Helen Keller, Emanuel Swedenborg and Universalism

From: Ed Babinski
To: judy
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2004 5:34 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Regarding your comments on Helen Keller

Hello Ed,

I was researching articles on the Internet regarding Christian Fundamentalism to help a friend who is conflicted. I spent 6 years in a Southern Baptist church before I left several years ago. You have a wonderful website and I thank you for all of the information you have compiled.

On Thursday, February 05, 2004 Judy E. wrote
Subject: Regarding your comments on Helen Keller

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg

Hello Ed,

I was researching articles on the Internet regarding Christian Fundamentalism to help a friend who is conflicted. I spent 6 years in a Southern Baptist church before I left several years ago. You have a wonderful website and I thank you for all of the information you have compiled.

You have an article on your website that mentioned that Helen Keller was a Humanist. Actually, she was a Swedenborgian. A Swedenborgian is a liberal Christian who believes that good people of all religions (yes, even non-Christians) go to Heaven. She was given a copy of Swedenborgʼs “Heaven and Hell” when she was 14 years old by the Swedish Ambassador to the United States. Miss Keller wrote a wonderful book, “Light in My Darkness” which chronicles her spiritual journey and it is a delight to read. Itʼs available from the Swedenborg Foundation (www.swedenborg.com)

Her book has helped me in my spiritual journey as well as the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg which I found nearly 11 years ago.

Thank you once again for your terrifically informative and helpful website. God Bless you and your family.

Sincerely,
Judy E.

If you wish to be eternally happy, know and believe you will live after death. Always remember this, for it is the truth.
Emanuel Swedenborg Heavenly Secrets #8939 first published in 1749

Ed: Thanks for the comps! Cudos to you and what you are doing as well!

You have an article on your website that mentioned that Helen Keller was a Humanist. Actually, she was a Swedenborgian. A Swedenborgian is a liberal Christian who believes that good people of all religions (yes, even non-Christians) go to Heaven. She was given a copy of Swedenborgʼs “Heaven and Hell” when she was 14 years old by the Swedish Ambassador to the United States. Miss Keller wrote a wonderful book, “Light in My Darkness” which chronicles her spiritual journey and it is a delight to read. Itʼs available from the Swedenborg Foundation - http://www.swedenborg.com

Helen Keller and Mark Twain

Source

Ed: Thanks so much for that information. I had read she was a Swedenborgian somewhere else, not to long ago, and have updated that portion of a manuscript I am currently working on. Didnʼt know it was the Swedish ambassador who turned her on to it though. Sadhu Sundar Singh was also a Swedenborgian. Sundarʼs testimony concerning his vision of Jesus and conversion to Protestantism was cited by evangelicals for quite a while, biographies of him being sold in evangelical bookstores even up till the 1970s. But it turns out that Sundar was a universalist and Swedenborg lover (as I pointed out in my article on Sadhu Sundar Singh at the internet infidels (the article is a portion of my online piece, “The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience”)

Amazing thing about Helen Keller, she was also a member of the first Humanist Society in America, along with Einstein. At that time the Humanist society was open to “paranormal phenomena.” Also, she spoke out in favor of communism! She was quite a freethinker, her own woman.

Her book has helped me in my spiritual journey as well as the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg which I found nearly 11 years ago.

Thank you once again for your terrifically informative and helpful website. God Bless you and your family.

Sincerely,
Judy E.

Ed: And my best to you and yours as well!

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan
Source

Helen Keller - Seven Years Old

Helen Keller - Seven Years Old
Source

From: “ed babinski”
To: Judy E.
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2004
Subject: Swedenborg and life on planets in our solar system

Swedish mystic and philosopher Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) went so far as to describe the inhabitants of some of the planets in our solar system, indicating their clothing as similar to European fashions!

From: “ed babinski”
To: Judy E.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: RE: Swedenborg and life on planets in our solar system

“Judy E.” writes:

Hi Ed,
Oh yes, there are a few things that I donʼt accept about Swedenborgʼs writings and Earths in the Universe is one of them. Iʼve read 22 volumes of his writings and I accept probably 95% of what he wrote. This is one thing that I cannot accept.

Ed: Thatʼs a healthy attitude to take. Too bad fundamentalist feel that they have to believe literally EVERYTHING in the Bible, and adopt all sorts of weird interpretations of science and history to attempt to justify their belief in EVERYTHING in the Bible. Makes you wonder what a “scientific Swedenborgian” might have come up with concerning human life on other planets in our solar system (probably would propose it was all taking place “under the surface” on each planet, “out of sight.”) More replies below.


Birth place of Helen Keller

Today, the City of Tuscumbia, Alabama proudly displays the name of Helen Keller on Law Insignia

Iʼm not a member of either one of the two Swedenborgian denominations. The original church known as Convention - is quite liberal and does not take everything that Swedenborg wrote as literal. Since Swedenborg was the first one to write that the Bible cannot be taken literally in many areas, thereʼs no way I could believe everything literally that Swedenborg wrote. He wrote this several years before the work of Jean Astruc appeared. Many Swedenborgians do not take Swedenborgʼs writings literally in every instance.

Swedenborg wrote that the various authors of the Bible wrote from the filter of their mind, so Godʼs message is hidden within the literal words and obscured by those writers. Thereʼs an inner meaning within the literal words - that reveals God to be Infinite Love and compassion to all.

Ed: Some early Church Fathers did the same thing.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

Universalists

(Those Who Believe That One Day Everyone May Be “Saved”)
Love is patient. it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… These three remain: faith, hope and love.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4,7,8,13 (NIV translation)


I am a universalist because I believe that God and time are the best teachers, and there is plenty of time in eternity for everyone to learn their lessons, including Ghengiz Khan, Adolf Hitler, and the makers of Jolt Cola (a cola with twice the sugar and caffeine).
- E.T.B.


Nowadays the “universalistic” Buddhists and “universalistic” Christians and “universalistic” Moslems feel closer to one another than they feel to the fundamentalists within their own religious traditions. And the fundamentalists of each tradition canʼt even get along with the other fundamentalists of that same tradition.
- Brother Steindal-Rast, “The Monk is a Radical,” The Laughing Man, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1981


The Church Fathers Testify To The Ultimate Triumph Of Jesus Christ

In a book bearing the same title as the subject heading above, Dr. Jack Jacobsen collected quotations from the Church Fathers, to demonstrate that not all Christians at all times agreed with the doctrine of “eternal damnation.”

The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1908) by Schaff-Herzog says in volume 12, on page 96, “In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked. Other theological schools are mentioned as founded by Universalists, but their actual doctrine on this subject is not known.”

Augustine (354-430 A.D.), one of the four great Latin Church Fathers (Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome and Gregory the Great), admitted: “There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments.”

Origen, a pupil and successor of Clement of Alexandria, lived from 185 to 254 A.D. He founded a school at Caesarea, and is considered by historians to be one of the great theologians and exegete of the Eastern Church. In his book, De Principiis, he wrote: “We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued…. for Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.” Howard F. Vos in his book Highlights of Church History states that Origen believed the souls of all that God created would some day return to rest in the bosom of the Father. Those who rejected the gospel now would go to hell to experience a purifying fire that would cleanse even the wicked; all would ultimately reach the state of bliss.

The great church historian Geisler writes: “The belief in the inalienable capability of improvement in all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment was so general, even in the West, and among the opponents of Origen, that it seems entirely independent of his system.” (Eccles. Hist., 1-212)

Gregory of Nyssa (332-398 A.D.), leading theologian of the Eastern Church, says in his Catechetical Orations: “Our Lord is the One who delivers man [all men], and who heals the inventor of evil himself.”

Neander says that Gregory of Nyssa taught that all punishments are means of purification, ordained by divine love to purge rational beings from moral evil, and to restore them back to that communion with God…. so that they may attain the same blessed fellowship with God Himself.

Eusebius of Caesarea lived from 265 to 340 A.D. He was the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and a friend of Constantine, great Emperor of Rome. His commentary of Psalm 2 says: “The Son ‘breaking in pieces’ His enemies is for the sake of remolding them, as a potter his own work; as Jeremiah 18;6 says: i.e., to restore them once again to their former state.”

Gregory of Nazianzeu lived from 330 to 390 A.D. He was the Bishop of Constantinople. In his Oracles 39:19 we read: “These, if they will, may go Christʼs way, but if not let them go their way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice.”

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397 A.D.), writes on Psalm 1: “Our Savior has appointed two kinds of resurrection in the Apocalypse. ‘Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection,’ for such come to grace without the judgment. As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved unto the second resurrection, these shall be disciplined until their appointed times, between the first and the second resurrection.”

Jerome, who revised the old Latin Translations and translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, lived from 340 to 420 A.D. In his comments on Zephaniah 3:8-10 he says: “The nations are gathered to the Judgment, that on them may be poured out an the wrath of the fury of the Lord, and this in pity and with a design to heal. in order that every one may return to the confession of the Lord, that in Jesusʼ Name every knee may bow, and every tongue may confess that He is Lord. All Godʼs enemies shall perish, not that they cease to exist, but cease to be enemies.”

The collection of the previous testimonies are only a representative portion of the great leaders of the Church in the first four hundred years. A well known German theologian named Ethelbert Stauffer writes in his book, New Testament Theology, these words in his chapter entitled “Universal Homecoming”: “The primitive church never gave up the hope that in His will to save, the All-Merciful and All-Powerful God would overcome even the final ‘no’ of the self-sufficient world.” Again, he says, “Paul is quite confident that there will be possibilities of salvation for men after death. It is possible…. that even in the world to come, hope for the future will not cease.” And he concludes: “In I Corinthians 15:24, 26, Paul speaks of destruction of hostile demonic powers, which by their fall disturbed the original course of universal history. But after this great clearance, all other creatures find their way back to themselves and to their Creator in their subjection to the Son, who finally subjects Himself to the Father ‘that God may be all in all.’”

The Reformer Martin Luther had hope for all. In his letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg in 1522, Luther wrote: “God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future.” Bengelʼs book, Gnomon, quotes Lutherʼs exposition of Hosea as accepting the idea that Christ appeared to souls of some who in the time of Noah had been unbelieving, that they might recognize that their sins were forgiven through His sacrifice.

Let us then take seriously the testimony of our Ancient Fathers, beginning with the Apostle Paul. He and those who followed after desired to deliver to us today that faith and truth which was given them by God Himself. As one pastor remarked recently concerning the subject of God bringing all back to Himself, “We are beginning to see what the Apostle Paul saw in 1st Corinthians 15:22 and following,” “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”


A Revelation Recorded By “Julian Of Norwich” (A 13th Century Christian Mystic)

Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed to know, answered with this assurance: “Sin is befitting, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day, and when that deed shall be done and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ, and shall be until it has been done. — This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast, only known to himself, and by this deed he shall make all things well; for just as the Holy Trinity made all things from nothing, so the Holy Trinity shall make all well that is not well.

And I wondered greatly at this revelation, and considered our faith, wondering as follows: our faith is grounded in Godʼs word, and it is part of our faith that we should believe that Godʼs word will be kept in all things; and one point of our faith is that many shall be damned, — And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time. And I received no other answer in showing from our Lord God but this: “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things and I shall make all things well.” - Julian of Norwich [Both quotations are from the so-called “Long Text,” and they occur in Julianʼs account of her 13th revelation. The first quotation is from Chapter 27 of the Long Text, and the second is from Chapter 32. The modern English is from Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love (Short Text and Long Text), trans. Elizabeth Spearing (Penguin, 1998). The first quotation is from page 79, and the second quotation is from pages 85-86. The original Middle English versions of these passages can be found in A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, Part Two, ed. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978). That edition is the one usually cited in scholarly works on Julian. The first quotation is from page 405, and the~second is from pages 423-26.]

C. S. Lewis, the beloved 20th-century Christian author, cited the words that Julian reportedly heard Jesus says, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” in his novel about heaven and hell, The Great Divorce.
- E.T.B.


Excerpt From “I Believe” By George Macdonald (C. S. Lewisʼ “Spiritual Mentor”)

I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing. [I believe] such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren, rush inside the center of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn. I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children.
- George MacDonald (19th-century universalist Christian), excerpts from “I Believe,” Unspoken Sermons


The Unselfishness Of God And How I Discovered It

[Hannah Whitall Smithʼs book, The Christianʼs Secret of a Happy Life, has sold millions. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association even handed out copies at one of their crusades. But how many evangelicals have ever read about Smithʼs beliefs regarding the salvation of all mankind? When evangelical publishers recently reprinted another of her books, The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It, they deliberately left out three whole chapters that featured universalistic passages, like the one below. — E.T.B.]

I began to feel that the salvation in which I had been rejoicing was, after all a very limited and a very selfish salvation, and, as such, unworthy of the Creator who had declared so emphatically that His “tender mercies are over all His works,” and above all unworthy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world for the sole and single purpose of saving the world. I could not believe that His life and death for us could be meant to fall so far short of remedying the evil that He came on purpose to remedy, and I felt that it must be impossible that there could be any short-coming in the salvation He had provided. The Bible says, “As in Adam all die — even so in Christ should all be made alive.” As was the first, even so was the second. The “all” in one case could not in fairness mean less than the “all” in the other. I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall. God is the Creator of every human being, therefore He is the Father of each one, and they are all His children; and Christ died for every one, and is declared to be “the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). However great the ignorance therefore, or however grievous the sin, the promise of salvation is positive and without limitations. If it is true that “by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” it is equally true that “by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” To limit the last “all men” is also to limit the first. The salvation is absolutely equal to the fall. There is to be a final “restitution of all things,” when “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee, every tongue-words could not be more embracing. The how and the when I could not see; but the one essential fact was all I needed — somewhere and somehow God was going to make every thing right for all the creatures He had created. I began at last to understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he said that he had been made the minister of the New Testament, not of the letter but of the spirit, for “the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.” Things I had read in the letter, and had shuddered at, now, read in the spirit, filled me with joy.
- Hannah Whitall Smith, “The Third Epoch In My Religious Life,” Chapter XXII, The Unselfishness Of God And How I Discovered It


Forgotten Universalist Evangelical Christians

20th-century evangelical Christian, Tom Talbott had his manuscript, The Inescapable Love of God, rejected by evangelical publishers, who admitted it was well written and raised good questions, but who concluded that it was “politically beyond the bounds” for their press to “publish an explicit defense of universalism.” Talbott agrees that publishers are under no obligation to publish anyoneʼs work, but even the editor of a newsletter that features reviews of unpublished manuscripts, refused to write even a brief review of Tomʼs, because the newsletterʼs subscribers (mainly Christian publishers) might be displeased and drop their subscriptions.

Talbott is also dismayed that the greatest works by evangelical Christian Universalists of the 18th and 19th centuries are no longer being republished, so they remain outside the collective memory of todayʼs evangelicals who seem to have grown more damnation-cocksure and less willing to buck conservative religious politics or the evangelical book market. Some of Tomʼs favorite Christian works from those centuries include Elhanan Winchesterʼs The Universal Restoration (1787) and his profoundly moving sermon, “The Outcasts Comforted” (1782), Andrew Jukesʼ Restitution of all Things (1867), Thomas B. Thayerʼs Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment (1855), J. W. Hansonʼs Universalism the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years (1899), and George MacDonaldʼs Unspoken Sermons. With the exception of MacDonaldʼs sermons, much of this material has slipped into near oblivion. Luckily, some of the older titles are currently being revived on the internet, and you can download several of them from Gary Amiraultʼs “Tentmaker” web site

Tom Talbottʼs website

George MacDonaldʼs Unspoken Sermons and other works are available online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
- E.T.B.


A Christian Convert From The Early 20th Century Whose Testimony Was Often Cited, But Whose Universalism Was Covered Up

Sundar Singh was lauded by 20th century evangelical Christians for converting to Christianity in the early 1920s. Even in the 1970s Sundar was highly thought of by evangelical Christians. At that time I heard a Christian radio dramatization of the story of Sundarʼs miraculous conversion and his dangerous preaching journeys to India and Tibet, and I bought two books that told his story at evangelical Christian bookstores. The evangelical Christian apologist, Josh McDowell of Josh McDowell ministries, cited Sundarʼs conversion in the first and second editions of McDowellʼs book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. While reading the evangelical versions of Sundarʼs life and teachings, I never once ran across Sundarʼs universalistic statements, not until I read Sundarʼs own works, along with some of the in-depth biographies that had been written about him nearer his own day.

Sundar was raised a member of the Sikh religion. (Sikhism is a sect within Hinduism that was founded about 1500 A.D. that teaches belief in one God and rejects the caste system and idolatry.) Prior to his conversion to evangelical Christianity Sundar attended a primary school run by the American Presbyterian Mission where the New Testament was read daily as a “textbook.” Sundar “refused to read the Bible at the daily lessons…To some extent the teaching of the Gospel on the love of God attracted me, but I still thought it was false.” Though according to another testimony, Sundar confessed, “Even then, I felt the Divine attractiveness and wonderful power of the Bible.”

The New Testament was a foreign holy book teaching a religion that was similar to, yet different from, his own. This confused his young mind and heart. Sundar even burned a copy of one of the Gospels in public. In the midst of such confusion and while only fourteen years old, his mother died, and Sundar underwent a crisis of faith. His mother was a loving saintly woman and they were very close. He wanted to assuage his fears about God and the afterlife so badly that he woke one night at 3 A.M. took a bath and prayed “expecting” to receive a visionary answer; he swore he would kill himself that morning if he did not receive one. That morning Sundar says he “met Jesus” who spoke the same words that were spoken to Paul on the Road to Damascus, “Why do you persecute me?” Friedrich Heiler, in his sympathetic biography, The Gospel of Sadhu Sundar Singh (Oxford University Press, 1927), did not dispute Sundarʼs recollections, nor the sincerity of his faith, but cautiously added some “Critical Considerations”: “In contradistinction to the… religious explanation of the miracle of Sundarʼs conversion, modern religious science suggests one that is natural and psychological. The psychological process which those who have studied conversion experiences have discovered is easily discernable in the Sadhuʼs experience: the utmost tension of effort, followed by a state of despair and complete cessation from struggle, culminating in a sudden inflow of assurance. The ‘local color’ on the fantasy side of the experience is easily explained by the influence of the story of Paulʼs conversion, which is obviously very similar. Although the Sadhu does not remember having heard of Paulʼs vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, this still seems probable, as the New Testament was read daily in the mission school. It seems quite likely that Sundar Singhʼs inward struggles and their solution were inevitably colored by the Pauline experience. Finally, we have to remember that such experiences of conversion are not all that rare in India. A leading figure in the Indian Methodist Church, Theophilus Subrahmanyam, was also led to Christ, and to work for Him among the outcasts, by a wonderful vision. The famous Mahratta evangelist and poet, Narayan Vaman Tilak, had a vision of Christ in August 1917, a few months before his death…The Indian mind is much more prone to visionary experience than the European… To point out that this conversion resembles the conversion of St. Paul, to say that the whole experience conforms to a certain type and that similar experiences often occur among Indian Christians, does not offer any clear and complete explanation; it only makes it somewhat easier to understand.”

Sundar also told many miraculous stories (besides his conversion account) which included Sundarʼs meeting with a “365-year-old Maharishi of Kailash,” Sundarʼs fasting for “forty days,” being thrown into and plucked out of a Tibetan well, and stories of miraculous rescues and martyrdoms of others. Even his sympathetic biographer, Heiler, pointed out that “The critical historian… draws special attention to the curious sameness of the miracle motif [in Sundarʼs stories]. There are really only two types of miracles that appear in slightly varied form again and again in his stories. In the larger number of incidents supernatural figures appear and disappear with startling suddenness. The martyr-stories too, which the Sadhu tells, are almost all of the same type; in the midst of terrible suffering the martyrs are filled with supernatural joy which convinces the spectators of the truth of their Faith…We cannot, however, help noticing one curious fact: the converts and martyrs of whom Sundar Singh speaks reveal exactly the same kind of experience as the Sadhu; they think, feel, and talk just as he does…Finally, various parallels from the New Testament, and from the legendary literature of Christianity and Buddhism, show that many of the leading ideas in the Sadhuʼs miracle-stories are in no way either new or original…In addition, in all these tales of the miraculous the whole mentality of the Indian and especially of the Indian ascetic, must be taken into account. One of the most able students of the history of Indian literature says decidedly: ‘Indians have never made any distinction between Saga, legend, and history.’ This applies particularly to ascetics, who for days at a time are quite alone among the magnificent mountains of the Himalayas, and who give themselves up exclusively to the contemplation of Nature, to inward concentration, and supernatural ecstasy [exactly as Sundar did, who spent much time traveling alone in his beloved Himalayas, and who admitted that he slipped into and out of “spiritual ecstasy” (or, as the Hindus call it, “samadhi;” or as we would call it today, “altered states of consciousness”) spontaneously and frequently, which included seeing visions and hearing voices — E.T.B.]. In their experience the inner vision becomes developed to such an extent that the usual difference between subjective and objective truth disappears entirely. [Even Sundarʼs supporters and personal friends admitted that he had difficulty at times in distinguishing between vision and empirical reality. See Andrewsʼ and Appasamyʼs books mentioned below. — E.T.B.] All this suggests that some of the Sadhuʼs stories of the miraculous need not be considered as historical facts, but as legends; doubtless they have some solid foundation, but, in the form in which they are told, they have been worked up by a creative miracle-fantasy. Even scholars who admit the possibility of the miraculous cannot refuse to consider such a suggestion…Those who are familiar with the problems of biblical and hagiographical miracle find, to their astonishment, in the anecdotes which the Sadhu tells over and over again, certain clear principles, which show how legends are formed: repetition of the same motif, doublets, and variants. It is a striking and significant fact that we can thus confirm these principles of the growth of legends in people belonging to our own day, for the Sadhuʼs stories deal exclusively with experiences of his own and of his contemporaries. So we see that legends do not necessarily arise after the death of a saint, and within the inner circle of his disciples, but during his own lifetime, and perhaps even in his own mind.”

Sundar Singh was quite independent of outward Church authority in all his religious life, thought, and work. He dropped out of a Christian seminary that he briefly attended. Neither did he attach much importance to public worship because in his experience the heart prays better in solitude than in a congregation. He was also highly displeased with what he found when he toured western nations that for centuries had the benefit of the Bible and whose central figure of worship was Jesus. Sundar proclaimed almost prophetic denunciations upon Western Christianity, and laughed at the way the West looked down upon religious men of the East as mere “pagans” and “heathens.” “People call us heathens,” he said in a conversation with the Archbishop of Upsala. “Just fancy! My mother a heathen! If she were alive now she would certainly be a Christian. But even while she followed her ancestral faith she was so religious that the term ‘heathen’ makes me smile. She prayed to God, she served God, she loved God, far more warmly and deeply than many Christians.” On another occasion, Sundar said, “I have seen many Christian women, but none of them came up to my mother.” And, conversing with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sundar said: “If I do not see my mother in heaven, I shall ask God to send me to hell so that I may be with her.” Sundar also made plain his view that, “There are many more people among us in India who lead a spiritual life than in the West, although they do not know or confess Christ. It is of course true that people who live in India worship idols; but here in England people worship themselves, and that is still worse. Idol-worshippers seek the truth, but people over here, so far as I can see, seek pleasure and comfort. The people of the West understand how to use electricity and how to fly in the air. The men of the East have sought the truth. Of the three Wise Men who went to Palestine to see Jesus not one was from the West.’”

Neither was Sundar afraid to raise his voice in favor of “universalism.” He could never deny to all non-Christians the possibility of entering heaven. In 1925 Sundar wrote, “If the Divine spark in the soul cannot be destroyed, then we need despair of no sinner… Since God created men to have fellowship with Himself, they cannot for ever be separated from Him… After long wandering, and by devious paths, sinful man will at last return to Him in whose Image he was created; for this is his final destiny.”

In February, 1929, the year Sundar disappeared on his final missionary trip to Tibet, he was interviewed by several theology students in Calcutta, India, where he answered their questions: “(Question #1) What did the Sadhu think should be our attitude towards non-Christian religions? — The old habit of calling them ‘heathen’ should go. The worst ‘heathen’ were among us [Christians]… (Question #2) Who were right, Christian Fundamentalists or Christian Liberals? — Both were wrong. The Fundamentalists were uncharitable to those who differed from them. That is, they were unchristian. The Liberals sometimes went to the extent of denying the divinity of Christ, which they had no business to do. [Belief in the “divinity of Christ” came relatively easy to Sundar because he was raised to believe spiritual teachers (“gurus”) were “divine.” In fact in India today, there are thousands who believe Sai Baba is “God.” — E.T.B.] If they can believe that, then maybe it helps explain how such a belief arose concerning Jesus. — E.T.B.]… (Question #3) Did the Sadhu think there was eternal punishment? — There was punishment, but it was not eternal…Everyone after this life would be given a fair chance of making good, and attaining to the measure of fullness the soul was capable of. This might sometimes take ages.” Hidden from the eyes of the Christian world at large, and McDowellʼs eyes in particular, is the fact that Sundar considered himself to be a disciple of the Swedish theologian, scientist and mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), whose visions of the afterlife as told in Heaven and Hell (1758), resembled Sundarʼs in Visions of the Spiritual World (1926), and who both shared a universalistic spiritual viewpoint. Sundar may have read his first book by Swedenborg during his brief stay at seminary, and certainly had been reading him regularly since his 1922 visit to Sweden, where Sundar visited Swedenborgʼs tomb. Evangelical Christians regard Swedenborg at best as an “unorthodox Christian” with unsound views, and at worst as a demon-inspired false prophet. For instance, Swedenborg wrote about “seeing” the Fathers of Protestantism like Luther and Calvin (and Calvinʼs friend, Melanchthon) residing in lower, darker levels of the spiritual realm. Melanchthon had even degenerated so far as to have become “a kind of servant of demons.” As Swedenborg saw things, the pride those men took in judging others and their approval of torture and killing in the name of Christ, had inadequately prepared them spiritually. So, they had many difficult lessons left to learn. A few months before Sundar vanished on his last trip to Tibet he spoke with warmth of Swedenborg: “Having read his books and having come in close personal contact with him in the spirit world, I can thoroughly recommend him as a great seer.”
- E.T.B.

[SOURCES: C. F. Andrews, Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Personal Memoir (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1934), p. 121, 152ff, 226; A. J. Appasamy, Sundar Singh: A Biography (London: Lutterworth, 1958) (also Madras: CLS, 1966) p. 224f, 238; Friedrich Heiler, The Gospel of Sadhu Sundar Singh, abridged trans. by Olive Wyon (New York : Oxford University Press, American Branch, 1927), p. 38, 39, 40, 45, 46, 171, 175, 177, 178, 179, 217; Eric J. Sharpe, “The Legacy of Sadhu Sundar Singh,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, October, 1990; Sundar Singh, Meditations on Various Aspects of the Spiritual Life (London, Macmillan, 1925); Emmanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia (1794), “A Theologian in Death” (a vision of Melanchthon in the afterlife)]


A Word To The Elect

(Excerpt From A Little Known Universalist Poem By Anne Bronte)
And oh! there lives within my heart
A hope, long nursed by me;
(And should its cheering ray depart,
How dark my soul would be!)
That as in Adam all have died,
In Christ shall all men live;
And ever round His throne abide,
Eternal praise to give.
That even the wicked shall at last
Be fitted for the skies;
And when their dreadful doom is past,
To life and light arise.
I ask not how remote the day,
Nor what the sinnersʼ woe,
Before their dross is purged away;
Enough for me, to know
That when the cup of wrath is drained,
The metal purified,
Theyʼll cling to what they once disdained,
And live by Him that died.
- Anne Bronte (1843)

Hellʼs Final Enigma

Christianity Today Cracks “Hellʼs Final Enigma?”
I read in Christianity Today (“Hellʼs Final Enigma,” April 22, 2002) that the Reverend J. I. Packer (professor of theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Christian author, and executive director of the aforementioned magazine) was asked, “How might those in heaven feel about those in hell?” To put it another way, how might Christians feel when they are in heaven, knowing that multitudes of people they once loved (fellow human beings with similar feelings, joys and fears, and whom they were taught they ought to love with an “unconditional love” and “forgive seventy-times-seven times”), would be suffering eternally?

Reverend Packer replied (if I may paraphrase) that heavenʼs occupants would be busy loving each other and praising God. (I wondered if he meant that in the same sense as “winning teammates patting each other on the back for eternity?”) So their attention would be focused on heavenly glories. (I wondered if he meant that in the same sense as children so immersed in playing a video game that they cannot be distracted by anything outside of the game?) Then, only after describing how heavenʼs occupants would feel about God, heaven, and each other, Reverend Packer replied to the original question of “How might heavenʼs occupants feel about those in hell?” The Reverendʼs reply consisted of ten words: “Love and pity for hellʼs occupants will not enter our hearts.”

But doesnʼt such a reply beg the question: “What kind of ‘heart’ could find neither ‘love nor pity’ entering it, knowing that the greater portion of mankind, including former wives, children, and friends, were all suffering in hell?”

Perhaps Rev. Packerʼs next column should be about how to reconcile the following two statements, the first one being his own:

“Love and pity for hellʼs occupants will not enter our hearts”

“Love is patient. it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… These three remain: faith, hope and love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4,7,8,13 — NIV translation)
- E.T.B.


Hellʼs Final Enigma. A Second Opinion

A Christian brother told me that when we are in heaven we will have no concern for those who will be burning in what he believed to be eternal hell. But if we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” how can this be true? God has said that He will have “all” come to Him. Is any heart so dark (and without the slightest flaw or crack) such that the light of Christ could never penetrate it? Does not emptiness abhor a vacuum, and what could be more vacuous than a heart trying to keep itself pumped up with lies and deceit which have no substance of and by themselves. Surely such vacuous hearts cannot avoid being eventually filled with the only solid and substantial Truth that is, was or ever will be?

Something written by the 19th-century Universalist Christian, George MacDonald, recently encouraged my own heart. Jesus said for us to love even our enemies. We were His enemies at one time and He came down into our hell.

“And what shall we say of the man Christ Jesus? Who, that loves his brother, would not, upheld by the love of Christ, and with a dim hope that in the far-off time there might be some help for him, arise from the company of the blessed, and walk down into the dismal regions of despair, to sit with the last, the only unredeemed, the Judas of his race, and be himself more blessed in the pains of hell, than in the glories of heaven? Who, in the midst of the golden harps and the white wings, knowing that one of his kind, one miserable brother in the old-world-time when men were taught to love their neighbor as themselves, was howling unheeded far below in the vaults of the creation, who, I say, would not feel that he must arise, that he had no choice, that, awful as it was, he must gird his loins, and go down into the smoke and the darkness and the fire, traveling the weary and fearful road into the far country to find his brother? — who, I mean, that had the mind of Christ, that had the love of the Father?”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Will He not continue to seek out and save all of the lost? Will we have the love of Christ in heaven? MacDonaldʼs words were a blessing for me to read. - Shana (First-Grade Teacher, Therapist for Autistic Children, and creator of a universalist Christian website) [Three sentences were edited by E.T.B.]

Itʼs just that eons ago people would have rather believed in Godʼs supposed anger. God has never been angry; people are angry and itʼs their own anger that they reflect back onto God.

And you can readily see how the filter of Swedenborgʼs mind prompted him to write that the departed spirits (because he never actually said that he met living people) of the planets in our solar system were dressed in European fashion. It was very advanced in his day to proclaim that there was life on other planets; many of his fellow scientists were also proclaiming the same thing. It just didnʼt stand up in the light of our science.

In the things that do matter - that God Is Love, that God is One and that all people who live by the Golden Rule (to love others as ourselves) - no matter what religion - will find themselves in Heaven (Luke 10:25-28).
Yes, in those instances, Swedenborg is taken literally.

Rev. Lee Woofenden has a wonderful website if you are so interested:
You wonʼt find any doom or gloom articles there - nothing but uplifting and wonderful articles.

Ed: Actually doom and gloom seems to be on the horizon as oil supplies dwindle at the end of this century.


And I have a website also - a grief/bereavement site.

Thanks again for your wonderful website for helping lead others out of the darkness of depression and bondage from the distorted teachings of the churches.

God Bless you!

Sincerely,
Judy

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