Year of Regeneration 2022–2023
Adapted from Theology for Theo-Therapy: A Swedenborgian Perspective
By Calvin Turley, Edited By Jim Lawrence
Our regeneration is the Omega Point of creation. The goal toward which all creation moves is us. That’s a big statement, but Swedenborg famously claimed, “The Lord’s divine providence has as its end a heaven from the human race” (Divine Providence, §27–45). That we might find joy, meaning, purpose, and usefulness in our life with others is the very reason anything (and everything) exists.
Regeneration is not a smooth and straightforward process, however, due the critically necessary creation feature called free will. Without free will, love is a meaningless word. Free will means that all kinds of destinations might be outcomes due to choices we make. Some systematic choices lead to destinations quite far off the mark from the goal of creation. This drama of the wide range of what we can become should be a cause for hope rather than anxiety because the enchanting key of free will unlocks the true grandeur of creation. The possibilities for becoming are infinite.
When Swedenborg was still working as a philosopher of nature and science and long before his first spiritual theological work, he marveled at the design of creation. He saw evolution as the form of all becoming with successions in series and degrees opening up new spaces and capacities for further becoming. Other than God, everything else becomes over time and over a long process. In his science philosophy tour de force First Principles of Natural Things (1733) that gained him wide recognition in Europe, Swedenborg remarks that nothing becomes immediately and all at once what it can become, except the Infinite itself” (First Principles, v. 5, 1). Making regenerated human beings through the free will process requires some long and hard doing. Gradual processes provide the way for spiritual development and actualization.
This process of becoming is not simple at all, but rather must occur on a great many levels and is a successively progressive becoming because the job is so big. The Swedenborgian “three Rs”—repentance, reformation, and regeneration—emerged in Swedenborg’s later spiritual writings as the spiritual transformation process that must be repeated again and again in our daily living. Swedenborg began his long succession of spiritual books with this big picture of a long unfolding when he began with Genesis 1 and revealed the inner sense meaning of the six days of creation. The journey through the six days of regeneration involves “regenerating” many dimensions of our inner and outer selves (see Arcana Coelestia, §7–66). Each “day” is a stage of spiritual development: the process of becoming a regenerated being involves getting our loves right, our speech right, and our actions right.
The creation process is all about a skillful and creative community of love called heaven. The greater our sense of belonging to the heavenly community, the greater becomes our awareness of our personal distinctiveness. We are each one of a kind. Our “becomingness” creates new life because we add functional value to the family of God.
Read the full issue of the March 2023 Messenger
Meet Rev. Dr. Calvin Turley
Rev. Dr. Cal Turley (1919–1984) pastored Swedenborgian churches in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington before completing a doctorate at Claremont School of Theology, after which he became professor of pastoral care and counseling at the Swedenborg School of Religion in Newton, Massachusetts. He also maintained a psychotherapy practice and served as President of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. This article has been adapted by Jim Lawrence from language and ideas contained in Prof. Turley’s doctoral dissertation, “Theology for Theo-Therapy: A Swedenborgian Perspective.”