray, which he edited from his cabin in the mountains above Santa Cruz, proclaimed itself devoted to Buddhism in general, and to the Buddhism in Swedenborg in particular. The prospectus on the first page informed readers that it would "set forth the teachings imparted by the Mongolian Buddhists to Emanual Swedenborg, and published by him in his mystic writings." As this declaration suggests, Philangi Dasa was not afraid of controversy, and whatever the scholarly shortcomings of his journal it was not dull. "Delivering his unorthodox views with self-righteous conviction, he offended readers regularly but his outspoken brand of sincerity made The Buddhist Ray one of the liveliest Buddhist journals ever." [1]

    In the same year Philangi Dasa also published Swedenborg the Buddhist, or The Higher Swedenborgianism, Its Secrets and Thibetan Origin. George Dole has tactfully described it as "rather strange," [2] yet the book is not without its charm. Presented as a 322-page dream, it takes the form of a conversation among Swedenborg himself, a Buddhist monk, a Brahmin, a Parsi, a Chinese, an Aztec, an Icelander, and "a woman." The result is an amiable



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theosophical synthesis of religious beliefs and mythologies from many lands. As one would expect from his background and the texts available in his time, Philangi Dasa knew more about Swedenborg than about Buddhism, and his ostensible aim, to show that Swedenborg was really a Buddhist, is shadowed by another concern, using Buddhism to reveal the shortcomings of Swedenborgianism. The tone is that of a disappointed lover:

Although I set much by Swedenborg, I would as soon put a razor in the hands of an infant as to put his theological writings into the hands of a man not versed in the spiritual teachings of Asia in general, and in the teachings of Buddhism in particular; for, he might embrace them and, with a large number of members of the "New Church" society, die in doubt and despair. [3]

    Philangi Dasa's journal and book have long been forgotten, yet he was not the only one to notice the similarities between Swedenborg and Buddhism. A few years later D. T. Suzuki, the Japanese scholar who would later become world-famous for his many books on Zen, was introduced to Swedenborg sometime during his years working with Paul Carus in Illinois (1897-1908). [4] A correspondence with Swedenborgians in the Philadelphia area led to an invitation to translate Heaven and Hell into Japanese, which was accomplished during a Christmas-time visit to London. Upon returning to his homeland Suzuki introduced Swedenborg to Japan by publishing that translation in 1910, followed by Divine Love and Wisdom and The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine (both 1914), and Divine Providence (1915). In addition, he published his own study in Japanese entitled, simply, Swedenborg (1915). Much of this was compiled from English sources but the introductory first chapter was original and notes that:

The theological doctrines presented by Swedenborg have some similarity to those of Buddhism... True salvation rests upon a harmonious unity of what one believes with what one does. Wisdom and Love are the manifestation of the Divine, and Love has more depth and breadth than Wisdom. The Divine Providence reaches into the minutest things in the universe. There must not be any occurrences that happen by accident, but everything is conveyed by the Divine Providence through Wisdom and Love. The above are the very things which evoke the interest of scholars of religion and our Buddhists. [5]

    In 1927 Suzuki published a nine-page article suggesting that Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondences may be compared with the



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Shingon doctrine that phenomena are aspects of Mahavairocana Buddha's ceaseless teaching. The last paragraph concludes: "There remains a great deal I wish to write about Swedenborg, but that remains for another day." Unfortunately that day never came: except for this brief article, Suzuki's writings on Swedenborg ceased after 1915, when he was 45, although he continued writing for another fifty years, the majority of his books (totaling perhaps 20,000 pages) being written after his mid-fifties. Curiously, these later Buddhist writings contain very few allusions to Swedenborg, despite the fact that there are references to, and sometimes detailed discussions of, many other Western writers including Christian mystics such as Eckhart. It is not clear why Swedenborg figures so little in these many works, although evidently it was not due to any disaffection: all of Suzuki's published references to Swedenborg are positive, and he was fond of mentioning Swedenborg in conversation. According to his private secretary Mihoko Bekku, as late as the 1950's he would sometimes remark, in respond to an inquiry: "Well, Swedenborg would say..." [6] And when we consider the direction that Suzuki's life took after his encounter with Swedenborg, doesn't it suggest that the latter's personal example -- Swedenborg's singleminded yet humble devotion to the task of recording his spiritual insights -- may have served as an important model for Suzuki?

    However influential Suzuki's translations may have been for the development of Japanese Swedenborgianism, his contribution to the dialogue between Buddhism and Swedenborg seems, like Dasa's, to have been forgotten, and I am not familiar with any more recent work on the topic. Nevertheless, I think their insight was not misplaced, for I hope to show that there indeed are profound similarities between what Swedenborg writes and what Buddhism teaches; and today we have reached a point where we can appreciate them more fully. In recent years the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity has become an important development in contemporary religious thought, yet as far as I know this dialogue has overlooked Swedenborg. If what follows is correct, however, Buddhists and Swedenborgians may have quite a bit to share and learn from each other.

    Eschatologies tend to be so much a product of their particular time and place that few are credible today. Swedenborg's is the exception: in many respects what he describes is more meaningful to us today than it could have been to his contemporaries. One reason for this is that, despite its overtly Christian perspective, his religious understanding is largely nonsectarian and therefore attractive to spiritually-inclined people of many



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different persuasions. This accords with the ecumenicism unavoidable in modern religious thought, and I believe it is particularly compatible with a Buddhist perspective. The purpose of this paper is to note some of the more important parallels between Swedenborg and Buddhism and to reflect on their meaning for us. These similarities are all the more interesting because reliable Buddhist teachings and texts were not available in Europe during his time. [7]

    Swedenborg's views will be presented by focusing mainly on Heaven and Hell, his best known work. Since I would like to refer to more than one Buddhist tradition, my Buddhist citations will be more eclectic.


The Concept of Self

    Heaven and Hell presents a vision of human and postmortem existence which contrasts sharply with our postmodernist suspicion of grand narratives which propose to explain everything. No narrative is or could be grander than Swedenborg's. Yet, like Buddhism with its doctrine of anatman (Sanskrit, "no self"), his vision is postmodern insofar as it denies an ontological self. Swedenborg agrees that the self (his Latin term is proprium, literally "what belongs to oneself", but for him the understanding is that one thinks and wills from oneself) is an illusion. In our century psychoanalytic and deconstructive ways of thinking have provided us with some homegrown handles to grasp what remains a very counter-intuitive concept, the notion that our sense-of-self is not self-evident or self-present but a mental construction. For Swedenborg too the self is better understood as an economy of forces, although for him these forces are spiritual, that is, spirits. Good spirits (angels) and bad spirits (demons) are always with us, and their influence accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life. The evil spirits take up residence in our evil affections and bond there, as do the good spirits in our good affections. These spirits are of the same type as the affections or loves of the person they bond with (HH 295). [8] It is because their influence harmonizes with our own affections and tendencies that it enters our way of thinking and is accepted. In this way harmful spirits reinforce our bad character traits, and good spirits our better character traits. Some spirits are the source of our anxiety and depression (HH 299). Even diseases (including the toothache that bothered Swedenborg!) and death can be caused by infernal spirits. Each of us has free will -- that is, our ability to choose is preserved -- because we are balanced between these two complexes of positive and negative spiritual forces.



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    The closest Buddhist parallel to this is the five skandha "heaps" or aggregates, whose interaction creates the illusion of self, according to the Pali Sutras. However, this similarity does not seem to be very deep, for within the Buddhist tradition (which, we must remember, originates in oral teachings over 2400 years old, creating textual quagmires that Swedenborgians do not need to worry about) it is not altogether clear what each skandha refers to (rupa, vedana, samjña, sankhara and vijñana may be translated in various ways) or how their interaction is to be understood (they are usually taken ontologically, but they may refer to five different stages in the cognition of something). Therefore it is unclear how "spiritual" each skandha is, although the earliest Pali commentaries seem to understand them more impersonally and mechanically as processes that lack a self doing them.

    What remains important, however, is how both deconstructions-of-self flaunt the religious and philosophical climates of their own time by denying the existence of a Cartesian-type soul, defined by its self-consciousness. To the Buddhism critique of mental-physical and subject-object dualisms, Swedenborg adds a new and very significant dimension: each individual is one's inmost affection or ruling love (HH 58). Just as Buddhism contradicts the Vedantic notion of a pure soul or consciousness covered with karmic impurities, so Swedenborg contradicts the long Western tradition (going back at least as far as Plato) of a sinful or confused psyche that needs to be cleansed so it can shine forth in its uncorrupted glory. In place of such a pristine self-consciousness, Swedenborg emphasizes that what I love is what I am. What we do, motivated by such love seems free to us. The religious task is not to discover what resides behind this love -- some pure consciousness that is supposedly doing the loving -- but to transform myself by changing my ruling love (from love of self to love of God and neighbor).

    Perhaps this understanding of our mental life becomes more comprehensible in the context of the Mahayana Buddhist denial of the dualism between subject and object, self and world. As the Japanese Zen master Dogen put it, "I came to realize that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars." [9] If there is no self inside, it also makes no sense to talk about the world as being "outside" one's mind. The consequences of this are, of course, immense. Inasmuch as this understanding transforms observed objects into manifestations of mind, it "animates" not only the so-called material world but the events of "my" mental activity, which gain more of a life of their



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own independent of being thought by me. And this is precisely what Swedenborg says:

Those things of wisdom and love which are called thoughts, perceptions, and affections, are substances and forms, and not entities flying and flowing out of nothing, nor abstract from real or actual substance and form, which are subjects... The affections, perceptions and thoughts there [in the brain] are not exhalations but are all actually and really subjects, which do not emit anything from themselves, but merely undergo changes according to whatever flows against and affects them. (DLW 42)

    Such mental phenomena are not what "I" do; it is more accurate to turn that around and say that my sense of self is a function of what they do. In this way Swedenborg's understanding of our mental life accords with his understanding of how influx operates, both that from the Lord (usually mediately through angels) and that from evil spirits.

    This should be related to another curious claim which is also contrary to our Cartesian (now "common sense") expectations but quite consistent with the Buddhist denial of subject-object duality: Swedenborg writes that the divine influx is not experienced as coming from our internals, it is through the forehead into our internals: "The influx of the Lord Himself into man is into his forehead, and from there into the whole face" (HH 251). [10] The strong implication is not (as in so much Christian mysticism) that we must realize the God within, but rather that the sense of a within apart from the world is the self-delusion that needs to be overcome.

    So much of twentieth-century philosophy has been concerned with deconstructing dualisms such as mind-body and mind-matter, which are now seen as problematical and alienating, that it is necessary to remember Swedenborg was writing in the eighteenth century when it was not clear that there was any problem or what alternatives there might be. Swedenborg's view of their relation is therefore all the more striking. In the afterworld the body of every spirit is the outer form of that spirit's love, corresponding exactly to the inner form of his soul or mind (e.g., 363). From a person's face, in particular, all the more inward affections are visible and radiate, because faces are the very outward form of these affections (47). From conversation too the wiser angels know the whole condition of another person (236). After death, angels carefully examine one's body, beginning with the face, then the fingers, and so on, because the details of one's thought and intention are written on the entire body as well (463). The new spirit is later "devastated" because the



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outward and inward elements must correspond and act as one (498, 503). The result is that the mind and body of a spirit come to correspond so completely that it is no longer meaningful to distinguish between them. This is the basis of that complete conjugial union experienced most fully in the afterworld and sometimes even in this life, for both soul and mind, although they appear to be in the head, are "actually in the whole body" (CL 178).

    The fact that such union can occur in this world as well reminds us not to draw too sharp a line between the world to come and this one. Bioenergetic therapies such as Rolfing confirm that that the body is not just a vehicle for mind, for it retains memories of past traumas that can be stimulated by massage.


The Love of the Self

    The love of self, which closes our inmost parts to the divine influx (HH 272), is the problem to be overcome. With the support of his rationality, man has corrupted the output of the spiritual world within himself "through a disorderly life. So he must be born into complete ignorance and be led back from there into the pattern of heaven by divine means"(HH 108).

    The need to become ignorant suggests a Buddhist-like critique of conceptualization, which Swedenborg also makes: insights, being outward truths, do not by themselves save us, but the way those insights change us (HH 517). Innocence is the esse of everything good, and everything is good to the extent it contains innocence (HH 281). To a Buddhist this sounds like tathata, the "just this!"-ness which describes the unselfconscious way an enlightened person lives. Having given up the love of self, and let-go of the sense of self, we do not attain some other reality but realize the true nature of this one, which is all we need. That is why the essence of Zen can be "chopping wood and carrying water."

    The importance of this can hardly be overemphasized, because this is how both traditions solve the problem of life. To be spiritual is nothing more than being open to, and thereby united with, the whole: that is, to accept one's situation and therefrom manifest the whole, in contrast to self-love (Swedenborg) and the delusion of separate self (Buddhism). The essential point is that this is not something that can happen only after we die. We are in heaven right now if our internals are open, according to Swedenborg, and nirvana is to be attained here and now, according to Sakyamuni Buddha. In fact, nirvana is nothing other than the true nature of samsara, according to the Mahayana tradition. One version of this is



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that the passions, just as they are, are wisdom and enlightenment. This contradicts the more orthodox view of earlier Pali Buddhism, which understands desire as the source of our duhkha (suffering, dissatisfaction), but the Mahayana point is that our desires can be transmuted from selfish cravings into self-less joys. Swedenborg's attitude towards the pleasures of life makes the same critique of earlier ascetic, life-denying versions of Christianity:

It is by no means forbidden any one to enjoy the pleasures of the body and of sensual things; ... for these are outermost or corporeal affections from interior affection. The interior affections, which are living, all derive their delight from good and truth; and good and truth derive their delight from charity and faith, and then from the Lord, thus from Life itself; and therefore the affections and pleasures which are from thence are alive. (AC 995)

    This does not imply that the spiritual life is an epicurean-like devotion to "higher" pleasures, for there is another aspect of tathata-activity which Swedenborg and Buddhism both emphasize: that, as Swedenborg puts it, the Lord's kingdom is a kingdom of "uses which are ends," i.e., purposes which are functions; divine worship is not a matter of attending church but living a life of love, charity and faith (HH 112, 221). "People who like to do good for others, not for their own sakes but for the sake of good, are the ones who love the neighbor; for good is the neighbor" (HH 64). Compare to this a Buddhist proverb (I do not know its origin) that in the beginning one does good deeds for the sake of the neighbor; later (when one has realized that the neighbor too has no self) one does good for the sake of the Dharma (the "Higher Law" of nature of things as taught by Buddhism); but finally one does good for no reason at all, which in Swedenborg's terms is to attain the highest innocence. For Buddhism such a life is best exemplified by the bodhisattva, who being un-self-preoccupied, is devoted to the endless work of universal salvation. A bodhisattva is so unselfconscious that when he or she gives something to someone, it is without the awareness that one is giving, that there is someone else who receives, or even that there is a gift that is given. Such generosity is emphasized as the first and most important (because it is said to include all the others) of the prajñaparamitas, the "higher perfections" developed by those who follow the bodhisattva path. This corrects the "spiritual materialism" inherent in the more popular Buddhist attitude toward doing good deeds, which is concerned with accumulating good karma. For Swedenborg



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too, those who are led by the Lord think of nothing less than the merit that their good works might accrue (AC 6392). His account of this would fit comfortably into a Mahayana scripture:

When an angel [or bodhisattva] does good to anyone he also communicates to him his own good, satisfaction, and blessedness; and this with the feeling that he would give to the other everything, and retain nothing. When he is in such communication good flows into him with much greater satisfaction and blessedness than he gives, and this continually with increase. But as soon as a thought enters, that he will communicate his own to the intent that he may maintain that influx of satisfaction and blessedness into himself, the influx is dissipated; and still more if there comes in any thought of recompense from him to whom he communicates his good. (AC 6478)

    Unlike those who have retired from the world to live a solitary and devout life, "angels' life is happy because of its blessedness, and is made up of serving good purposes which are works of charity" (HH 535). Both traditions deny that salvation is effected by performing rituals, or faith alone, or deeds alone, or even by having mystical experiences. To be spiritual is to live a certain kind of life, in which love of self is replaced by selfless love.

    In order to be able to live this way, however, we must be regenerated, which for Swedenborg involves an opening-up of our internals that seems very similar to the enlightenment or pravrtti "turning around" of Buddhist liberation. The origin of evil is that "man turned himself backwards, away from the Lord, and round towards himself" (CL 444); we need to "turn back around" away from self and towards the Lord. This turning-around liberates the Lord's influx to flow into us. This influx is life itself. We have no other life of our own, being receptacles of this divine life. The question is how much of this influx we are open to. Depending on my ruling love, this influx is choked and constricted (by self-love) or flows like a fountain (into love of God and neighbor).

    I think this points to the solution of a perennial religious problem: the relationship between personal effort and transcendental grace. This tension recurs in the argument between Augustine and Pelagius; in the Hindu Visistadvaita debate about "cat salvation" (a mother cat carries her kittens) versus "monkey salvation" (a baby monkey must cling to its mother's chest); and in the Japanese Buddhist problem of the relationship between tariki, "other effort" (throwing oneself on the mercy of the Buddha) and jiriki, "self effort" (which requires one's own efforts to become liberated).



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All "I" can do is to open up to the spiritual influx by my ego getting out of the way, that is, letting-go of myself, whereupon this influx necessarily fills me, just like the sun shines when the clouds dissipate. But this letting-go is rarely easy: insofar as the self is the problem, this is not something that the self can do. In Zen, for example, letting-go is not subject to my willing; during zazen I learn how to "forget myself" indirectly, by concentrating on and becoming-one-with my meditation practice. [11]


Identification of the Divine

    Although the issue is complicated, I think that Swedenborg's conception of the Divine avoids the extremes of a personal and impersonal Absolute in much the same way that Mahayana Buddhism does. The dilemma is that a completely impersonal Absolute, such as found in certain types of Vedanta, must be indifferent to our situation; whereas a more personal God, understood to have a will and desires analogous to ours, may choose some people (or some peoples) for a special destiny -- perhaps without their doing anything special to deserve it (e.g., predestination). Yet there is another alternative, if God is not other than us, if He is in fact the life-giving force in everything: our being, as Swedenborg might express it, or our lack of being, as Mahayana might express it -- or both, as the 13th century Christian mystic Eckhart does express it, since both descriptions are ways to communicate the same insight, that there is no dualism between God and us. So Eckhart can play with the binary terms Being and Nonbeing by nonchalantly reversing their meaning. Sometimes he refers to the being of creatures and describes God as a nothing, without the slightest bit of existence. At other times Eckhart contrasts the "nullity" of all creatures with the being of God, in which case it is not that God has being, or even that God is being, but that being is God (esse est deus). If God is the life or being in everything, then it is just as true to say that nothing has any being of its own. Is this also an adequate explanation of the sunyata (emptiness) of beings, according to Mahayana, and of the nature of the Lord for Swedenborg?

    The nature of God and the role of Christ for Swedenborg are two difficult issues which are not fully addressed in Heaven and Hell, and even when we consider other writings which address those matters more fully -- especially Divine Love and Wisdom and Arcana Cælestia -- I do not find what he writes entirely clear or satisfactory. Curiously, however, there is some of the same ambiguity within the Buddhist tradition. Let us consider the two issues separately.



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    For Swedenborg God is life itself, of which angels and spirits and humans are recipients. This divine essence manifests as love and wisdom, which are inseparable in the same way as the sun's heat and light are -- an inspired analogy or rather correspondence that Swedenborg makes much of, since in heaven God appears as (but is not Himself) a sun (HH 116-140). When, however, we inquire into the nature of God in Himself, apart from all the things infused and the activity of infusing them, what Swedenborg writes is less helpful. He emphasizes repeatedly that God is a man, or human. Three main reasons are given for this: humans, like angels and spirits, derive their form from God, "there being no difference as to form, but as to essence" (AE 1124, DLW 11); heaven is in the form of a man, both in whole and in part (HH VIII-IX); and humans should conceive of God as a man, for it is not possible to think of, love and be conjoined with something indefinite and therefore incomprehensible (e.g., HH 3, TCR 787; AC 7211, 8705, 9354).

    What seems significant is that none of these reasons unambiguously implies theism as that term is usually understood. The first two do not require that God has a self-existence apart from his universe (in general) and from those beings who experience his influx (in particular); they imply something important about the form we and the universe necessarily embody as recipients of influx, yet nothing about the form-in-itself of the source of that influx. The third reason, the only one that offers an argument rather than assertion, is more difficult to evaluate because it appears in several different versions; its general thrust, however, addresses what we should think rather than what is the case. Swedenborg is clearly concerned about the dangers of conceiving of God in the wrong way, insofar as this can lead us astray. Those who believe in an invisible Divine called the Reality of the Universe, the source of all that exists, end up believing in no Divinity at all, because such a Divine "is no fit subject for thought "(HH 3); those who acknowledge what is incomprehensible "glide in thought into nature, and so believe in no God " (AC 9354). Yet no one in heaven "can have any conception of the Divine in itself... For the angels are finite and what is finite can have no conception of the infinite. In heaven, therefore, if they had not an idea of God in the human shape, they would have no idea, or an unbecoming one" (AC 7211).

    In sum: inasmuch as God is infinite, all our conceptions of Him must miss the mark, but inasmuch as we need a conception of Him, the best image is that of a Man. To a Buddhist, this is reminiscent of the old 19th century argument that, since a religion must have a God,



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Buddhism cannot be a religion. The question this begs is: is it possible to have a religion (such as Buddhism) that criticizes all conceptions of the Divine, including the image of God as human, yet still functions as a religion because its spiritual practices nonetheless promote the Divine influx?

    Insofar as Swedenborg's quintessential teaching is that the Lord's love and wisdom flow into everything, then clearly no being exists apart from God, and the fact that God is human does not necessarily imply that God exists as human-like apart from beings. But this may be taken a step further. If we extrapolate from Swedenborg's favorite analogy -- God as a formless, radiating Sun -- the Lord may be understood as a potentiality which achieves form only in His creation. From that perspective, God needs us in order to become fully real, both individually (as we open to His influx) and collectively (as His heaven grows and ramifies).

    If this understanding is acceptable, I think it is consistent with much of Buddhism and may even help to clarify some aspects of Buddhist teaching. Central to Mahayana is the concept of sunyata, usually translated as "emptiness." For Nagarjuna, the most important Mahayana philosopher, that things are sunya is a shorthand way to express that no thing has any self-being or self-presence of its own. In the succinct Heart Sutra, a famous summary of the prajñaparamita scriptures, the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara realizes that "form is sunyata and sunyata is form; form is no other than sunyata and sunyata is no other than form." Unfortunately, the usual English translation "emptiness" does not convey the full connotations of the original, for the Sanskrit root su literally means "swollen," not only like an inflated balloon but also like a pregnant woman swollen with possibility. According to Nagarjuna, it is only because things are sunya that any change, including spiritual development, is possible.

    Sunyata, then, invites interpretation as a formless spiritual potential which is literally no-thing in itself yet functions as the "empty essence" that gives life to everything and enables it to be what it is. Such an influx is experienced as "empty" for two reasons: it has no particular form of its own/in itself, and insofar as I am it I cannot know it. This is consistent with Swedenborg's understanding of the Lord as constituting the life in all of us, the heat and light that flow into us to the extent that we are receptive to it. On the Buddhist side, this also helps to avoid the nihilistic interpretation of sunyata that the rather-too-negative term has sometimes invited.

    Sakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism who lived about five hundred years before Christ, did not urge his disciples to unite with God or experience His influx. Instead, he taught them to follow in his



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own footsteps by pursuing the same types of spiritual practice in order to attain the same nirvana. However, this difference is less problematical than it might seem. For one thing, the nature of nirvana is notoriously obscure, since the Buddha refused to say much about it except that it is the end of suffering and craving; those who want to know what nirvana is must attain it for themselves. In addition, the comparative study of religion has led us to an insight that is difficult to deny today but would have had little meaning in Swedenborg's time: that very similar experiences may be subjected to different and incompatible explanations, according to the tradition one is familiar with. In Sakyamuni's time Indian popular religion was polytheistic, which means that he did not teach in the context of an absolute God transcending or incorporating all other gods; nor does he seem to have been familiar with the Upanishadic conception of an impersonal Brahman, another alternative being developed by other sages about the same time. So it is hardly surprising that Sakyamuni did not communicate his own spiritual insight -- the influx of love and wisdom that dissolved his ego-self? -- in either terms but instead created his own religious categories (no self, nirvana, etc.), unlike Swedenborg, who naturally understood his own experience in terms of the developed Christian tradition that he had grown up within, centered on the idea of an absolute Lord.

    Later and in different social contexts, theistic conceptions did become important in popular Buddhism, such as the Amida Buddha worshiped in more devotional sects of Buddhism. These devotional schools – which, as Swedenborg noticed, require that we think of the Divine as human -- have undoubtedly been more important for more Buddhists than the dialectics of Buddhist philosophers such as Nagarjuna.

    In these ways Christian theism as Swedenborg explains it -- the Lord as our life, due to His influx of love and wisdom -- becomes more compatible with the sunyata of Buddha-nature as many Buddhists have understood it.

    Except for the unique role of Christ for Swedenborg. Here too, however, it seems to me that his understanding is not unproblematic. Taken as a whole, Swedenborg's writings contain a tension between two different positions that never quite become compatible. On the more orthodox side, he defends the uniqueness of Christ as God-Man and the importance of accepting Him as our savior. On the other, more ecumenical side, his emphasis on the influx of love and wisdom leads him to reduce the salvific role of Christ so much that he can be reconceptualized without much difficulty as one avatar among many, a view quite compatible with Buddhism.



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    Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Swedenborg understands the historical Christ as unique and the Christian church as special. Before his advent, the Lord's influence was mediated through the angelic heavens, yet from the time He became human it has been immediate. Since then the Christian church has formed the heart of the human race on earth and in heaven as well. Christians constitute the breast of the Grand Man, the center towards which all others look. It is not necessary that all or most people accept Christianity, but it is very important that some people do, "for from thence there is light to those who are out of the Church and have not the Word" (DLW 233, AC 637, DP 256).

    Yet who is in the Lord's spiritual church? "[I]t is throughout the whole terrestrial globe. For it is not limited to those who have the Word, and from this have obtained a knowledge of the Lord, and some truths of faith; but it is also with those who have not the Word, and are therefore entirely ignorant of the Lord, and consequently do not know any truths of faith (for all truths of faith refer to the Lord); that is, with the Gentiles remote from the church... And although ignorant of the Lord while in the world, yet they have within them the worship and tacit acknowledgement of Him, when they are in good; for in good the Lord is present. (AC 3263; my emphasis)

    During his visits to hell Swedenborg encountered Church dignitaries learned in the Christian Word "but in evils as to life," while in heaven he met both Christians and Gentiles "who were in falsities" and "were yet in good as to life" (AC 9192). When we are being regenerated we can fight against falsities "even from truth not genuine if only it be such that it can be conjoined by any means with good; and it is conjoined with good by innocence, for innocence is the means of conjunction " (AC 6765). From passages such as these -- and there are many of them -- it is difficult to conclude that it is necessary or even important to be a Christian. The point is not simply that one is saved by living a good life, but that one lives a good life because one has become receptive to the influx of divine love and wisdom. And insofar as this influx is "innocent," it is unclear why it should be necessary to believe in any particular doctrine whatever. If we accept this important ecumenical strand within Swedenborg's Writings, a strand which has been even more important in Buddhism, then there is no need for anyone to be a Christian or a Swedenborgian or a Buddhist, except insofar as those teachings and communities help us to turn away from self-love and open up to the influx of self-less love and wisdom.



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    Why did the Lord manifest on earth as man? The internals of humans are under the dominion of either spirits from hell or angels from heaven; when in the course of time the hellish influence became stronger and "there was no longer any faith nor any charity," the Lord's advent was necessary to restore order and redeem man (AC 152). This may be a good reason for the appearance of a savior but it is a poor argument for the uniqueness of Christ as the savior. In fact, it is the same reason given in the Bhagavad-Gita for the periodic appearance of avatars, [12] and in Buddhism for the periodic appearance of Buddhas (the one previous to Sakyamuni was Dipamkara, the next will be Maitreya).


Spiritual Interdependence

    In the previous section the sunyata "emptiness" of Mahayana Buddhism was interpreted as a formless spiritual potential that gives life to everything, an understanding that I have argued is consistent with Swedenborg's conception of the Lord's influx into each of us. This approach to sunyata has been especially important as a way to understand the Dharmakaya ("Truth-body"), the highest reality according to Mahayana teachings, as we shall see shortly when we turn to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. However, this has not been the only understanding of sunyata in Buddhism and it is questionable whether it would have been acceptable to Nagarjuna himself, who argued for the sunyata of things not by referring to influx but by demonstrating interdependence (things are sunya because they have no self-existence, being dependent on many other phenomena).

    This emphasis on interdependence became an essential Mahayana teaching and in fact the essential teaching of Hua-yen, a Chinese school of Buddhism which describes this relationship using the metaphor of Indra's Net:

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net that stretches out infinitely in all directions... [There is] a single glittering jewel in each "eye" of the net, and since the net itself in infinite in all dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number... [I]n its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. [13]

    Indra's Net "thus symbolizes a cosmos in which there is an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos." [14] Each jewel is nothing other than a function of the relationships among



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all the others, and likewise may be said to contain all the others within itself. All is one and one is all: the whole world is contained in each thing, and each thing is nothing other than a manifestation of the whole world.

    Is there anything comparable in Swedenborg? The analogy is hard to miss. All the realms of the heavens constitute a whole (HH VIII), in fact a Grand Man, as does hell (HH 553); in that Grand Man who is heaven, for example, infants form the region of the eyes (HH 333). Each of heaven's communities is also a single person (HH IX), and conversely each angel is a heaven in smallest form (HH 53); the same relationship seems to hold for the hells and the demons in them. [15]

    For Buddhism, however, there is a potential problem with this second conception of interdependence, which can understand the world as merely a mechanical relationship among material forces, something that clearly is not what Madhyamika and Hua-yen are wanting to describe. Understanding sunyata as influx avoids this.

    We end up with two different types of dependence: dependence of non-self-existent things on the influx of spiritual potentiality that gives them being/life, and the organic or "ecological" interdependence of each such thing on the functioning of all other things. What seems significant is that both types of dependence are important both to Mahayana and to Swedenborg. The interpenetration of one in all and all in one in Swedenborg's afterlife presupposes the divine influx which permeates all the realms, including hell where it is perverted into self-love. In Buddhism these two interpretations of sunyata have often been antagonistic to each other, but Swedenborg's vision reminds us that they do not need to exclude each other.

    This dependence/interdependence must be understood dynamically. Like Buddhism from its inception, Swedenborg emphasizes process (anitya in Buddhism: impermanence) over substance (svabhava, self-existence): persistence is a continual occurrence (HH 106), enduring is a constant emergence (H 9). This is true even of Swedenborgian regeneration and Buddhist enlightenment. The regenerated are regenerated continually through life and also in the afterlife; heaven as it grows becomes more and more a Grand Man. Most Buddhist schools emphasize the need for continual practice, even for the deeply enlightened, and the urge to deepen one's practice endlessly is a sign of genuine realization. There is a saying in Zen that even Sakyamuni Buddha is only halfway there.



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Consequences of Evil

    Perhaps the most profound parallel of all is with Swedenborg's account of evil and its punishment, which is so Buddhist in spirit that it could be used to explain the Buddhist doctrines of karma and samskara; again, Swedenborg's explanation perhaps helps to clarify the Buddhist perspective. Like Sakyamuni Buddha and for that matter Christ himself, Swedenborg emphasizes intention (e.g., 508). In this way evil becomes tied to its own punishment:

Every evil carries its punishment with it, the two making one; therefore whoever is in evil is also in the punishment of evil. And yet no one in the other world suffers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does; although it amounts to the same and is the same thing whether it be said that people suffer punishment on account of their evils in the world or that they suffer punishment on account of the evils they do in the other life, since every one after death returns into his own life and thus into like evils; and the person continues the same as he had been in the life of the body... But good spirits, although they had done evils in the world, are never punished, because their evils do not return. (HH 509)
The Lord does not do evil to anyone (HH 550). Evil has its own punishment, thus hell, goodness its own reward, thus heaven (AC 9033).

    This is in effect a sophisticated account of karma which avoids both the problem with a more mechanical understanding of moral cause-and-effect (common in popular Buddhism) and the problem with a more juridical understanding of hell as punishment for disobeying divine authority (common in popular Christianity). The central insight is that people are punished not for what they have done but for what they have become, and what we intentionally do is what makes us what we are. That is why in most cases there is no difference between the evil things done in the world and the evil things that one is inclined to do in the afterworld. This conflation makes no sense if karma is understood dualistically as a kind of moral dirt obscuring one's mirror-like pure self. It makes a great deal of sense if I am my intention or ruling love, for then the important spiritual issue is the development of that ruling love. In that case my actions and my intentions build my character -- that is, my spiritual body -- just as surely as food is assimilated to become my physical body. All schools of Buddhism similarly emphasize the importance of our samskaras, which are mental tendencies: one's habitual ways of intending and reacting to particular situations.



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In Buddhism, too, these samskaras are the vehicles of karma. They survive death and cause rebirth; in fact, they are what is reborn, since there is no pure self to be reincarnated. How are such mental tendencies formed?

    We can now see that it is not so hard to lead a heaven-bound life as people think it is because it is simply a matter, when something gets in the way that the person knows is dishonest and unfair, something his spirit moves toward, of thinking that he should not do it because it is against the Divine precepts. If a person gets used to doing this, and by getting used to it gains a certain disposition, then little by little he is bonded to heaven. As this takes place, the higher reaches of his mind are opened; and as they are opened, he sees things that are dishonest and unfair; and as he sees them, they can be broken apart...

But it must be understood that the difficulty of so thinking and of resisting evils increases so far as man from his will does evils, for in the same measure he becomes accustomed to them until he no longer sees them, and at length loves them and from the delight of his love excuses them, and confirms them by every kind of fallacy, and declares them to be allowable and good. (HH 533)

    A person suffers not because of "inherited evil" but "because of the realized evil that does belong to him -- that is, the amount of inherited evil that he has made his own by his life activities" (342). In this way Swedenborg and Buddhism both present a psychological version of karma which denies any sharp distinction between the one who intends and the intention itself. I am my predominant intentions, which means that habitually acting in certain ways is what constructs me. That is why a person with bad samskaras -- a "bad character" -- cannot be saved in spite of himself: because he is those samskaras, which cannot dwell in heaven because they would not be comfortable there. Therefore they spontaneously go to where they are comfortable, which happens to be where there are others with similar samskaras. One of the reasons evil people suffer in the afterworld is the same reason good people are blessed there: they end up living with others just like them.


A Place in the Spiritual World

    Swedenborg's account of the world of spirits (in Book II) has many similarities with the Tibetan understanding of the afterlife and the rebirth process, which provides by far the most detailed account among the various Buddhist traditions. However, there are some problems in working



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this out. The Bardo Thodol Chenmo text first translated by Evans-Wentz and published as The Tibetan Book of the Dead is only one of several such Bardo texts in the Tibetan tradition, and because that particular text was composed with reference to a tantric mandala of 110 peaceful and wrathful deities there is much obscure symbolism about those deities. [16]

    Yet even if one ignores this difficult iconography -- which I will return to later -- there remains a sophisticated description of death, intermediate life and rebirth that resonates deeply with Swedenborg's account. Both emphasize the importance of one's last thought (444) -- in other words, the particular samskara activated at the moment of death -- and that all one's samskaras survive death, along with a psychic body that duplicates one's physical body: "after death, a person is engaged in every sense, memory, thought, and affection he was engaged in in the world: he leaves nothing behind except his earthly body " (Ch. LXVII, LXVIII). Even as God does not turn his face from anyone and does not cast anyone into hell (HH 545), so the luminosity of the dharmakaya (experienced as a primordial clear light comparable to the divine sun in Swedenborg's heaven), which is nothing other than one's own sunyata mind, does not reject anyone. For both there is a self-judgement that occurs in the presence of God/the dharmakaya, in which the true nature of one's samskaras/ruling affections becomes revealed to oneself. In the Bardo tradition too, the good and wise are attracted to the pure, formless dharmakaya and the texts urge them to become one with it; yet since it mirrors all one's karma those less good are repulsed by it and are attracted to the samsaric realm that corresponds to their ruling karma.

    Swedenborg emphasizes the limits of the Lord's mercy: no one enters heaven by direct mercy (HH LIV), for the Lord does not and evidently cannot violate the design that he is (HH 523). Since this mercy is constant with each individual and never withdraws, everyone who can be saved is saved, but those whose ruling affection is evil have learned to shut out His influx. In the intermediate Bardo realm too, even a Buddha cannot stop someone who wants to go somewhere, since (as Swedenborg expresses it) he or she is that attraction/affection and could not be stopped without being annihilated (HH 527).

    There are, nevertheless, some important differences. For Swedenborg the world of spirits is an intermediate one because there one is "devastated": that is, outward elements must be changed until they conform with inward elements (HH 426). One's inmost level can no longer be reformed, but the outward elements must be gradually set in order until



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one's ways of thinking and feeling are consistent with one's deepest intentions. Yet, as the meaning of the Tibetan title ("The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo") suggests, the presupposition of the Bardo ("intermediate realm") texts is that it is still possible to exercise some freedom in the Bardo world, that despite the karmic attraction there may still be some choice in the matter -- perhaps because there may be more than one "ruling" love. I can think of two ways to resolve this difference. One is to understand the Bardo Thodol less ingenuously as a book meant for the living rather than the dead, as a way of encouraging the survivors to reform their lives, their samskaras -- while they still can. Reading it orally beside the corpse, surrounded by the chastened mourners, certainly serves this function, yet there is another way to look at it. I wonder if there is some inconsistency in the way that Heaven and Hell emphasizes that one's ruling love cannot be changed to eternity (477 ff.) while also describing incidents such as angels' attempts to influence new spirits (e.g., 450), which efforts would be largely wasted if they could have no effect whatsoever on one's ruling love (and therefore on one's eventual place in heaven or hell). It also seems debatable whether we always have only one ruling love; maybe there are some cases, or many cases, where two or more affections contend with each other throughout one's life and even afterwards. If so, perhaps Swedenborg's book is the disingenuous one.

    A difference of emphasis, or more, follows from the distinction between morality and insight. They are closely related, yet to the extent that they may be distinguished Buddhism as a "wisdom tradition" emphasizes wisdom more, while Swedenborg emphasizes morality. One of the ways this difference shows itself is in the distinction that Buddhism makes between "heaven" as one of the six realms of samsara -- pleasurable yet complacent, therefore not as good a place to be as our present human realm -- and the liberation that is nirvana. From a Buddhist perspective even good karma is troublesome insofar as it operates mechanically; better is the prajña wisdom that frees one from all karma and therefore from all the realms of samsara. A good example of this is the Bardo Thodol understanding of what happens after death when a new spirit encounters the pure luminosity of the dharmakaya. One is encouraged to unite with the white light by realizing that one is it; in comparison to this, even the most sublime of the peaceful deities, which represent good karma, is nothing more than a higher form of delusion. I do not find this distinction in Swedenborg.

    This leads us to consider the most important difference between Swedenborg and Buddhism, and what is undoubtedly a major obstacle to



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any conflation. Swedenborg's Christian conception of the afterdeath drama is orthodox in understanding this life as a one-chance preparation for heaven or hell, since one's ruling love never changes even to eternity (477, 480). In contrast, all traditional schools of Buddhism understand the alternative to nirvana as rebirth in one of the six samsaric realms (heaven, titan, human, hungry ghost, animal and hell), which includes the possibility of returning as a human being. [17] However, even this difference is complicated by the fact that some Bardo Thodol passages warn the spirit about never being able to escape from where one is inclined to go: "... now is the time when by slipping into laziness even for a moment you will suffer for ever." "If you go there you will enter hell and experience unbearable suffering through heat and cold from which you will never get out." [18] Theoretically, though, escape is always possible no matter where you are, if you realize the sunyata of your own mind. The corresponding experience in Swedenborg would be regeneration even in hell, by the opening up of one's internals to the Lord's influx and the transformation of one's ruling love; yet he does not allow for that possibility, despite the fact that the divine love never withdraws from anyone (DP 330).


Living Correspondences

    As a final comparison, let us briefly consider Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondences or representations, which constitutes a version of afterlife idealism: although the afterworld is in many ways similar to this one, things there are not as fixed or stationary, for their condition varies there according to the angels that perceive them, and they disappear when those angels depart (HH 173 ff.).

As all things that correspond to interiors also represent them they are called representatives; and as they differ in each case in accordance with the state of the interiors they are called appearances. Nevertheless, the things that appear before the eyes of angels in heavens and are perceived by their senses appear to their eyes and senses as fully living as things on earth appear to man, and even much more clearly, distinctly, and perceptibly. (HH 175)

    To any Buddhist philosopher this sounds very similar to the Buddhist school known as Yogacara or Vijñanavada (sometimes translated as "the Representation-only School"). This is the other important philosophical school of Mahayana, along with Nagarjuna's Madhyamika, with which it eventually merged. In contrast to the detailed correspondences offered



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by Swedenborg, Yogacara addresses the issue on a more abstract level which, frankly, I have not found very interesting. More illuminating is the parallel with the Bardo Thodol, which understands all postmortem experiences as mentally-projected images, making the world beyond "a karmically corresponding image of earthly life":

The descriptions of those visions which, according to the Bardo Thodol, appear in the intermediate state (bar-do) following death are neither primitive folklore nor theological speculations. They are not concerned with the appearances of supernatural beings ... but with the visible projections or reflexes of inner processes, experiences, and states of mind, produced in the creative phase of meditation. [19]

    The challenge of the Bardo realm is to recognize the peaceful and wrathful deities that appear as the karmic projections of one's own mind. "If all the temptations of deceptive visionary images, which are constantly referred to in the texts as hostile forms of the intellect, can be recognized as empty creations of one's own mind and can be immediately penetrated, one will attain liberation." [20]

    The difference, as we have already noticed, is that the Bardo Thodol urges the deceased not to identify with any such images in order to attain to the liberating luminosity of the formless dharmakaya, while Swedenborg's angels dwell happily in a mental world that changes constantly according to their affections. Perhaps the common ground between them is that neither spirit is deceived by those correspondences into believing that the things of one's world are real, a delusion which occurs when samsaric attachments and delusions motivate us to fixate on them. One who must play cannot play, while those who know things are correspondences are not be trapped by and in those correspondences.


What is "the Secret of Great Tartary"?

    If the above parallels are genuine, they raise a concluding question that should not be ignored: why are Buddhist and Swedenborg's teachings so similar in these ways? These are various possibilities, which readers can work out for themselves, but one ramification in particular deserves to be addressed: did Swedenborg become acquainted with Buddhism through his travels in the afterworld? One of the most intriguing references in his voluminous works is an allusion to "Great Tartary" where the teachings of the Ancient Church have been preserved:



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I have spoken with spirits and angels who came from there, and they said that they possess a Word, and have from ancient times; and that their divine worship is performed according to this Word, which consists of pure correspondences... They said that they worship Jehovah, some as an invisible, and some as a visible God. Moreover they said that they do not permit foreigners to come among them, except the Chinese, with whom they cultivate peace, because the emperor of China is from their country... Seek for it in China, and perhaps you will find it there among the Tartars. (AR 11; my emphasis) [21]

    What does this refer to? And where? Anders Hallengren discusses this matter in his article "The Secret of Great Tartary." [22] After reviewing the historical evidence, he concludes that the most probable reference is the Buddhism of Mongolia and Tibet (since Kublai Khan, founder of the Chinese Yuan dynasty, was converted by a Tibetan rinpoche in the thirteenth century, Mongolian Buddhism has been a version of Tibetan Buddhism). To this I can add only one point, concerning the curious fact that their worship "consists of pure correspondences." What can this mean? The Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet and Mongolia is a Mahayana form of tantra which employs meditative practices such as mandalas (complex visual images, usually paintings), mantras (the repetition of sacred sounds), mudras (hand movements), and so forth. In the case of a mandala, for example, a practitioner typically meditates on its visual form until he or she is able to reproduce it completely -- indeed, it is said to be clearer -- in the mind's eye; finally, one unites with the deities depicted, who represent aspects of one's own Buddha-nature. The complex symbolism of most mandalas is not very relevant to the theoretical concerns of most Buddhism philosophers, while the opposite is true for meditators. Tantra is by nature esoteric because it is a nonconceptual symbolic system: "the mandala is "a microcosmic image of the universe;" [23] it "is, above all, a map of the cosmos. It is the whole universe in its essential plan, in its process of emanation and reabsorption." [24] This suggests that meditations employing these images might be the pure correspondence that Swedenborg mentions. I do not know how to evaluate this supposition, but in the future I will be less inclined to dismiss such images as "mere iconography"!



    Here it has been possible to mention only some of the more provocative parallels between Swedenborgianism and Buddhism. It has



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nevertheless been enough to suggest that Swedenborg might as an important bridge in the contemporary dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism. Swedenborg's double emphasis on divine love and wisdom, which forms the core of his theology, is reproduced in the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism, which respectively emphasize the way of love and the way of wisdom -- and, as Swedenborg and Buddhism both emphasize, each way entails the other.

    Unfortunately, we cannot expect this bridge to carry much traffic, for the same reason that Swedenborg's eschatology has been ignored by the mainstream Christian tradition: his grand conception of the afterworld, and of this world, is too dependent on his own extraordinary spiritual experiences, which few if any of us seem able to confirm for ourselves.

    Not having visited heaven or hell, I can only hope that if they exist they function in the way Swedenborg has described. After one studies his remarkably detailed yet well-structured eschatology, others begin to lose their credibility. This response is itself a remarkable fact, pointing to the utter plausibility of this grandest of narratives. If the universe doesn't function in the way Swedenborg explained, well, it should. [25]



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1. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Fall 1991, pp. 6-7.

2. Chrysalis IX, No. 1 (Spring 1994), p. 75.

3. Philangi Dasa, Swedenborg the Buddhist, or, The Higher Swedenborgianism, Its Secrets and Thibetan Origin (Los Angeles: The Buddhistic Swedenborgian Brotherhood, 1887), p. 14. I am grateful to Leonard Fox for providing me with a photocopy of this book. My Dasa epigraph ("... hidden under Judaic-Christian names, ...) is from p. 7.

4. Did Suzuki read The Buddhist Ray while he was working for the Open Court Publishing Company? It is likely that Paul Carus was aware of it.

5. Trans. by Tatsuya Nagashima, in "Daisetsu T. Suzuki, Internationally Known Buddhist: CryptoSwedenborgian?" New Church Life, May 1993, pp. 202-217. Later in the first chapter, Suzuki makes a seemingly ingenuous remark that is worth quoting because it touches on one of the most attractive qualities of Swedenborg's "dreary, dogmatic, and soporific octavos": "Swedenborg's Writings have a sphere of consistent sincerity and honesty. He is not a man of fraudulence and deception. He just writes honestly what he sees and hears. There is no pretension in him. Whether or not one believes in him, we must admit that there is a reason why one feels his sincerity coming from what he writes" (ibid., p.214). The whole book has recently been translated into English by Andrew Bernstein and will be published by the Swedenborg Foundation in 1996; this includes the 1927 article mentioned later. My Suzuki epigraph ("Revolutionary in theology...") is from the preface. I am grateful to Mr. Nagashima and to Ms. Mihoko Bekku for providing me with information about Suzuki's Swedenborgian background.

6. Mihoko Bekku, personal communication. Ms. Yukie Dan, secretary of the Eastern Buddhist Society (which publishes The Eastern Buddhist, a journal founded by Suzuki), has provided me with a list of Swedenborg references in Suzuki's Collected Writings (in Japanese): a total of ten, in addition to the studies and translations already mentioned. "Generally, Swedenborg is not thought to be of much importance to Suzuki, who does not mention him overtly. But this information sheet listing fairly explicit mentions of ES would suggest that Swedenborg was never apart from Suzuki. So we now believe he is significant, but significant in which way has yet to be elucidated." (Yuki Dan, personal communication.)

7. Contact between India and Europe occurred long before Alexander's conquests (326-323 B.C.), and Marco Polo gives an account of the legend of the Buddha. In the 13th century papal envoys visited the Mongol Khan, and their accounts aroused much interest in Europe. Later missionaries also sent back numerous reports, but since few of these were published it is difficult to determine how much correct information on Buddhism reached Europe before the 19th



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century. The important exception, curiously, was Tibet. At the end of the 16th century Jesuit missionaries believed that Christians lived there, and a series of Catholic missionaries visited beginning in 1624. One of them, Ippolito Desideri, stayed in Lhasa for five years (1716-1721) and acquired an excellent knowledge of Tibetan language and religion; he wrote a "Relazione" on his studies during his return but this was not published until 1904. Only in the 19th century did systematic studies of Buddhism begin and reliable translations begin to appear. See J. W. De Jong, A Brief History of Buddhist Studies in Europe and America (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1987), pp. 5-15.

8. Numbers in the text refer to the numbered paragraphs (or, in roman numerals, chapter headings) in John C. Ager's trans. of Heaven and Hell (New York: The Swedenborg Foundation, 1988).

9. As quoted in Philip Kapleau, ed., The Three Pillars of Zen (Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1965), p. 205. The original reference is from the Sokushin-zebutsu fascicle of Dogen's Shobogenzo, but the same point is made by Dogen in other fascicles as well.

10. See also HH 145. While the spiritual importance of the forehead and the top of the head (the parietal aperture left by the fontanelle) has been largely ignored in the Christian tradition, it has been emphasized in the Buddhist tantric and Indian yogic traditions, which have a system of seven chakras that puts greatest importance on the "third eye" in the middle of the forehead and the chakra at the top of the head (according to the Tibetan tradition, the latter chakra is the proper way for the mental body to exit the physical body after death).

11. Swedenborg says little about meditation practices, although The True Christian Religion (767) mentions the Lord appearing as a sun before angels when they practice spiritual meditation. Swedenborg's own preferred practice was meditating on the meaning of the Bible and allowing his mind to be guided by the Lord into an awareness of its spiritual significance.

12. Krishna: "Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, then I send forth [incarnate] Myself. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age." (Gita 4:7-8)

13. Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), p. 2.

14. Ibid.

15. Much of Swedenborg's vision of the afterworld, and this aspect in particular, is compatible with John Hick's concluding theory in Death and Eternal Life (London: Collins, 1976), an almost exhaustive historical study of Christian eschatology which, characteristically of modern theology, ignores Swedenborg's. "The distinction between the self as ego and the self as person suggests that as the human individual becomes perfected he becomes more and more a person



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and less and less an ego. Since personality is essentially outward-looking, as a relationship to other persons, whilst the ego forms a boundary limiting true personal life, the perfected individual will have become a personality without egoity, a living consciousness which is transparent to the other consciousnesses in relation to which it lives in a full community of love. Thus we have the picture of a plurality of personal centres without separate peripheries. They will have ceased to be mutually exclusive and will have become mutually inclusive and open to one another in a richly complex shared consciousness. The barrier between their common unconscious life and their individual consciousnesses will have disappeared, so that they experience an intimacy of personal community which we can at present barely imagine." (459-460)
Not a bad description of Swedenborg's heaven; compare AC 2057: "Mutual love in heaven consists in this, that they love the neighbor more than themselves. Hence the whole heaven presents as it were a single man; for they are all thus consociated by mutual love from the Lord. Hence it is that the happiness of all are communicated to each, and those of each to all. The heavenly form is therefore such that every one is as it were a kind of center; thus a center of communication and therefore of happiness from all; and this according to all the diversities of that love, which are innumerable."

16. On the Bardo Thodol, see Glenn H. Mullin, Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition (London: Arkana, 1986), pp. 21-22.

17. HH 256 gives an alternative explanation for the belief that people "can return to a former life": occasionally a confused "recollection" can occur due to experiencing the memories of spirits that always accompany us.

18. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, trans. with commentary by Francesca Fremantle and Chogyam Trungpa (Boston: Shambhala, 1992), pp. 199, 212-213.

19. Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1969), p. 122.

20. Detlef Ingo Lauf, Secret Doctrines of the Tibetan Books of the Dead (Boston: Shambhala, 1989), p. 69.

21. See also CL 77, The Coronis 39, SD 6077.

22. Arcana Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 35-54.

23. Lauf, Secret Doctrines, p. 65.

24.Giuseppe Tucci, The theory and Practice of the Mandala (London: Rider and Co., 1969), p. 23.

25. I am grateful to Leonard Fox, Donald L. Rose, and especially Jane Williams-Hogan, for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.