From the Bob and Ann Journal Dialogues
Interconnections Between Here and the Beyond
How our lives interconnect with those who have gone before, even as to historic persons, is a profound mystery. This phenomenon is part of the excitement Bob and I caught when we met Ira Progoff and began incorporating his intensive method of journal dialoguing into our lives.
Dr Progoff’s method included tracing, as stepping-stones, persons who had influenced our lives—ones we had actually known—but also including persons known through their writings or, in the case of ancestors, through hearing their stories.
Looking back, it seems a bit strange that as a child of around eight I had been attracted to and even memorized the poetry of several of the English Transcendentalists, William Wordsworth for one, and all the more on learning we shared the same birthday. Some years later in a high school American Literature class I was drawn to the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, especially his “Compensation” which had made sense to me of some of the more mystifying why’s of life. In my thirties I read pretty much everything Tolstoy and Gandhi had written and whose works and lives had reflected Transcendentalism values. In turn their writings had inspired Martin Luther King in America and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Taken all together the Transcendentalists on both sides of the Atlantic have had far-reaching impact in the area of human rights.
As the Transcendentalists had held early sway in my life, the Quakers in ways and of similar persuasion had inspired Bob’s life. As circumstances would have it, from the first through eighth grade he had attended Sidwill Friends School in Washington, D C, an influence I would credit with reinforcing his naturally gentle and peace-loving nature. In any event, in spite of serving in the army as a medic at the end of World War II, he was a lifelong philosophic pacifist and, until a major life crisis in his mid thirties, had considered himself a secular humanist. About this “U”-turn in his life and our subsequent involvement in the inner healing movement more is written elsewhere.
Connecting the Dots
Over the past five years these near-daily journal dialogues have been the way my life “here” and Bob’s on the other side of this reality have remained in close contact. One day recently he invited me to see through his eyes all that had been accomplished in the restoration of the landscape and buildings on the sixty acres here whose history dates back 160 years to the California Gold Rush, and before that to the lives of the peace-loving Miwoks whose tribal lands had included the Murray Creek valley. The Miwoks, rather than considering the land theirs saw themselves as caretakers.
Still seeing through Bob’s eyes, he reminded me of the Land Trust that just this past year had been established:
For the preservation and care of “Murray Creek” as a place of natural beauty and quiet; as a sanctuary for its wildlife; and, as a gift to be shared with others.
With all this unfolding in my mind’s eye a flood of joy washed over my soul, and with this a sense of resolve that it was now time to begin mining the journals for the gold they contain.
In the dialogues there are many seemingly unrelated and randomly scattered “dots,” but in reviewing them a definite pattern of interconnectivity also emerges and urges they be “cast upon the waters” for whatever bread of truth they may contain.
March 29, 2006—Day One of the Bob and Ann Journal Dialogues
With Bob’s transition on March 21st, I was aware that our six children’s lives had been on hold for the past six weeks and needed to get back on track. For several years I had been putting off much needed knee-replacement surgery. Spur of the moment, I asked Anna (our nurse daughter) if I could go home with her to have this done. To do so struck me as both a physical and symbolic way to begin my new life, and that the physical pain of the surgery itself and its healing process would be for me a distraction from the emotional toll of so great a loss as Bob’s physical presence.
With the Memorial service over, Anna loaded me with fifteen boxes of my stuff into her van. On March 28th we headed the 200 miles south to her home in Paso Robles. One of the boxes contained research books, including Gordon Strachan’s Jesus, the Master Builder. For no reason I was conscious of, this is the book I selected to open on awakening my first morning at Anna’s. It took me back to the trip Bob and I had made Glastonbury, England in 1988. This had been where the Murray Creek Labyrinth had been conceived and, for Bob, it was the place where, on a previous visit, he had experienced what he described as a sense of “coming home.”
In this first journal entry (not yet a dialogue) I had written:
Today I received my first inkling of a connection and collaboration with Bob.
My excitement came this morning as I realized Bob’s voice in my mind affirming that we would be working together—he helping me from his greater connection and larger perspective on “post, postmodernism.”
The words “post, postmodernism” referred to a theological quest Bob had been on over the last year or so of his life here. Although his parents had sent him to a Quaker school, religion had not been part of the life of his family. And even though at age 39 he had joined the Episcopal Church, there had been creedal things about which he confessed to having “crossed his fingers.” He also had a problem, pretty much across the board, with hierarchical authority, holding instead to the “Inner Light” of the Quakers. What he had valued and found meaningful in the Episcopal Church had been its liturgy and ritual. He would also come to appreciate its “thinking allowed” freedom as to scriptural interpretation.
For some years we had been part of a “Cutting Edge” book study. Most of the books read and discussed had been written by members of a somewhat unorthodox group known as the Jesus Seminars. These biblical scholars were definitely “postmodern” and the discussions very definitely intellectually appealing to both Bob and myself. However, his faith and what he held to be true had been born of a very personal encounter with Jesus and what he described as an immersion in his Love.
Gradually Bob would come to an awareness that in the overly scholarly approach to scripture there was a disconnect between head and heart. He wondered if this a case of “throwing out the baby with the bath water?” For Bob the “baby” had been the validation of the personal and experiential way of knowing God’s love for him in the person of Jesus. Subsequently, the disciples’ Gospel accounts of their experiences of the resurrected or still-living Jesus became perfectly believable.
As Bob’s disillusion with secular humanism had led him away from modernism, so failure to validate the experiential way of knowing had led to his discontent with the postmodern approach, and this to his search for a “post postmodern” solution. With modernism as the thesis; postmodernism was the antithesis; and post postmodernism became the synthesis about which he had an intuitive hunch.
As to the nature of a collaboration between Bob and myself, this first had come up around the subject of the “conjoining of two souls” related in Part II. I had questioned my logic of not beginning with the chronologically first of the journal entries and concluded this had been due to my slowness to connect “post postmodernism” with the “grand conjunction” language that had led to an 18th Century Swedish mystic. Only on focusing on the mystic first and post postmodernism second did the very large section of the invisible puzzle I had been working on fall in place.
As it turns out, Transcendentalists on both sides of the Atlantic were among Emanuel Swedenborg’s confirmed followers. Others, spanning several centuries, form a very long list and include well-known persons in the fields of art, literature, philosophy and psychology who credit the importance of Swedenborg’s influence on their lives. One of these is Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote:
The most remarkable step in the religious history of recent ages is that made by the genius of Swedenborg.
A colossal soul, he lies vast abroad of his times, uncomprehended by them, and requires a long focal distance to be seen.
When I began these journals on the eighth day after Bob’s transition it was with the assumption that the reference to collaboration between us would pick up where Bob had left off in his pursuit of a “post postmodern” resolve. Through early journal dialogues and in spite of the fact that previous to Bob’s transition I never had heard him mention Swedenborg, early dialogues repeatedly encouraged me to pursue this 18th Century scientist-turned-mystic’s writings. Although not directed to his theological writings these, when I would encounter them, appeared both progressive and universal–as were Bob’s—and pretty much where he had been in the last few years of his life. Going with this I could easily imagine Bob’s delight, upon his transition, to discover Swedenborg’s transcendent on what had become Bob’s quest to know the truth of what Jesus really had come to teach and accomplish. Nor is it surprising—that immersed in the excitement of what on the other side of this reality he was discovering—that he would have been anxious to share his discoveries with me, just as he had done in regard to his spiritual journey while still here in bodily form.
Bob, all his life, had been an avid reader of science fiction. His first quest to understand the spiritual life had been C S Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”. Had Swedenborg been a more creative writer than a scientist, and had he not written in Latin, and in so scholarly a style, Bob would surely have been captivated with the descriptive tales of other worlds he recorded. He would also have recognized Swedenborg as a fellow shaman and traveler to alternate realities. Is it possible, in a strange convoluted way, that in picking up on the Other Side where he had left off here, his intuitive hunch about a heart and mind synthesis was being realized?
Considering the time line of Swedenborg’s life (1688 – 1772), this was just before the scientific revolution. It was a time when there was still a consensus of hope in an Afterlife. For the majority of people—those referred to as “the common man”—life was difficult, uncertain and even harsh. The hope of an Afterlife for which the faithful would be compensated for the miseries of their present lives made it endurable. However, with the advent of the scientific viewpoint, hope was transferred from heaven to earth. Two centuries later, by the end of the 1900s, far from hope in humanity saving itself, it had become more likely that human beings had become more and more bent not only on self-destruction but on destroying much of life on planet earth as well. Now, more than a decade into the 21st Century, eyes again appear to be turning heavenward—that is to say inward. The Kingdom of God and the spiritual journey are under re-appraisement and now as an inner-dimensional pursuit. Leading edge physicists are delving seriously into the prospect of parallel universes and even, building on the shoulders of Einstein, possibilities of time travel.
Who Was Emanuel Swedenborg?
In notes taken from Ernst Benz’s Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason, Emanuel Swedenborg is portrayed as a product of his own age and cultural niche. His father was a Lutheran bishop, said to be
Imbued with the spirit of Pietism, meaning that rather than of the school of Lutheran orthodoxy his religious life was of the warmer clime of devotion, love, and good works.
After graduation from the University of Uppsala, Emanuel had lived for a time in England.
[There] he had come under the influence of a theology espousing a scientific understanding of the universe side by side a comprehension of the divine world and the necessity of the two developing together. Gradually he would shift from the mechanistic views of his English and French mentors to the organic and vitalist approach then permeating the German scientific world.
[Benz describes the above as his] “metaphysics of life” [wherein] the universe with all its forms is the organism in which the divine life incarnates itself through descent.
This suggests to me that Swedenborg as a mystic/scientist/theologian was of a lineage similar to the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin and also India’s Sri Aurobindo, both of whose lives spanned the late 19th to mid 20th centuries and about whom I have written in Higher Ground.
For the first 56 years of Swedenborg’s life he had worked, studied and written, prolifically, as a scientist. Then, at the height of his scientific career and as a member of the Swedish Parliament, one day he found himself transported to a different world. From that day and for the last 28 years of his life he faithfully recorded his daily visitations to the realms of spiritual beings.
As a visionary Swedenborg’s hope was not to reinvent Christianity but to revitalize the earlier, pure teachings lost from early Christianity. Swedenborg, according to Benz, envisioned a new humanity, reunited at last with divinity and thus leading to the foretold Millennium—“not suddenly and literally but gradually and spiritually.”
In the next chapter the theme of Eternal Love comes into full focus with Swedenborg’s views on the difference between secular and sacred vows, the one declaring a union “until death do us part” and the other “for all eternity.” Surprisingly, the dots that connect on the theme of the sacred union are between Emanuel Swedenborg, and the Depth Psychology of Dr Carl Jung.