Louis f-post-a-non-ecclesiastical-confession-of-religious-faith-sf-1969


Published on

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Louis f-post-a-non-ecclesiastical-confession-of-religious-faith-sf-1969

  1. 1. A NON-ECCLESIASTICAL CONFESSION OF RELIGIOUS FAITH An Address by LOUIS F. POST ~ 1969 Reprint Distributed by theSWEDENBORG FOUNDATION, INC. 139 East 23rd St. New York, New York 10010
  2. 2. became a personal friend of Henry George and ardently supported Georges reformist Louis Freeland Post ideas. He was a candidate for public office in New York State and served in several [1849-1928] positions. His highest office was that of Assistant Secretary for Labor during the administrations of Woodrow Wilson. In Louis F Post enjoyed a varied career 1920 impeachment proceedings were startedas lawyer, writer, editor, public speaker, against Post for his outspoken opposition toreformer and government official. He was the harsh aspects of the nationai gov­largely responsible for the first observance ernments campaign to deport radical aliens.of Labor Day as a national holiday through Posts defense was so eloquent that hishis campaign while editor of a New York detractors were shamed and the proceedingslabor newspaper titled Truth. dropped. He was raised on a farrn near Vienna,New Jersey, and received his education in His first wife, Anna Johnson, died inthe public schools there. In 1870, after 1891 and in 1893 he married Alice Thacher,three years of reading in a law firm in an editor of two Swedenborgian newspapersNew York, he was admitted to the bar and in Chicago. Through her Post became in­practiced for a time in that city. He served terested in the great Swedish scientist andin South Carolina as United States Attorney seer. Post had been raised in a Presbyter­in Charleston du ring the reconstruction era ian family, but had drifted from the churchfollowing the Civil War. His work there and become a free thinker. At the timeincluded an extended investigation of the he came in contact with Swedenborg, heactivities of the original Ku Klux Klan. was a self-styled "atheist." Swedenborgs writings gave him, for the first time in his Subsequently he held several editorships life, a rational approach to faith. Whileincluding the Cleveland Recorder, the Chi­ he never formally joined the New Church,cago Public, and the New York Standard. he came to found his philosophy of lifeAH had a strong single tax flavor. Post on Swedenborgian teachings. He freely and 2 3
  3. 3. publicly identified himself as a Swedenbor­gian. His published works include The Ethics A Non-Ecclesiastical Confessionof Democracy (1905), a memoir of HenryGeorge titled The Prophet of San Francisco of Religious Faith(19 0 5), Social Service (1909), Ethical Prin­cipals of Marriage and Divorce (1916),and Basic Facts of Economics (1927). Let me state at the outset that 1 am not a member of any religious denomination. 1 have no church connections; and, because this is so, it might be inferred that 1 have no religious convictions. Yet the differences in religious opinion between myself and my friends of the churches are probably neither so numerous nor so radical as might be imagined. In the final analysis our disputes would hin e, 1 think, chiefly upon -.9,ues­ ti cclesiasticis~ For 1 reject what my friends of the churches are pleased to caU their spiritual authorities, and rest my religious faith upon what 1 am pleased to caU m~n perception and ~ n reason. Most cordiaUy do 1 grant you that this medium of spiritual light is of dubious value. But its revelations, while not inferior to those of the churches in the humanities, may be superior in the harmonies; and as this is the Qnly channel of communication the universal Father has ever established between Himself and me, so far as 1 know, 1 prefer it to aH others for my own use.4 5
  4. 4. Once upon a time 1 too belonged to achurch. Although not born in the Presby­ to atheism. 1 came to believe that thereterian "persuasion," as we used to say, is no God and no spirituallife. Men seemed1 was plunged into it at an early age, to me only as the flame of the candIe, whichso early that my "memory runneth not is something and sorn.ewhere while it burns,to the contrary." ln the primitive society but nothing and nowhere when you blowof my native hills and swamps Presbyterian­ it out.ism and respectability were synonymous. That aIl his was really a religious pro­ The tire and brimstone hell was to me cess is part of the faith 1 am now confessing.a lurid reality. My selfish anguish lest 1, To such of you as have come to your re­even l, might not answer roll calI among ligious faith by other ways, the atheisticthe elect on the last great day, was at ~ may not seem in the direction oftimes excruciating. Possibly the fault was ~ion. But as there are "nine and sîxtymy own, but 1 got the notion that faith ways of constructing tribal lays, and everywas necessary to make my election sure, single one of them is right," even if notand that faith meant implicit belief in the the way of our tribe, so there are twelveimprobable and the unreal. In stark terror, JI gates into the New Jerusalem, every singletherefore, "1 walked the earth a credulous one of which is the right gate even if itman, believing many things." 1 was as ~~urs or . . omeJiae-rn:er~ng, mycredulous regarding pulpit utterances as ~:vish)·and CËtholic anc(Prot~ friendsyour materialistic fatalist is about inherited - ay-é, my at eiS riends""âlso, you of thecriminality . spiritual pu se - some fine mormng after these fleshly garments of ours have been cast Perhaps my faith became over-strained. into graves, may we not aIl meel face toAt any rate, when new experiences dis­ face in the New J erusalem, coming towardclosed new sets of facts, a new religious one another each through his own gate?vista opened before me. My church friends Even here and now, do we not come atdid not think this vista religious; for it times into the Roly City, as it were, throughturned me into "free thinking," as it was our opposite gates, meeting one anotherstigmatized, and thence to agnosticism and spiritually face to face and greeting one another spiritually heart to heart? 6 7
  5. 5. pulses, than to guess that it generated them. Whether or not atheism may be one of Ancestor worship impressed me as lessthe gates into the New Jerusalem, l think likely to have produced God than to bethat in my case it was at least a vestibule a groping in the dark for God by beingslrom paganism to religion. l should think intuitively conscious of His presence. Theso ëvenlT l were sure of its having been principle of averages which enables us,atheism. But looking backward, l doubt if for instance, to know the result of an elec­ lever was an atheist. l think that the God tion where millions of votes are cast, upon l denied was only my own distorted appre­ receiving a few bunches of scattered returns,hension of a theological fetish. l doubt, too, suggested to my mind systems of law back if l ever really rejected the idea of spiritual of the physical. And in those laws l caught life. What l revolted against was a pagan glimpses of beneficent purpose. As my hell with !ts cruel devils keeping the sul­ apprehension of human brotherhood de­ phurous fire ablaze, and a pagan heaven veloped under the influence of Henry with useless angels "loafing about a throne." Georges "Progress and Poverty," my per­ ceptions of spiritual Fatherhood clarified. l Revolting as my reasonless faith was, l realized that human suffering, which l hadfound the process of evicting it long and once attributed to an angry deity and later}lainful. In time, however, this old faith died to insentient fate, is traceable to human in­within me, and l came lully into the stage difference to beneficent natural laws. of irrational negation which l have So l wandered out of my atheism, if described as atheistic. Eventually, that atheism it was, into what l shall presume period, too, passed away. Materialistic ex­ to characterize as a rational spiritualism planations of a Godless universe ceased to - not the spiritism of the mediums, but satisfy me. The evolution of conscious life a philosophy of spiritual life. and moral ideals lrom unconscious matter and unmoral motion became as absurd Your sense of the incongruous might be to my perceptions as that the stream can rise quickened if I, alter characterizing this phi­ above its source. It seemed to me more losophy as rational, were to identify it with rational to guess that the human brain, as the name of Emanuel Swedenborg, and his l.t developed physically, acquired capacity teachings, or "doctrines." for receiving and individualizing moral im­ 9 8
  6. 6. N ow doctrines with reference to truth maybe likened to streets with reference to a city. hard, geometrical arrangement of spiritualThey are the paths by means of which ohenomena as Swedenborg seemed to me towe get about. Sorne streets are too narrow, see them - such things as these made hissorne are too broad, sorne are only alleys, books uninterestingly fantastic. But as land blind alleys at that; so it is with doc­ began to appreciate his meanings, somewhattrines. But streets we must have if we have l imagine as one gradually appreciates thecities, and doctrines if we would explore strange idioms of a new language, his des­truth. And what l offer you in the way of criptions which had seemed fantastic anddoctrine is only a map - my map - which dull revealed to me a phenomenon of in­you can accept or reject as you please. As dividual and social life animate with ra­long as we accept and make our maps of tional purpose and replete with humandoctrines honestly, and alter them when we interest. Translate Swedenborg out of thefind them wrong, we have no reason to lifeless atÎcl colorless Latin-English in whichthink contemptuously of doctrines merely his writings are officially printed, into thebecause they are doctrines, particularly if living speech that phrases modern modes ofthey form a reasonable philosophy whose thought, and he is not fantastic, not mysti­elements harmonize and dovetail, somewhat cal, not irrational.as the streets of a well-planned city This is not my view alone, nor the viewharmonize and unify the whole area. ::llone of Swedenbor s church followers. A friend, whose sense of the rational l ames reeman Clarke said:" Emanuelheld in high esteem, assured me that Swe­ wëaen org was e organ of a newdenborgs philosophy was reasonable. Yet spiritual philosophy, the power of~hmy early experiences with Swedenborgs fs -lÎardly -ye~derstood, but which seemstheology did not impress me with his ra­ likely to leaven all religious thought andtionality. If you dip into sorne of his books, change all arbitrary theolo ies into a r ­ "P,.you may fare no better at first than l did. tional spiritualism." Edward Everett Hale ,.~ wrote: "Swedenborgianism has done e J Their stilted Latin-English; their ecclesiasti­ cal phrasing; the wooden pictures of angels liberating work of the last century ... The ::; always facing the Lord, whom they cou]dnt wave Swedenborg started lasts to this day.see except as a sun in the heavens; the The statements of his religious works have revolutionized theology." I"Râlph Waldoro rr
  7. 7. Emerso--r:)concluded that "The most remark­ form and void. Yet Swedenborg, unless heable step in the religious history of recent did one or the other of these two things,ages is that made by the genius of must have seen and heard what he said he Swedenborg ... These truths passing out of saw and heard. On the spiritual planeshis system into general circulation are now of existence, where all is to us ideal and met with every day, qualifying the views abstract, he MUST have seen individualand creeds of all churches and of men of ~ and social life in the concrete. ~l no church." It makes little difference to me, whether Three things about Swedenborgs philoso­ Swedenborg saw these spiritual phenomena.phy are singularly impressive. The first is concretely or not. Of thé authenticity of histhe obvious truth of its details. The second message to mankind, his philosophy sim­is its completeness and its homogeneity. And ply as philosophy, is its own sufficientthe third is the universal adaptability of voucher. For example, in his concept ofits principles. Like leaf to tree, or body to God as both "esse" and "existere," the P1ind. or mind to spirit is any part of this "being" and "becoming" theories of the old philosophy to any relatea part. With it, philosophies are vitalized with rational as with physical nature, everything fits spiritual life. By the same concept the truthstrue. If Swedenborg recorded mere dreams of idealism are harmonize01ï1one rand and hallucinations, then he dreamed a philo­ system ith ail that is true in materialism. sophy of miraculous consistency. If he re­ S;ëdenborgs "esse" as infinite an ete ~ corded no dreams nor hallucinations, but nally unchanging essence, and <~istere" as thought out his philosophy - which he might its infinite and eternally changing expres­ possihlv have donp-. for his was one of sion, constitute the dominant principle of the greatest minds of his day, and he was pnenomena on every plane-physical, men­ one of the most renowned scientists of tal, moral, spiritual. It is God Himself. Europe- if he thought out this philosophy, and then as a tour de force turned it Swedenborgs God is a triune God, but into allegory, he produced an allegory of the Trinity of Swedenborg is not the medie­ marvelous art, one so perfect in its analo­ ~ val riddle of three individuals who are yet ~ gies, yet so true to human life that Pil­ but one individual. Swedenborgs Trinity grims Progress is by comparison without in its ideal expression is a universal prin­12 13
  8. 8. ciple - the principle of the unity of purpose, kind. Rere are three elements, aH of them cause and e((ect; or, what is essentially necessary. and necessary in unison as one. Without this trinity in unity, Edison as the same thing, of substance, (orm, and use inventor of electric lighting not only could or power- for in its final expression, the not exist, but would be unthinkable. power anything has is in the ullimate USê it performs. WiThout this Trinity ln unity And when we speak of God the Spirit Goa could not be God. nor could anv man as infinite use or effect. which is creation. be a man. Even a chair could not be a we mean creation in the sense not merely chair; for is not a chair necessarily sub­ of original making but of ÇQntinuous stance, form and utility-wood, shape, and making. Very often the idea of a First seating capacity - and are not these things Causè seems to imply an original cause, three distinct elements of one object? On when its real meaning is a continuous cause. their highest plane, these three unified ele­ To illustrate: we might speak of the move­ ments appear to Swedenborgs vision as ment of a cannon ball and the movement of Father, Son, and Roly Spirit - three in a watch as caused by a force. But One and One in three; God the Father as the cannon balls movement is caused by Infinite purpose or love, desiring creation; an original, the movement of the watch God the Son as Infinite cause or wisdom, by a continuous force.i conceiving creation; and Godtne Spirit as infinite effect or use, which is creation. Constituting the one original and con ­ tinuous impulse of all phenomena, the three Let us illustra te on a lower plane with attributes of God - purpose or love, cause a man, a useful inventor - Edison for or wisdom, and effect or use-are sym­ example, as the inventor of electric light ­ bolized materially by the heat, light, and ing. We have in the first place Edisons consequent vitality of the sun. The sun is purpose, or love desiring to produce elec­ said to be in our solar system correspon­ tric lighting; in the second place, his know ­ dent to the triune God in Ris universe. To ledge or wisdom conceiving a method of ÛÎJ.derstand what is meant by correspondent, electric lighting; and in the third place his sorne idea of the Swedenborgian doctrine utilization of this knowledge or wisdom of correspondences is necessary. for the satisfaction of his purpose or love Correspondence differs, let me explain, in producing electric lighting to serve man­ 14 15
  9. 9. from analogy. Analogues are only acci­ dentaI resemblances, having nu relation to birth) of a human soul; the Israelitishcause and effect; whereas Swedenborgs cor­ pilgrimage, of its struggles in that rebirth; respondences are effects on one plane while the tragic drama of Palestine is aof causes on another. The idea may be representation of the progress of truth oncrudely illustrated by ones image in a earth -- particularly THE truth of the Fa­mirror. This is not an analogue: its char­ therhood of God and the brotherhood ofacteristics are those of Swedenborgian man: its birth in a lowly place, the viciouscorrespondences. A perfect example of persecution of it in its infancy, Hs confound­correspondence is facial expression: it is a ing of the learned in youth, its temporarymanifestation of the mental on the plane of obscurity, its subsequent disturbance ofthe physical. Another example is the heat dominant or crystallized disorder, its cruci­of the sun, which is the material appear­ fixion, its resurrection, its triumph. Andance of Gods love, as its light is of His isnt this process familiar, in the develop­wisdom. Upon coming to fuU spiritual con­ ment not alone of individual character butsciousness, we should feel according also of human society-what Swedenborgto Swedenborg, the love principle as the would caU the "greater man"? From Mosesphysical body feels heat, and see by wis­ to Lincoln every leader in the new crusadedom as the physical eye sees light. In has realized it. Have we not aU realized H?like manner aU other realities of what Do we not aU realize, moreover, that truthwe now caU the ideal would be concretely triumphant tends to crystallize in falsephenomenal. forms, to be in turn broken up and reform­ Interpreting the Bible by this system of ed with repetitions essentiaUy of the samecorrespondences, Swedenborg considers it drama successively on higher and higheras embodying an inner sense which con­ planes of appreciation and application?stitutes the true biblical revelation. This According to Swedenborgs philosophy,inner sense is not as in a cryptogram; it the different planes of divine expression areis to the literary and the historical sense insulated, the phenomena of each pro gres­as soul to body, or cause to effect. The sing in continuous ~ ~ on their ownfirst chapter of Genesis thus becomes essen­ plane, and being held to it by the principletiaUy the story of the birth (or the re­ of what Swedenborg caUs .. discrete degrees." A crude illustration of discrete degrees wouldr6 17
  10. 10. planes, each discreted from the others. Thesebe a stream of water in a pipe; while the arethe corporeal, the plane on which thewater can flow continuously within the pipe, physical senses reign; the natural, the planeit cannot spread beyond its confines. This of intellectual activity; the moral, the planeprinciple of discrete degrees, one of the of righteous or unrighteous conduct; and thegreat distinguishing doctrines of Swedenborg, spiritua~ the plane of motive. To giveis no more than the perfection of analysis. your fellow man a "fair deal," for example,It simply recognizes and distinguishes es­ whatever the motive, even though it be onlysential differences between things that are to keep out of jail or to get into goodhomogeneous, but in different frames of society, is moral; but it is not spiritualreference - or different "dimensions," if you unless inspired by motives of respect forprefer the term. the rights of your fellows as equal to your A very important principle, therefore, is own.that of discrete degreeS> one which is woe­fully ignored -oy the present generation. Through the boundaries of discrete de­ The universities ignore it when they treat grees nothing can pass in its üWn form.sociology as an inductive science merely, the IfS form must alter to harmonize with churches when they consider it ded.uctively the nature of the plane into which it passes. alone; Christian Scientists ignore it when For illustration, love on the spiritual planethey obscure the difference between the spiri­ becomes heat on the corporeal, and wis­ tual and the physical; materialists when they dom on the former is light on the latter. are blind and deaf to the spiritual; Social­ Consequently the scientist, though he might ists ignore it when they obscure the differ­ explore to infinity the continuous degrees ence between social solidarity and individual of the corporeal plane, can never pëlletrate autonomy; anarchists when they deny social its insulation into the natural, the moral, solidarity; your practical man ignores it or the spiritual- at least, not as a scientist, when he sneers at the ideal, your idealist not by so-called scientific methods. On the when he abjures the practical. corporeal plane we live in a world of effects. AlI differences of kind, from lowest to It depends not only for its original impulse, highest, Sire within the sYE:.denborgian con­ but also for its continuance, upon other cept of dis~de~s. But life isâTV:Wed worlds _. discreted worlds of ends and by Swedenborg into four major d~gr~ 19 18
  11. 11. reasonable. Through it l came to appreciatecauses. The latter can be studied from the the dilemma of those to whom everythingformer only ideally, by philosophical as is in flux, and also the dilemma of thosedistinguished from scientific method, and to whom everything is fixed. Eternallythrough the medium of correspondences. changing phenomena came to seem to meClassical analysis is not the open sesame; only natural expressions of eternallyanatomical psychology is vanity and vexa­ unchanging principle. l beheld a universetion. of matter and mind and morals and spirit But do not imagine that Swedenborgs in constant flux phenomenaUy, yet in prin­philosophy is merely an intellectual system. ciple the same yesterday, today and forever.From center to periphery it is vibrant Ii is a universe, moreover. which is pervadedwith the doctrine of usefulness for its own and governed by an exquisite harmony ofsake. This doctrine is simply a rational the wisdom that is in infinite rationalityinterpretation of the Two Great Command­ and the love that is infinite justice.ments -- love for God and love for theneighbor. Mans love for the neighbor ex­ By Swedenborgs philosophy my laterpresses itself and finds satisfaction in use­ religious views were molded. Though itfulness to man; his love for God in use­ may not have restored religion to me norfulness to man under the inspiration of me to religion, l became conscious of sornehis imperfect perceptions of the external of the signs of both. l feU once more thatprinciples of absolute right. Conversely, l was a miserable sinner; although it wasGods love finds expression and satisfaction when l wronged a brother or drifted awayin usefulness to man, and in harmony also from the principles of absolute right as lwith the eternal principles of absolute right. perceived them, and never because l missed a prayer meeting or amused myself on a Understood in that way, the idea of love Sunday. Once more l tried to pray, but inby God for man and by man for my work rather than on my knees. AndGod appealed to my awakening sense of l feared -- for tfilS is a confession - thatthe spiritual. So l turned hopefully to l was still somewhat of a pharisee: l couldSwedenborg for more light. As l began not wholly rid myself of the notion that itto delve into his philosophy, it responded was a deadly sin in others to disagreeto my demand for the rational, for the 21 20
  12. 12. with me. But pharisee or not, l was able with aU sincerity to say, along with men whose experience had been not unlike my own, that a faith that was dead revived. But this new faith is not the old terror­ fostered credulity; it is implicit confidence~ ~~mt~lY in the eracticaDj.J!.ty of wllat 1S right. ere-arë times w6en l TaIter, and, in­ deed, there are many such limes, l can ex­ daim with rational fervor regarding this new faith, as aforetime l prayed with credu­ lous piety regarding its graven image: "Lord, l believe, help Thou mine unbelief." 22
  13. 13. Swedenborgs Theological Works:Apocalypse Explained, 6 volumes.Apocalypse Revealed, 2 volumes.Arcana Coelestia, 12 volumes.Conjugial LoveDivine Love and WisdomDivine ProvidenceFour DoctrinesHeaven and HellMiscelianeous Theological WorksPosthumous Theological Works, 2 volumes.The Spiritual Life, The W ord of GodTrue Christian Religion, 2 volumesÛTHER TITLES:Gist of Swedenborg, by Julian K. Smyth and William F. WunschIntroduction to Swedenborlts ReliKious Thought- by John Howard SpaldingMy Religion- by Helen KellerSwedenborg, Life and Teaching- by George TrobridgeFree Catalogue will be sent upon request from: Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 139 East 23rd Street New York, N. Y. 10010