DISCRETE DEGREES:

A TOP-DOWN PRESENTATION

Ian J. Thompson,

University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH, U.K.

I.Thompson@surrey.ac.uk

Version 6.3, 10th April 2000.

http://www.newtheism.com/papers/I.Thompson/degrees6.html

Table of Contents: 

1. DIVINE STRUCTURE

2. THREE-FOLD STRUCTURES IN THE CREATED UNIVERSE

3. RECURSIVE STRUCTURE

4. COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE STAGES

5. DYNAMICS OF CORRESPONDENCES AND INFLUX

6. NATURE AND MIND

7. PARAPSYCHOLOGY AND MIRACLES

8. STAGES OF LIFE

9. DISCUSSION

 

 

 

 

1. DIVINE STRUCTURE

In the beginning there was God:

GOD

Figure 1

God is Life Itself, and this life consists of (1) Love, (2) Wisdom, and (3) Use. All these are within God, and constituent a living being, so God is a person, whom we call the Lord God.

We can outline how the trinity of Love, Wisdom and Use within God is arranged:

The Lord God

Love

1

Wisdom

2

Use

3

Figure 2

As well as seeing this structure, we should understand the dynamics of how this trinity operates:

  1. Love, anticipating delights of Use, entertains purposes of producing these Uses. Love, having adopted a specific purpose, takes the form of Wisdom.
  2. Wisdom, being Love with a particular purpose, entertains the means for achieving those ends. Love and Wisdom together decide on a course of action.
  3. Use, being produced by Love acting by means of Wisdom, is the ultimate effect. In this action, Love finds its satisfaction and delight with the results.
  4. This delight returns to Love, and further manifestations of Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved.

The cyclic trinitarian pattern (1à 3) with return (4) will appear in many other contexts below. (Usually, however, I will show structure which will only require degrees 1, 2 and 3; the return 4 only becomes relevant when we consider the dynamical operations of the structures.)

These three components are called discrete degrees. Swedenborg goes to great lengths to get us to distinguish such qualitatively distinct degrees from the continuous degrees that we see around ourselves in nature as one thing grades into another continuously.

A person has a life which is constituted by the operation of will and understanding in producing actions. The state of the will is the love, the state of the understanding is the wisdom, and the action is the use of the will and the understanding.

Humans on earth are not themselves Life Itself, but are created in the likeness and image of God, who has the structure of Life shown above. That is, we have been created from God, but are now separate from him to the extent that we are not Life Itself, but are the recipients of life from God. We have life, but received life is not divine, only a likeness of divine life. We have the above trinitarian structure as a consequence, and have that structure both as a whole personality, and all the sub-parts of our souls, minds and bodies. Thus, using the above structure, we can see how the structures of heaven, of minds and of nature are produced and animated by life from God.

 

2. THREE-FOLD STRUCTURES IN THE CREATED UNIVERSE

The created universe contains the likeness and images of Love and Wisdom, and receives Love and Wisdom to the extent that the created thing has the same functional form (use) as that of the source. Everything that exists does so because and only because it has some use. The dependence of reception on functional use is the Law of Correspondence, and derives from the Divine characteristic that "Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved", and will be explained in much more detail below (see also Thompson[1993]).

God:

Divine Love

1

Divine Wisdom

2

Divine Use

3

correspondence:

Creation:

Likeness of Love

1

Image of Wisdom

2

Ultimate Effects

3

Figure 3: Three degrees, divine and natural in correspondence.

Let us now concentrate on the creation side of reality, and explore it in more detail. We use new names without capital letters to refer to the received life:

Creation:

love:

entertainment of purposes

1

wisdom:

entertainment of means

2

effects:

production of nature

3

Figure 4: Results in creation of correspondence with the divine.

Since created things have images of divine life by correspondence, we say that there is divine influx into those things. There is continual influx into all creation that is responsible not only for things coming to be, but also for their sustained existence from moment to moment (see Thompson[1991]).

We know this three-fold structure from Swedenborg by the other names of interior mind, exterior mind, and the natural world, or, most simply, soul, mind and body. The three stages can be also be viewed as 'ends', 'causes' and 'effects', or 'affections', 'thoughts' and 'actions' as more appropriate for minds, or some combination of these to claim a neutral language. We will see below the needs for these different sets of names.

Creation:

interior mind:

entertainment of ends,

affections in soul.

1

exterior mind:

entertainment of causes,

thoughts in mind.

2

natural world:

production of effects,

actions in body

3

Figure 5

 

 

3. RECURSIVE STRUCTURE

`Recursive' means that the same rules apply to the whole as to each sub part. This arises because God is equally present in all of us, and in each part of us. (Of course, the functional forms of the whole and the parts are very different, and hence by the Law of Correspondence the received lives will be very different.) This means in particular that the interior mind, the exterior mind and nature all have themselves a threefold substructure and subdynamics that arise because they are all created and sustained in the image of a trinitarian structure within God. My main purpose of this present paper is to elucidate this recursive trinitarian substructure in the external mind and in nature (Thompson[1988b]).

Let us therefore take the creation structure of the `units' in Fig. 5, and determine the substructural `thirds' that should be present:

interior mind:

1. ends

exterior mind:

2. thoughts

natural world:

3. effects

ends of ends: 1.1

(affections for ends)

thoughts of ends: 2.1

effects of ends: 3.1

ends of thoughts: 1.2

(affections for thoughts)

thoughts of thoughts: 2.2

effects of thoughts: 3.2

ends of effects: 1.3

(affections for effects)

thoughts of effects: 2.3

effects of effects: 3.3

Figure 8: The 9 created degrees with brief systematic names and systematic numbering.

 

Now we must think ourselves what each of these substructures means, using our own knowledges and experiences (and revelations where necessary) to identify all of the individual parts:

Using Swedenborg's terminology, we can redraw the above ennead as in Fig. 8: 

interior mind:

love

1.

exterior mind:

understanding

2.

natural world:

effects

3.

Celestial: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception ? : 3.1

Spiritual: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws: 3.2

Spiritual-Natural: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: 3.3

Figure 8: The 9 created degrees with Swedenborg's terminology for the first 2 columns.

Let us take this process even further. The human mind is obviously complicated, and we must determine what we can deduce about its structure, and see if we can relate our deductions about the exterior mind with what has been seen and theorised by psychologists and philosophers in the past. We will look at the 3 subdegrees for each of the 3 degrees in the exterior mind.

 The general pattern to be followed with these 'A of B' structures ('AB' in numerical form) is that the content in each case deals with degree B, and is appearing in level A. That is, content is present in level A that either comes from (or deals with) degree B. Note that the word `of' does not itself determine the logical order of connection, since we speak both of `parent of the child' and `child of the parent'. Further information is therefore required to ascertain the meaning of the `of' connective in `A of B'. In this paper, I choose the order that the first degree given is what first appears, and that later degrees describe what is `hidden', namely the details of either the aim or content or origin of what first appears. For that reason, the numerical point is inserted after the first number, so that the fractional numbers act as qualifiers, in accordance with standard mathematics. I allow above `aim or content or origin' in order to allow whatever causal or logical connections are demanded by the degrees under consideration. These are: (1) affections for (aims), (2) thoughts about (content) and (3) effects from (origins).

The wording with the triply-nested 'ninth' structures follows the same principles, so that 'ABC' in numerical form is written as 'A of B of C' , and is an abbreviation for 'A of (B of C )'. If B comes from C and then A comes from B, this is 'A from (B from C)', which means that content is present in degree A that appears to come from degree B but in fact originates in degree C.

To start with, we hence look at the 3 subdegrees for each of the 3 degrees in the exterior mind. We look therefore at the `ninths' within the `thirds' already discussed:

interior mind:

love

1.

exterior mind:

understanding

2.

natural world:

effects

3.

Celestial,

ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception,

effects of ends : 3.1

Thoughts of ends of ends: 2.11

Thoughts of ends of causes: 2.12

Thoughts of ends of effects: 2.13

Spiritual,

ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws,

effects of thoughts: 3.2

Thoughts of causes of ends: 2.21

Thoughts of causes of causes: 2.22

Thoughts of causes of effects: 2.23

Spiritual.-Natural,

ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects,

effects of effects: 3.3

Thoughts of effects of ends: 2.31

Thoughts of effects of causes: 2.32

Thoughts of effects of effects: 2.33

Figure 9: The 9 created subdegrees within the exterior mind.

Now we have our work set out for us, to determine what all these things mean! Fortunately, however, we can exploit previous logical and psychological investigations, and we have already at hand some 9-fold maps that match up almost exactly with the 3*3 series (2.11, 2.12, 2.13; 2.21, 2.22, 2.23; 2.31, 2.32, 2.33) in the middle of Fig. 9. The reason that psychological theories are directly useful, is that cognitive development of children starts with the simplest degree (2.33), and proceeds via 2.32 and 2.31 to the external rational degree. Piaget, for example, as categorised levels of cognitive development, and we will use his names for stages were possible. The logical patterns are derived from Thompson[1990].

The degrees 2.23, 2.22 and 2.21 together constitute the external rational, because they enable independent rational thought. This thought, however, only deals with the external physical and logical worlds, namely only these degrees below and to the right in Fig. 9. The remaining three degrees (2.11, 2.12, 2.13) constitute the internal rational, because they are concerning with interfacing to the internal 'ends' degrees in the first column, and we need Swedenborg's insights for proper identification.

Combining these logical and psychological identifications of the nine subdegrees of the external mind, we can redraw the previous figure as:

interior mind:

love 1.

exterior mind:

understanding 2.

nature:

effects 3

Celestial: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

?: 3.1

Wisdom: 2.11

Reformation: 2.12

Conscience: 2.13

Spiritual: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws: 3.2

Creative: 2.21

Formal: 2.22

Operational: 2.23

Spiritl.-Natural: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: 3.3

Preoperational (events): 2.31

Objective: 2.32

Sensorimotor: 2.33

Figure 10: Identification of the cognitive content of the 9 created subdegrees within the exterior mind, using terminology of Piaget and Swedenborg.

 

4. COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE STAGES

Each stage that we have described has within it further subdegrees, and these subdegrees give rise to both affective and cognitive aspects in minds. Thus, in parallel to Piaget's cognitive stages outlined and extended above, there is a sequence (of similar structure) of affective stages. These have been best characterised by Erikson[1963]. I do not have the space here to go into all the details of these stages, so I simply present a copy of the 9 degrees of the exterior mind, giving both pairs of names. Each stage also gives a descriptive name for the failure to develop at that level.

ADULT

Internal rational

Erikson-Swedenborg

(affective)

 

Gowan-Swedenborg

(cognitive)

Compassion-love vs.

Withdrawal

2.11 9th ...

Wisdom vs.

Profanation

Regeneration vs.

Despair

2.12 8th 40+ yrs

Reformation vs.

Senile depression

Repentance vs.

Stagnation

2.13 7th 26-40 yrs?

Conscience vs.

Conventionalism

YOUTH

External rational

Erikson

(affective)

 

Piaget-Gowan

(cognitive)

Intimacy vs.

Isolation

2.21 6th 18-25 yrs?

Creativity vs.

Authoritarianism

Identity vs.

Role diffusion

2.22 5th 13-17 yrs

Formal operations

vs. Dementia Praecox

Industry vs.

Inferiority

2.23 4th 7-12 yrs

Concrete operations

vs. Nonconservation

INFANT

Pre-rational

Erikson

(affective)

 

Piaget

(cognitive)

Initiative vs.

Guilt

2.31 3rd 4-6 yrs

Intuitive vs.

Immobilisation

Autonomy vs.

Shame and doubt

2.32 2nd 2-3 yrs

Preoperational vs.

Autism

Trust vs.

Mistrust

2.33 1st 0-1 yrs

Sensorimotor vs.

Chaos

Figure 11: The ERIKSON-PIAGET-GOWAN-SWEDENBORG Periodic Developmental Stage Chart, adapted and improved from Gowan [1974].

5. DYNAMICS OF CORRESPONDENCES AND INFLUX

In all of the above sections, we have concentrated on the nested structure of subdegrees, and only mentioned in passing how this whole structure is supposed to work! That is, now we need to discuss the dynamical patterns of correspondences and influx.

First, we should remember that all these patterns originate because of the way Divine Love and Divine Wisdom produce in sequence Divine Use. I quote again from the first section:

  1. Love, anticipating delights of Use, entertains purposes of producing these Uses. Love, having adopted a specific purpose, takes the form of Wisdom.
  2. Wisdom, being Love with a particular purpose, entertains the means for achieving those ends. Love and Wisdom together decide on a course of action.
  3. Use, being produced by Love acting by means of Wisdom, is the ultimate effect. In this action, Love finds its satisfaction and delight with the results.
  4. This delight returns to Love, and further manifestations of Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved

The created world follows the same patterns, since its dynamics all originate with life received from the Lord God, who is the Divine Source. The dynamics of creating thus follows from influx from God:

Figure 12

The created universe receives Love and Wisdom to the extent that the created thing has the same functional form as that of the source. This is the Law of Correspondence. It derives from the Divine characteristic that "Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved". Since different subdegrees have different functions, the correspondences work in different ways. Consider again in Fig 13 the basic 9-fold 3*3 subdegrees from Fig. 5.

soul 1.

mind 2.

body 3.

Reception



ends of ends: 1.1 ¯

 

è

Reception

thoughts of ends: 2.1 ¯

 

è

Reception

effects of ends: 3.1 ¯

Means

ends of thoughts: 1.2 ¯

 

è

Means

thoughts of thoughts: 2.2 ¯

 

è

Means

effects of thoughts: 3.2 ¯

Executive

ends of effects: 1.3

 

è

Executive

thoughts of effects: 2.3

 

è

Final Effect

effects of effects: 3.3 ·

Figure 13: The 9 created degrees showing the correspondence relations between them arising from influx. The operations underlined are the primary function of each degree.

Figure 13 (version 2): Gif version of this figure

Here, we show as underlined the primary function of each degree. Degrees 3.1's primary function is to receive influx from subdegrees 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 of the mind. Degrees 2.1's primary function is to receive influx from subdegrees 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 of the soul. Degree 1.1's primary function is to receive love from the Lord, in accordance with His trinitarian substructure shown in Figure 2. The thin right-pointing arrows show these influxes, called receptive influxes. The vertical down-pointing arrows show the normal productive processes.

The thick arrows connect those subdegrees that are performing similar functions: the 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 degrees, for example, are all performing similar reception functions. The 1.2, 2.2 and 3.2 degrees all have the function of entertaining and planning means, whereas the bottom line degrees 1.3 and 2.3 have the executive role of carrying out plans. Degree 3.3 is the ultimate effect, whose role is to manifest permanent actions, and to return to the source the delights thereby achieved.

The two different kinds of influxes result in different kinds of connections between the earlier and later degrees. The thick arrows give rather strict correspondences, in which the functions of those related degrees are kept in rather good one-to-one correspondences. Because the final `body' degree 3 is permanent, this kind of correspondence has the important function of maintaining many of the prior structures in the soul and mind. The thin arrows, on the other hand, show influx whose aim is to influence and control the reception degrees, and not so much to fix the structure of the source degrees. I call them receptive correspondences or receptive influx

6. NATURE AND MIND

We must also consider in more detail the third column of `effects', which constitute the physical world. The 3 subdegrees and 9 subsubdegrees within this ought to be related to what we already know about the physical world, in particular to what science (when properly formulated) tells us. Let us reproduce an earlier figure, now expanding the 3-degree into its 9 parts:

interior mind:

love

1.

exterior mind:

understanding

2

natural world:

effects

3.

Celestial,

ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception, effects of ends : 3.1

Product of ends of ends: 3.11

Product of ends of causes: 3.12

Product of ends of effects: 3.13

Spiritual,

ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws, effects of thoughts: 3.2

Results of causes of ends: 3.21

Results of causes of causes: 3.22

Results of causes of effects: 3.23

Spiritual.-Natural,

ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects, effects of effects: 3.3

Results of effects of ends: 3.31

Results of effects of causes: 3.32

Effects of effects of effects:3.33

Figure 14: The 9 created subdegrees within the natural degree.

Again we have our work set out for us, to determine what all these things mean! Fortunately, however, we can exploit previous logical and physical investigations, and we have already at hand the previous 9-fold of the exterior mind, to which all these correspond in some manner. I will not for now discuss the 3.1 (3.11, 3.12, 3.13) degrees, since these are completely unknown to our sciences. However, physics has already explored considerable detail of the 3.2 and 3.3 degrees and subdegrees, in particular quantum physics. First, we must remember that the intermediate results are not themselves the ultimate physical events, but more the preparation for such events: they provide, for example, the energy, the propensity or the circumstance for the final events.

Combining these logical and physical identifications of the nine subdegrees of the external mind, we can redraw the previous figure as:

interior mind:

love

1.

exterior mind:

understanding

2

natural world:

effects

3.

Celestial,

ends of ends: 1.1

Internal Rational: 2.1

Reception: effects of ends : 3.1

(reception of love): 3.11

(reception of thought): 3.12

(reception of decisions): 3.13

Spiritual,

ends of thoughts: 1.2

Scientific (External Rational): 2.2

Scientific Laws: effects of thoughts: 3.2

Variational Principles: 3.21

Dynamic Laws: 3.22

Virtual Events: 3.23

Spiritual.-Natural,

ends of effects: 1.3

Sensual: 2.3

Material effects: effects of effects: 3.3

Energy: 3.31

Wave Functions: 3.32

Actual Selections:3.33

Figure 15. The 9 created subdegrees within the natural degree.

The divine source does not produce all physical effects directly, but it produces via spiritual and natural stages what we see as natural dispositions or natural propensities. It is these dispositions or propensities, also known as causes, forces, potentials, quantum propensities) which lead to the ultimate physical interactions and events. The physical dispositions are a very limited `remnant' of Divine Power, and Swedenborg describes how they operate in a way which corresponds to the characteristic operation of the Divine Love: by the patterns and sub-patterns we have seen above.

Correspondences of natural with spiritual things are also very useful to us, because we can use them to give a kind of definite and permanent form to our ideas of Love (which otherwise tend to be vague and nebulous). We have, for example, from Swedenborg the idea that "the Divine Love operates by means of Wisdom, to produce outgoing Spirit and actions". This corresponds to the pattern in the physical world, where "physical dispositions (energies and propensities) operate by means of interactions in spatial relations to produce physical effects". Love is like a disposition or physical energy or vibration, but is not identical to anything physical. Rather, we have many metaphors and analogies between the spiritual and the physical. To forget this, is to think physically and naturally of spiritual realities.

 

7. PARAPSYCHOLOGY AND MIRACLES

Within this framework from Swedenborg, all physical processes are the successive products of prior spiritual and psychical processes, and we might therefore expect very many parapsychological phenomena to occur, even many miraculous events. (Miracles are just those normal sequences of the discrete-degree processes, just happening more quickly than usual.) However, there are several reasons why the world does not work like this.

  1. The first reason is that all processes at all degrees are conditional on the previous events in those degrees. This is a fundamental feature of all Divine operation, and means that events are not arbitrary, but follow orderly patterns.
  2. Secondly, the prior degrees are just those processes which constiute peoples thoughts and lives, so all operations are to some extent the result of conscious decisions rather than `blind laws' which can be exploited regardless of the good or bad aims.
  3. Finally, Swedenborg tells us that nowadays, miracles are deliberately kept from our public view, so as not to force rational thought. They occur still in many interior degrees, but `external miracles' only now occur when they can be interpreted in many ways. (It seems to be a history of parapsychology, that quests for definitive and forceful demonstrations make the phenomena retreat).
  4. We are supposed to freely and rationally understand the (possible) operation of God in the world.

8. STAGES OF LIFE

A brief summary of the stages of life is as follows:

The natural body grows in the world, as we all know.
The exterior mind grows from childhood until the end of life, as outlined in Fig. 11.
The interior mind is initially quiescent, and grows by spiritual reformation and regeneration.

The natural body is removed and separated at death.
The exterior mind is initially tied by the strict correspondences to the natural body, but after death is made coherent with the internal rational.
The interior mind is never removed.

What we can explain now, is how the status of the exterior mind changes during the lifetime and after death of the natural body. To do this, we have first to understand what is permanent within the degrees and subdegrees.

Basically, the ultimate effects in the natural world are permanent, since the world has been created to have fixed and enduring substances. However, there is a specific part of the natural world that is fixed, and used in relation to the exterior mind. This is what Swedenborg calls the `limbus'. I am not sure what this is in the above scheme, but have provisionally identified it with the 3.1 degree. (More probably, it is the 3.13 subpart of this degree, but subparts of the third `3' degrees have not been discussed yet.)

Assuming that there is some permanent component to the 3.1 degrees, the `strict correspondences' between the 3.1 and 2.1 degrees means that there can be a permanent component to the internal rational. Thus the form of the internal rational survives bodily death, but not the forms of the external rational and the sensual minds. The internal rational has been formed by the receptive influxes from the interior mind (soul), and so what survives death are the those loves that have lead to actions in the world. The state of persons in the spiritual world after death is therefore determined by the loves that were effective in the world, while the exterior and sensual minds are no longer fixed at all, but are now free to vary according to influxes from all prior degrees. Thoughts and sensations in the spiritual world, therefore, are determined dynamically and variably from the prior loves in the interior mind. Swedenborg has given us many descriptions of how this appears.

 

9. DISCUSSION

In this paper, I have presented a `top-down' analysis that leads to something rather similar to Swedenborg's cosmology of God, heaven, mind and nature. This is an attempt at `systematic cosmology' and therefore should be strictly checked to make sure that important features of reality are not left out or (heaven forbid!) disallowed within the current framework. We have all seen systematic and synthetic philosophies in the past that in the end have turned out to be strictly limited, and it is up to you the readers to ascertain whether or not this will happen again here!

Should these ideas prove fruitful and/or accurate, then there is much more work to be done in exploring the structural and dynamical consequences of this approach. We have just begun to explore the subdegrees in the physical world (see e.g. Thompson[1988a,1990a]), in particular try to understand quantum physics (see e.g. Thompson[1988a,1990b,1991]).

We should try to understand what Leon James has called `spiritual psychobiology' (James [1982]). We can also try to relate these ideas to what Swedenborg tells us about the subdegrees in the spiritual world.

References