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Threes in Swedenborg

The 18th century philosopher and theologian, Emmanuel Swedenborg, used and explained numerous "threes" in his writings. He states that three means that which is complete or in its fullness, especially in regard to truth (compared to two which means that which is complete in regard to goodness). Because of this meaning of fullness or completeness, three also means perfection. From these meanings of three, on a higher level, three means that which is holy.

Swedenborg states that everything that occurs in nature in threes happens because it is part of God's creation and He made this "wholeness of threes" a part of the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms.

Following are some of the "threes" in Swedenborg's theology:

  • Love, wisdom and use which are related to:
    • Affection, thought, action
    • Charity, faith, good works
    • Will/volition, understanding, practice
    • Willing, thinking, doing
  • God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent
  • Everything that happens or exists does so through: End, cause and effect
    • End is the love, the purpose or intention of the will; cause is the means in the understanding through which the will achieves its purpose; and effect is the ultimate of speech, action, sensation or production in which the purpose is achieved through those means
    • Related to end, cause and effect are: Esse, Fieri and Existere
  • Conatus, force and action
    • Explanation of conatus: In every affection and thought there is  a constant effort inflowing from the spiritual world to come forth and subsist by ultimating itself in forms of use; one which seeks to do so by setting in action the necessary active and reactive forces.
  • The after-life has three levels: Heaven, world of spirits, hell
    • Heaven has three levels: celestial, spiritual, natural
    • Hell has three levels: the fiery, the black and the pallid
  • Salvation is achieved through: repentance, reformation, and regeneration
  • A person has three components: Soul, body and sphere of influence/activity
  • The mind has three levels: sensual, imaginative, rational
  • Knowledge, intelligence and wisdom are the three levels of thoughts
  • Knowing, understanding, and perceiving are three types of thought
  • Three levels of consciousness: corporeal, natural, rational
  • Three planes of existence: civil, moral, spiritual
  • Three areas of perfection: Perfections of life, forces and forms
  • Three types of forces: Active, middle and passive
  • Three essential ingredients for a church: God, charity and faith
  • Three levels of the Bible: the literal narrative, the internal historic meaning, the spiritual meaning
    • Three levels of the spiritual meaning of the Bible: the story of man, the church, and God