A NON-ECCLESIASTICAL

CONFESSION OF
RELIGIOUS FAITH
An Address
by
LOUIS F. POST
~

1969 Reprint
Distributed by the
SWEDENBORG FOUNDATION, INC.
139 East 23rd St.
New York, New York 10010
Louis Freeland Post
[1849-1928]
Louis F Post enjoyed a varied career
as lawyer, writer, editor, public speaker,
reformer and government official. He was
largely responsible for the first observance
of Labor Day as a national holiday through
his campaign while editor of a New York
labor newspaper titled Truth.
He was raised on a farrn near Vienna,
New Jersey, and received his education in
the public schools there. In 1870, after
three years of reading in a law firm in
New York, he was admitted to the bar and
practiced for a time in that city. He served
in South Carolina as United States Attorney
in Charleston during the reconstruction era
following the Civil War. His work there
included an extended investigation of the
activities of the original Ku Klux Klan.
Subsequently he held several editorships
including the Cleveland Recorder, the Chi­
cago Public, and the New York Standard.
AH had a strong single tax flavor. Post
2
became a personal friend of Henry George
and ardently supported George's reformist
ideas. He was a candidate for public office
in New York State and served in several
positions. His highest office was that of
Assistant Secretary for Labor during the
administrations of Woodrow Wilson. In
1920 impeachment proceedings were started
against Post for his outspoken opposition to
the harsh aspects of the nationai gov­
ernment's campaign to deport radical aliens.
Post's defense was so eloquent that his
detractors were shamed and the proceedings
dropped.
His first wife, Anna Johnson, died in
1891 and in 1893 he married Alice Thacher,
an editor of two Swedenborgian newspapers
in Chicago. Through her Post became in­
terested in the great Swedish scientist and
seer. Post had been raised in a Presbyter­
ian family, but had drifted from the church
and become a free thinker. At the time
he came in contact with Swedenborg, he
was a self-styled "atheist." Swedenborg's
writings gave him, for the first time in his
life, a rational approach to faith. While
he never formally joined the New Church,
he came to found his philosophy of life
on Swedenborgian teachings. He freely and
3
publicly identified himself as a Swedenbor­
gian.
His published works include The Ethics
of Democracy (1905), a memoir of Henry
George titled The Prophet of San Francisco
(19
0
5), Social Service (1909), Ethical Prin­
cipals of Marriage and Divorce (1916),
and Basic Facts of Economics (1927).
A Non-Ecclesiastical Confession
of Religious Faith
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 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 perception and 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
Once upon a time 1 too belonged to a
church. Although not born in the Presby­
terian "persuasion," as we used to say,
1 was plunged into it at an early age,
so early that my "memory runneth not
to the contrary." ln the primitive society
of my native hills and swamps Presbyterian­
ism and respectability were synonymous.
The tire and brimstone hell was to me
a lurid reality. My selfish anguish lest 1,
even l, might not answer roll calI among
the elect on the last great day, was at
times excruciating. Possibly the fault was
my own, but 1 got the notion that faith
was necessary to make my election sure,
and that faith meant implicit belief in the
improbable and the unreal. In stark terror,
therefore, "1 walked the earth a credulous
man, believing many things." 1 was as
credulous regarding pulpit utterances as
your materialistic fatalist is about inherited
criminality.
Perhaps my faith became over-strained.
At any rate, when new experiences dis­
closed new sets of facts, a new religious
vista opened before me. My church friends
did not think this vista religious; for it
turned me into "free thinking," as it was
stigmatized, and thence to agnosticism and
6
to atheism. 1 came to believe that there
is no God and no spirituallife. Men seemed
to me only as the flame of the candIe, which
is something and sorn.ewhere while it burns,
but nothing and nowhere when you blow
it out.
That aIl his was really a religious pro­
cess is part of the faith 1 am now confessing.
To such of you as have come to your re­
ligious faith by other ways, the atheistic
may not seem in the direction of
But as there are "nine and sîxty
ways of constructing tribal lays, and every
single one of them is right," even if not
the way of our tribe, so there are twelve
JI
gates into the New Jerusalem, every single
one of which is the right gate even if it
or . . my
CËtholic friends
- ay-é,' my at eiS riends""âls'o, you of the
spiritual pu se - some fine mormng after
these fleshly garments of ours have been cast
into graves, may we not aIl meel face to
face in the New J erusalem, coming toward
one another each through his own gate?
Even here and now, do we not come at
times into the Roly City, as it were, through
our opposite gates, meeting one another
spiritually face to face and greeting one
another spiritually heart to heart?
7
Whether or not atheism may be one of
the gates into the New Jerusalem, l think
that in my case it was at least a vestibule
l'rom paganism to religion. l should think
so ëvenlT l were sure of its having been
atheism. But looking backward, l doubt if
lever was an atheist. l think that the God
l denied was only my own distorted appre­
hension of a theological fetish. l doubt, too,
if l ever really rejected the idea of spiritual
life. What l revolted against was a pagan
hell with !ts cruel devils keeping the sul­
phurous fire ablaze, and a pagan heaven
with useless angels "loafing about a throne."
Revolting as my reasonless faith was, l
found the process of evicting it long and
}lainful. In time, however, this old faith died
within me, and l came l'ully into the stage
of irrational negation which l have
described as atheistic. Eventually, that
period, too, passed away. Materialistic ex­
planations of a Godless universe ceased to
satisfy me. The evolution of conscious life
and moral ideals l'rom unconscious matter
and unmoral motion became as absurd
to my perceptions as that the stream can rise
above its source. It seemed to me more
rational to guess that the human brain, as
l.t developed physically, acquired capacity
for receiving and individualizing moral im­
pulses, than to guess that it generated them.
Ancestor worship impressed me as less
likely to have produced God than to be
a groping in the dark for God by beings
intuitively conscious of His presence. The
principle of averages which enables us,
for instance, to know the result of an elec­
tion where millions of votes are cast, upon
receiving a few bunches of scattered returns,
suggested to my mind systems of law back
of the physical. And in those laws l caught
glimpses of beneficent purpose. As my
apprehension of human brotherhood de­
veloped under the influence of Henry
George's "Progress and Poverty," my per­
ceptions of spiritual Fatherhood clarified. l
realized that human suffering, which l had
once attributed to an angry deity and later
to insentient fate, is traceable to human in­
difference to beneficent natural laws.
So l wandered out of my atheism, if
atheism it was, into what l shall presume
to characterize as a rational spiritualism
- not the spiritism of the mediums, but
a philosophy of spiritual life.
Your sense of the incongruous might be
quickened if I, al'ter characterizing this phi­
losophy as rational, were to identify it with
the name of Emanuel Swedenborg, and his
teachings, or "doctrines."
8
9
N ow doctrines with reference to truth may
be likened to streets with reference to a city.
They are the paths by means of which
we get about. Sorne streets are too narrow,
sorne are too broad, sorne are only alleys,
and blind alleys at that; so it is with doc­
trines. But streets we must have if we have
cities, and doctrines if we would explore
truth. And what l offer you in the way of
doctrine is only a map - my map - which
you can accept or reject as you please. As
long as we accept and make our maps of
doctrines honestly, and alter them when we
find them wrong, we have no reason to
think contemptuously of doctrines merely
because they are doctrines, particularly if
they form a reasonable philosophy whose
elements harmonize and dovetail, somewhat
as the streets of a well-planned city
harmonize and unify the whole area.
A friend, whose sense of the rational l
held in high esteem, assured me that Swe­
denborg's philosophy was reasonable. Yet
my early experiences with Swedenborg's
theology did not impress me with his ra­
tionality. If you dip into sorne of his books,
you may fare no better at first than l did.
Their stilted Latin-English; their ecclesiasti­
cal phrasing; the wooden pictures of angels
always facing the Lord, whom they cou]dn't
see except as a sun in the heavens; the
ro
hard, geometrical arrangement of spiritual
ohenomena as Swedenborg seemed to me to
see them - such things as these made his
books uninterestingly fantastic. But as l
began to appreciate his meanings, somewhat
l imagine as one gradually appreciates the
strange idioms of a new language, his des­
criptions which had seemed fantastic and
dull revealed to me a phenomenon of in­
dividual and social life animate with ra­
tional purpose and replete with human
interest. Translate Swedenborg out of the
lifeless atÎcl colorless Latin-English in which
his writings are officially printed, into the
living speech that phrases modern modes of
thought, and he is not fantastic, not mysti­
cal, not irrational.
This is not my view alone, nor the view
::llone of Swedenbor 's church followers.
ames reeman Clarke said:" Emanuel
wëaen org was e organ of a new
spiritual philosophy, the power
fs -lÎardly but which seems
likely to leaven all religious thought and
change all arbitrary theolo ies into a r ­
"P,.
tional spiritualism." Edward Everett Hale

wrote: "Swedenborgianism has done e
J'
::;
liberating work of the last century ... The
wave Swedenborg started lasts to this day.
The statements of his religious works have
revolutionized theology." I"Râlph Waldo
r r
Emerso--r:)concluded that "The most remark­
able step in the religious history of recent
ages is that made by the genius of
Swedenborg ... These truths passing out of
his system into general circulation are now
met with every day, qualifying the views
and creeds of all churches and of men of
no church."
Three things about Swedenborg's philoso­
.phy are singularly impressive. The first is
the obvious truth of its details. The second
is its completeness and its homogeneity. And
the third is the universal adaptability of
its principles. Like leaf to tree, or body to
P1ind. or mind to spirit is any part of this
philosophy to any relatea part. With it,
as with physical nature, everything fits
true. If Swedenborg recorded mere dreams
and hallucinations, then he dreamed a philo­
sophy of miraculous consistency. If he re­
corded no dreams nor hallucinations, but
thought out his philosophy - which he might
possihlv have donp-. for his was one of
the greatest minds of his day, and he was
one of the most renowned scientists of
Europe- if he thought out this philosophy,
and then as a tour de force turned it
into allegory, he produced an allegory of
marvelous art, one so perfect in its analo­
gies, yet so true to human life that Pil­
grim's Progress is by comparison without
form and void. Yet Swedenborg, unless he
did one or the other of these two things,
must have seen and heard what he said he
saw and heard. On the spiritual planes
of existence, where all is to us ideal and
abstract, he MUST have seen individual
and social life in the concrete.
It makes little difference to me, whether

Swedenborg saw these spiritual phenomena
concretely or not. Of thé authenticity of his
message to mankind, his philosophy sim­
ply as philosophy, is its own sufficient
voucher. For example, in his concept of
God as both "esse" and "existere," the
"being" and "becoming" theories of the old
philosophies are vitalized with rational
spiritual life. By the same concept the truths
of idealism are harmonize01ï1one rand
system ith ail that is true in materialism.
S;ëdenborg's "esse" as infinite an ete
nally unchanging essence, and as
its infinite and eternally changing expres­
sion, constitute the dominant principle of
pnenomena on every plane-physical, men­
tal, moral, spiritual. It is God Himself.
Swedenborg's God is a triune God, but
the Trinity of Swedenborg is not the medie­
val riddle of three individuals who are yet
but one individual. Swedenborg's Trinity

in its ideal expression is a universal prin­
12
13
i
ciple - the principle of the unity of purpose,
cause and e((ect; or, what is essentially
the same thing, of substance, (orm, and use
or power- for in its final expression, the
power anything has is in the ullimate USê
it performs. WiThout this Trinity ln unity
Goa could not be God. nor could anv man
be a man. Even a chair could not be a
chair; for is not a chair necessarily sub­
stance, form and utility-wood, shape, and
seating capacity - and are not these things
three distinct elements of one object? On
their highest plane, these three unified ele­
ments appear to Swedenborg's vision as
Father, Son, and Roly Spirit - three in
One and One in three; God the Father as
Infinite purpose or love, desiring creation;
God the Son as Infinite cause or wisdom,
conceiving creation; and Godtne Spirit as
infinite effect or use, which is creation.
Let us illustrate on a lower plane with
a man, a useful inventor - Edison for
example, as the inventor of electric light­
ing. We have in the first place Edison's
purpose, or love desiring to produce elec­
tric lighting; in the second place, his know­
ledge or wisdom conceiving a method of
electric lighting; and in the third place his
utilization of this knowledge or wisdom
for the satisfaction of his purpose or love
in producing electric lighting to serve man­
14
kind. Rere are three elements, aH of them
necessary. and necessary in unison as one.
Without this trinity in unity, Edison as
inventor of electric lighting not only could
not exist, but would be unthinkable.
And when we speak of God the Spirit
as infinite use or effect. which is creation.
we mean creation in the sense not merely
of original making but of ÇQntinuous
making. Very often the idea of a First
Causè seems to imply an original cause,
when its real meaning is a continuous cause.
To illustrate: we might speak of the move­
ment of a cannon ball and the movement of
a watch as caused by a force. But
the cannon ball's movement is caused by
an original, the movement of the watch
by a continuous force.
Constituting the one original and con­
tinuous impulse of all phenomena, the three
attributes of God - purpose or love, cause
or wisdom, and effect or use-are sym­
bolized materially by the heat, light, and
consequent vitality of the sun. The sun is
said to be in our solar system correspon­
dent to the tri une God in Ris universe. To
'ÛÎJ.derstand what is meant by correspondent,
sorne idea of the Swedenborgian doctrine
of correspondences is necessary.
Correspondence differs, let me explain,
15
from analogy. Analogues are only acci­
dentaI resemblances, having nu relation to
cause and effect; whereas Swedenborg's cor­
respondences are effects on one plane
of causes on another. The idea may be
crudely illustrated by one's image in a
mirror. This is not an analogue: its char­
acteristics are those of Swedenborgian
correspondences. A perfect example of
correspondence is facial expression: it is a
manifestation of the mental on the plane of
the physical. Another example is the heat
of the sun, which is the material appear­
ance of God's love, as its light is of His
wisdom. Upon coming to fuU spiritual con­
sciousness, we should feel according
to Swedenborg, the love principle as the
physical body feels heat, and see by wis­
dom as the physical eye sees light. In
like manner aU other realities of what
we now caU the ideal would be concretely
phenomenal.
Interpreting the Bible by this system of
correspondences, Swedenborg considers it
as embodying an inner sense which con­
stitutes the true biblical revelation. This
inner sense is not as in a cryptogram; it
is to the literary and the historical sense
as soul to body, or cause to effect. The
first chapter of Genesis thus becomes essen­
tiaUy the story of the birth (or the re­
r6
birth) of a human soul; the Israelitish
pilgrimage, of its struggles in that rebirth;
while the tragic drama of Palestine is a
representation of the progress of truth on
earth -- particularly THE truth of the Fa­
therhood of God and the brotherhood of
man: its birth in a lowly place, the vicious
persecution of it in its infancy, Hs confound­
ing of the learned in youth, its temporary
obscurity, its subsequent disturbance of
dominant or crystallized disorder, its cruci­
fixion, its resurrection, its triumph. And
isn't this process familiar, in the develop­
ment not alone of individual character but
also of human society-what Swedenborg
would caU the "greater man"? From Moses
to Lincoln every leader in the new crusade
has realized it. Have we not aU realized H?
Do we not aU realize, moreover, that truth
triumphant tends to crystallize in false
forms, to be in turn broken up and reform­
ed with repetitions essentiaUy of the same
drama successively on higher and higher
planes of appreciation and application?
According to Swedenborg's philosophy,
the different planes of divine expression are
insulated, the phenomena of each progres­
sing in continuous ~ ~ on their own
plane, and being held to it by the principle
of what Swedenborg caUs .. discrete degrees."
A crude illustration of discrete degrees would
17
be a stream of water in a pipe; while the
water can flow continuously within the pipe,
it cannot spread beyond its confines. This
principle of discrete degrees, one of the
great distinguishing doctrines of Swedenborg,
is no more than the perfection of analysis.
It simply recognizes and distinguishes es­
sential differences between things that are
homogeneous, but in different frames of
reference - or different "dimensions," if you
prefer the term.
A very important principle, therefore, is
that of discrete degreeS> one which is woe­
fully ignored -oy the present generation.
The universities ignore it when they treat
sociology as an inductive science merely, the
churches when they consider it ded.uctively
alone; Christian Scientists ignore it when
they obscure the difference between the spiri­
tual and the physical; materialists when they
are blind and deaf to the spiritual; Social­
ists ignore it when they obscure the differ­
ence between social solidarity and individual
autonomy; anarchists when they deny social
solidarity; your practical man ignores it
when he sneers at the ideal, your idealist
when he abjures the practical.
AlI differences of kind, from lowest to
highest, Sire within the s'''YE:.denborgian con­
cept of But life isâTV:Wed
by Swedenborg into four major
planes, each discreted from the others. These
arethe corporeal, the plane on which the
physical senses reign; the natural, the plane
of intellectual activity; the moral, the plane
of righteous or unrighteous conduct; and the
the plane of motive. To give
your fellow man a "fair deal," for example,
whatever the motive, even though it be only
to keep out of jail or to get into good
society, is moral; but it is not spiritual
unless inspired by motives of respect for
the rights of your fellows as equal to your
own.
Through the boundaries of discrete de­
grees nothing can pass in its üWn form.
IfS' form must alter to harmonize with
the nature of the plane into which it passes.
For illustration, love on the spiritual plane
becomes heat on the corporeal, and wis­
dom on the former is light on the latter.
Consequently the scientist, though he might
explore to infinity the continuous degrees
of the corporeal plane, can never pëlletrate
its insulation into the natural, the moral,
or the spiritual- at least, not as a scientist,
not by so-called scientific methods. On the
corporeal plane we live in a world of effects.
It depends not only for its original impulse,
but also for its continuance, upon other
worlds _. discreted worlds of ends and
18
19
causes. The latter can be studied from the
former only ideally, by philosophical as
distinguished from scientific method, and
through the medium of correspondences.
Classical analysis is not the open sesame;
anatomical psychology is vanity and vexa­
tion.
But do not imagine that Swedenborg's
philosophy is merely an intellectual system.
From center to periphery it is vibrant
with the doctrine of usefulness for its own
sake. This doctrine is simply a rational
interpretation of the Two Great Command­
ments -- love for God and love for the
neighbor. Man's love for the neighbor ex­
presses itself and finds satisfaction in use­
fulness to man; his love for God in use­
fulness to man under the inspiration of
his imperfect perceptions of the external
principles of absolute right. Conversely,
God's love finds expression and satisfaction
in usefulness to man, and in harmony also
with the eternal principles of absolute right.
Understood in that way, the idea of love
by God for man and by man for
God appealed to my awakening sense of
the spiritual. So l turned hopefully to
Swedenborg for more light. As l began
to delve into his philosophy, it responded
to my demand for the rational, for the
reasonable. Through it l came to appreciate
the dilemma of those to whom everything
is in flux, and also the dilemma of those
to whom everything is fixed. Eternally
changing phenomena came to seem to me
only natural expressions of eternally
unchanging principle. l beheld a universe
of matter and mind and morals and spirit
in constant flux phenomenaUy, yet in prin­
ciple the same yesterday, today and forever.
Ii is a universe, moreover. which is pervaded
and governed by an exquisite harmony of
the wisdom that is in infinite rationality
and the love that is infinite justice.
By Swedenborg's philosophy my later
religious views were molded. Though it
may not have restored religion to me nor
me to religion, l became conscious of sorne
of the signs of both. l feU once more that
l was a miserable sinner; although it was
when l wronged a brother or drifted away
from the principles of absolute right as l
perceived them, and never because l missed
a prayer meeting or amused myself on a
Sunday. Once more l tried to pray, but in
my work rather than on my knees. And
l feared -- for tfilS is a confession - that
l was still somewhat of a pharisee: l could
not wholly rid myself of the notion that it
was a deadly sin in others to disagree
21
20
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
~ ~ ~ m t ~ l Y in the eracticaDj.J!.ty of wl'lat 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
Swedenborg's
Theological Works:
Apocalypse Explained, 6 volumes.
Apocalypse Revealed, 2 volumes.
Arcana Coelestia, 12 volumes.
Conjugial Love
Divine Love and Wisdom
Divine Providence
Four Doctrines
Heaven and Hell
Miscelianeous Theological Works
Posthumous Theological Works, 2 volumes.
The Spiritual Life, The Word of God
True Christian Religion, 2 volumes
ÛTHER TITLES:
Gist of Swedenborg,
by Julian K. Smyth and William F. Wunsch
Introduction to Swedenborlt's ReliKious
Thought- by John Howard Spalding
My Religion- by Helen Keller
Swedenborg, Life and Teaching-
by George Trobridge
Free Catalogue will be sent upon request from:
Swedenborg Foundation, Inc.
139 East 23rd Street
New York, N. Y. 10010

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