In some ways it may seem simple to the reader that there is a marriage of the natural and spiritual, and so it is. Intuitively it is everywhere in life, movies, and spiritual teachings; but the problem was that traditional religion had divorced itself from the principle of union by the doctrine of salvation from faith alone, by the doctrine of three separate God-heads in the trinity, and by the Catholic Church usurping Holiness from the Word and Jesus unto itself. These false doctrines caused the externalization of religion; they caused the separation of life and religion, faith and charity. In truth doctrine is meant to serve life, not life to serve doctrine. This is not said to reject doctrine and religion in mass; for doctrine and religion are invaluable. It is said to restore life and vitality to doctrine and religion. Since the second coming this simple principle of union has been restored to a large degree. What is most simple is also most profound and complex, for it is also the most universal.
Let us dig deeper toward an even more tangible understanding of this universal principle. There are thousands of places one could quote from Swedenborg about the principle of union. Here is one quote that expresses the nitty-gritty of the union of the natural and spiritual, and that demonstrates how union is the essential of all spiritual growth. I pick this quote because it is about spiritual birth, or, in Christian terms, it is a down-to-earth way of understanding being ‘born again.’ This quote from Swedenborg comes from a discussion of the meaning of the word “midwife” in scripture (In the quote, by the word ‘natural,’ he is referring to the material level of the body and nature, and all the energetic processes that take place in them):
That the midwife said to her, Do not be afraid’ means perception received from the natural…when the interior man undergoes temptations, the natural is like a midwife. For unless the natural assists no birth of interior truth is possible, since it is the natural that receives interior truths into its bosom once these are born; indeed it is the natural that enables them to push their way out. The same applies to instances of spiritual birth, in that reception must take place wholly within the natural. This is the reason why, when a person is being regenerated, the natural is first of all made ready to receive, and to the extent it is then able to receive, interior truths and goods are able to emerge and multiply. This also explains why, if the natural man has not been made ready during the life of the body to receive the truths and goods of faith, that person cannot receive them in the next life and so cannot be saved. This is the implication of the common saying ‘As the tree falls, so it must lie’, meaning, what a person is when he dies, so he comes to be. For a person has with him in the next life his whole natural memory, that is, the memory belonging to his external man, though he is not allowed to use it in that life. In the next life therefore that memory serves as the groundwork on which interior truths and goods rest; but if that groundwork is not able to support the goods and truths which flow into it from within, interior goods and truths are either annihilated, or perverted, or cast aside. From all this it may be seen that the natural is like a midwife. (Arcana Celestia, n. 4588)
This quote shows that spiritual birth requires the natural and spiritual together. It is a way of describing being ‘born again’ and shows that it is a gradual, rigorous process, sometimes painful and sometimes joyous. As we know from life, this growth tends to take place in a series of seminal moments. The natural realm is like soil, and the spiritual like heat and light. In nutrient-filled soil, plants are in the their compatible environment for growth. The soil can be compared to the body and the plant to the soul. The plant roots and grows in the soil, and takes shape in the air when it has the right nutrients, heat, and light. In this case it becomes fruitful and multiplies which corresponds to a person growing n spiritual truths and skills and spreading them to others in their work and life. The seminal moments of growth take place after our thoughts and feelings have been conditioned to the point they become receptive to the spiritual, which often means we have been humbled by trials, grief, and suffering. The conditioning can also take place by study, by reflecting deeply on oneself and the universe, and especially by engaging the Word sincerely. In this process, the spirit and mind are meant to lead, while the body receives feelings and acts on the feelings prompted by the mind and, in turn, gives feedback to the mind. Memories and motor skills are stored both in the body, mind and the soul in their own corresponding way. The body provides substance and lasting form for the changes taking place in our soul. In other words, a bond takes place in the body-to-soul communication. When this happens, greater concordance is established between the internal and external self.
The master example of what Swedenborg is saying in the above quote can be seen in the life of Jesus Himself. Everything Jesus accomplished was manifested through His body while on earth. He so perfected the processes of growth and wisdom in His body that He made His body divine. This is evident in the glorification process I described in the chapter on the glorification. We tend to fallaciously think that everything Jesus did was magic or easy. In truth, however, everything He did and became was rigorous far beyond our ability to comprehend. The glorification began with God being born on earth in a material body just like other human beings. He gradually grew and learned – embodying theretofore unknown levels of enlightenment within Himself and sharing them in His ministry. That Jesus lived in a human body is what makes God knowable to all humanity. It gives us the ability to have personal affection for Him. Jesus overcame every temptation put upon His body and mind and fulfilled all prophecies about the Messiah. He did so by loving acts of supernatural service. He manifested (or birthed) new levels of love and wisdom in the world that had never existed before, and, in the end, He saved the world from destruction. The resurrection is the ultimate birthing in that Jesus raised His human body into the spiritual world, making His body divine and the very form of the whole universe.
In us humans, for change and salvation to take place, our bodies and feelings need to be prepared for it – like soil needs to be prepared for plants to grow by softening and with nutrients. The body feels satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment when it bonds with the spirit because we receive an intuitive sense that we have achieved a lasting good. What is worldly looks to the temporal, what is spiritual looks to the eternal. Swedenborg writes:
What are delights of the senses of the body without the delights of the soul? It is the soul which takes delight in these. The delights of the soul in themselves are imperceptible beatitudes; but as they descend into the thoughts of the mind, and from these into the sensations of the body they become more and more perceptible. In the thoughts of the mind they are perceived as states of happiness; in the sensations of the body, as delights; and in the body itself, as pleasures. Eternal happiness comes of all these together. (Conjugal Love, n. 16)
The way the natural and spiritual operate together can also be seen by the fact that the sense of touch is the universal medium for love. For instance, the tongue must touch food to taste, the nose must touch air to smell, the ear drum must receive sound waves to hear, and the skin must be touched to feel. Love yearns to be expressed and fulfilled through touch. Indeed, there is no greater pleasure than true love expressed in the sex act. The sex act (making love) is meant to be the ultimate expression of true marriage love. Love and touch, together in harmony, increase pleasure and intimacy and bring a sense of spiritual fulfillment in our soul. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis: pleasure is the invention of God, not the devil. Evil merely co-ops pleasure, twisting it into something externally addictive in order to take us away from God. The reason the orgasm in sex is the most transendant experience of the body is that the orgasm corresponds to the experience of true love in the body. It is the natural correspondent to the highest love on earth and in heaven, which is true marriage love between a man and a woman. The orgasm serves the use of propagating the human race, which in turn populates heaven with angels.
Everyone born is meant for heaven. Each person has been given a use to fulfill for the benefit of all, and this use reaches its highest expression in heaven (although not all make it there).