||[Dec. 16th, 2004|08:56 am]
The ancient Egyptians put a lot of effort into preparing for the next life. They thought it would be just like life on earth. One would have parties with musicians and dancing girls, one would go wild-fowling among the reed-beds, one would ride in one's chariot or go boating in one's felucca. By imagining this future life one made it real. |
And one backed up one's imagination with images. The dead person was launched into the afterlife in a little capsule full of painting and sculpture. Everything she would need was there in picture form. She would open her eyes in the dark and look around and see mirror and comb and fish-spear and fowling-net and heaps of fruit and bottles of palm wine.
It was a very powerful magic. The Egyptian otherworld- the Duat- still exists. With the right passwords, the right nod to the gate-keepers, one can go into it and look around.
I had a friend who did just that. She had friends in the Duat. They told her that after three- four- thousand years the magic is beginning to weaken and many of the old ghosts are giving up on it and dropping back into incarnation.
Three thousand years of partying and wild-fowling and boating and chariot-driving- I can see how it might pall- how one might feel as if one were stuck on a dead end street. Perhaps through the thinning walls of magic one might get glimpses of other worlds and be curious about them.
The afterlife is a static place. We create it from what we know in this life. Once we are dead the stream of experience dries up- and we can add nothing to our store of image and emotion. Our magnificent imaginings may keep us happy in our heavens for a long, long time, but in the end, if we've got anything about us, we'll be craving something new.
And so we come back to earth. It's the workshop of the universe. All other worlds are created here.
Jung says that the dead have to consult the living if they want to stay informed. I think he's right.
Did you ever read the strange books of Swedenborg? What odd writing it is.
I had a thick book of his once, and it seemed a little loopy, but it was also intriguing. He said the dead were fascinated with the living and could influence them by hovering around and vicariously enjoying the pleasures of a living body--it was almost like a possession, he said.
(Once I had a dream in which I found the bones of the dead "Bishop of Nevers" in a basket. I think I read something, and in the dream I thought that the dead Bishop could listen to my reading and learn from it.)
Yeats (him again) writes about putting a glass of wine on the table on All Souls Eve to entice the spirits. Although they can't drink the wine, he says, they can taste its aroma and be driven to "ecstasy" by it.
I'm sure he'd read his Swedenborg.
I haven't. Do you think I should?
I looked out there in Googleland and found this
, both of which helped me remember that I thought Swedenborg seemed rather naive and even wistful in his reasoning.
Imagine the presumption:
In 1734, satisfied that he had understood the mechanics of the unfolding of the natural universe from the first natural point or the first finite,
he turned his attention to the problem of the nature of the infinite and its relation to the finite.
I think he's quite interesting. He thought spirits inhabited each of the planets in the solar system, and described each in a rather judgmental way. I think that's what turned me off, finally--he seemed to be reporting visions, but it was rather cryptic and even--amazingly--a little dull.
I've just read a page about heaven and angels. It strikes me that he sets the tone for Victorian spirituality. There's a sentimentality and a banality about his vision.
For some reason- which I haven't explored- he makes me think of Hans Christian Anderson.
Was Anderson a Swedenborgian?
I looked briefly to see if Swedenborg appeared in combination with Anderson and found a very interesting site
about Swedenborg's life. It's well written.
For the last 29 years of his life, S felt he was privy to communication with God, who showed him how there was a spiritual realm that co-existed with the earthly realm. His mission was, he said, to explain that realm to those who couldn't see it.
If it weren't for his Puritanical--whoops, an anachronism!--interpretations, I'd find myself fascinated and even swayed.
My own judgement is that he may have had a bi-polar or other mental disorder. Just a guess.
What's compelling about his writing is that he apparently thought for himself (although his own biases seem to have crept into his work), and said occasionally very interesting things:
"All who come into heaven have a place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God."
What a remarkable man.
I'm reminded of Leonardo da Vinci.
I think I shall have to look a little more closely at his work.
I like Keller's view of him as the antidote to the extreme rationalism of the 18th century.
Good! I'll be interested in what you discover.
I'm wondering more about his interpretation of why and how the world was made than about his "visions" of the spirit realm...I'll probably read about that part.
It's been many years--I guess it was the late 70s--when I last read Swedenborg. Something about his "visions" made me feel sort of gloomy. It just felt dark to me, heavy.
One thing I don't get from that biography is any indication that he possessed a sense of humour.
As Chesterton said of Marcus Aurelius "a great and good man- and he knew it!"
I've read much more of Keller's writing about S in the last few minutes, and I find I'm so amazed--how brilliant she must have been. How did she get all these books in braille?
She is very convincing. I guess I should look around a bit more at S's writing, too.