Birthday of a New Age. A Classic Sermon.
January 13, 2002
This sermon was originally delivered on January 29, 1961.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue
in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know
the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
They answered him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and
have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying,
‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who
commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent
place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the
Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (Matthew 8:31–36)
Reading from Swedenborg
People in the church from now on will have more freedom of
thought in matters of faith—that is, on spiritual issues relating to
heaven—because spiritual freedom has been restored. In fact,
everything in the heavens and the hells has now been brought
back into order. And it is from the heavens and hells that all
thinking in favor of and in opposition to the Divine flows. . . .
Since spiritual freedom has been restored to us, the spiritual
meaning of the Bible has been opened up, and deeper divine
truths have been revealed by this means....
I have had several conversations with angels about the state of
the church from now on. They have said that they do not know
what is going to happen—only the Lord knows that. But they do
know that the captivity in which members of the church have
been caught until now has been removed, and that the freedom
that has thus been restored has opened the way to a better perception
of deeper truths—if we want to perceive. The way is also
open to becoming more inward people—if we want to.
(The Last Judgment #73, 74)
How things have changed and are changing! If we had accompanied
Swedenborg in 1710 to London, we would have cruised
with him in a slow sailing vessel for many weeks from Gothenburg to
reach the mouth of Thames River.
Today we can reach the same city from San Francisco, many
thousands of miles away, in a bare twelve hours. We can talk to people
in any major city of the world in a matter of minutes. It won’t be
long, the technicians say, till we also will see those to whom we talk.
Technology has freed man from the shackles of space and
time. With the help of science and machinery, we have shrunk
space to an incredible extent—at least in relation to each other.
We have freed ourselves from the limitations of the body by
acts of the mind. This is very important to remember. It is the
human mind and its ideas, its will, its complex urges, that has liberated
man to a certain extent from the boundaries his environment
has set him. This is an argument for the preeminence of the
spirit over matter.
Freedom is an attribute of truth. And truth is the substance of
God. We are promised by the Lord in the Holy Scriptures that it
is the truth that will set us free. It is the right understanding of life
that liberates us from the shackles that seemingly hold us down.
The more truths we acknowledge as such, the freer our spirit is.
New Church people have accepted a unique declaration of our
spiritual mentor, Emanuel Swedenborg. It was given to him to see
the great spiritual liberation of human spirits in the middle of the
It was at that time that a new age was born. For at that time,
the Lord executed a judgment of cosmic proportions. It was not
the judgment on a half destroyed earth that many Christians
expected, but a judgment on a dark and terror ridden humanity at
the end of a time that historians have called the Dark Ages.
In New Church theology we find a unique interpretation of
the so called “Last Judgment” that is so vividly portrayed in the
Book of Revelation. It is not a coming of the Christ in fiery chariots,
accompanied by clouds of angels. No, this ultimate judgment
was executed on the moral and spiritual conditions of mankind.
And the first sentence of this judgment from on high was, “And
you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Hitherto the church had oppressed men and truth. It had
burned men at the stake for holding divergent opinions. It had
denounced scientific discoveries, such as those of Galileo—whom
the church forced to recant the truth about the movements of the
earth, in suppression of the facts. The church had not allowed any
new thoughts to be voiced if they did not agree with its age old
Truth was in prison. And the first act of this divine judgment
was to let it out of its prison. The new age began when men
could, without fear of being killed, investigate all matters of interest
to them, and make known their results.
Swedenborg often talks about the new church that was about
to be instituted in his time by the Lord. He saw it as an act of liberation
on the part of the Lord: permitting people of all faiths to
make their own inquiries into the truth without being accused of
heresy and deprived of life or liberty.
Since we, in this time, are much used to liberties of all kinds,
we cannot quite understand the great desire for liberty so prominent
in the latter part of the eighteenth century. But we can see
the tremendous effects of such an urge in the nations in Africa,
which are gaining their political freedom in our times.
The new age is still in the making! We are witnesses of a tremendous
mental and spiritual change in all of humanity. The
upsurge of new nations; the downfall of empires; the overthrow of
governments; the establishment of new ones. It is as if the whole
body of humanity were in a fever to rectify its weaknesses and gain new strength by the ordeal of revolutionary fire, political earthquake,
and social storm.
Part of this new age is already visible. In political matters we
see the gradual, or sudden, disposal of the king-type government.
Often this had been a tyrant, a fuehrer, a dictator. But such people
do not last long anymore. There is a trend visible as people
become more educated—freed from ignorance. They demand a
share in government . . . and they get it.
In scientific matters, we see that all our inquiries into the mysteries
of the universe are useful and constructive. They are beneficial
to humanity—if they are coupled with a love for man. They
are not destructive of religious faith—if that faith is also permitted
to be investigated and corrected. Through science, there is still
much to be done to deliver man from the tyranny of hunger, cold,
We are not free from the fear of misery and death. There is
still a great lack of food. Almost every day we are called upon to
help here or there to relieve famine and epidemic.
This opens up a second feature of the new age: social responsibility.
A tremendous social responsibility has been assumed by the
free man. Now, he must shoulder the responsibility for the well-being
of the neighbor. He cannot any longer blame disasters like
hunger and disease upon God or the king. As God has freed man
from tyranny of unreasoned faith, so man must accept the duties
that go with this freedom and rationality.
Thus, we who live in this century face grave moral obligations.
Freedom is so much desired; but are its liabilities considered? For
example, men became rich by scientifically applied truth in the
industrial revolution of the nineteenth century. But these captains
of industry forgot to share their gains with those who created
them: the laborers of the factories, mines, and farms.
Those laborers rose up to demand their share. The last one
hundred years are filled with the struggle of capital vs. laboror
as it has become known, of Capitalism vs. Socialism.
To be sure, the new riches are part of the new age. At first only
a few men had them. Out of their unwillingness to share, there
arose the revolution of Marxism, Socialism, and Communism.
Political revolutions convulsed the East and West. Even to this day
the struggle is not ended. In the spiritual world, the laws of freedom
and of social responsibility stand side by side—but not on
our earth as of yet.
The Christian Church has much to do here to turn the love of
self into the love of the neighbor through social reforms. We must
seek to apply our Christian convictions of divine love to all men;
to all in the social and economic structure of mankind.
It hurts a Christian to read that even at this day, laborers in
our California fields and orchards do not receive a just hire. They
must fight for a little increase in their hourly wage—instead of
being given it, willingly and lovingly, as a share in the riches of
God’s own property, of which we are only stewards. We are not
yet acting in conformity with the ideals of the new age in sharing
God’s riches according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This new age, in the very beginning of which we live, will
bring forth a new social order that will be much more similar to
that of the heavenly societies of which Swedenborg so eloquently
speaks in his unique book Heaven and its Wonders and Hell.
The truth that God is the Creator, and therefore the rightful
owner of what we call “our possessions,” will have to be acknowledged
more fully. If we finally do confess that only our selfishness
has created the social inequalities of our times, we will then want
to correct them.
Some have already entered this new age. They share with their
employees the rewards of the labors of all—both management and
labor. Far greater happiness and productivity pervades such an
establishment, to the benefit of all. For each should receive his
rightful share in proportion to what he has put into the production
of whatever it be: grain or goods, grapes or planes.
The third a characteristic of the new age is the highly accelerated
rate of communicating with each other. The sharing of
thoughts and events is almost instantaneous.
A few days ago many of us saw the inauguration of our president
many thousand miles away. When General Washington
“ascended the throne of our Republic,” how many people shared
this event with him? A few hundred. Last week, millions saw and
heard the event. Time and space was of no consequence. Every
morning we read what is wrong throughout the whole world. Our
anxieties and our responsibilities have increased an hundredfold.
We hear both good news and bad almost as soon as it has happened.
The spiritual world is not much different in this lack of
space barriers to our minds. But are we the better for it? Do we
understand each other better?
The psychologist is laboring to bring about a better understanding
of man—of himself, of his fellowman—and so are the
minister, the rabbi, and the priest. We have so much greater
means to know each other more; but are we any closer to each
other? There is indeed a great field of labor—of spiritual labor—to be entered where the ground must be plowed with truth, and
the seeds of understanding planted with love.
Often we get a feeling that almost everything we can think of
is already done and accomplished. But this is a fallacy—especially
on the moral and spiritual levels. We have pointed out how little
has been accomplished in the proper distribution of food for all
mankind. How little education actually is accomplished in the
millions of men, most of whom have never seen a book, or heard
of another people but themselves. And many new nations have
suddenly found out how difficult it is to establish a just, equitable
and socially fruitful government.
To begin to understand each other better is an unfinished—
yes, not even much begun job. For example, what do we who sit
here together this morning know of each other? Very little. How
much do we communicate with each other? Very little, beyond polite phrases. But the new age that has now begun will demand
much more communication with each other.
This communication will not begin unless we begin to love
each other more, as the Lord loves us. After all, communication is
a sharing of thoughts; and we will not share thoughts unless our
affections incline to each other.
The ageold truth is coming to the fore again: self love
destroys our ability to communicate with each other; love of others
opens up the channel. Unless you trust that the person to
whom you confess your failings loves you and wants to understand
you, you will not communicate your deepest troubles to him. But
for the sake of our spiritual health; for the establishment of justice
and equality; for all the wonderful spiritual things the new age has
in store, we must communicate our concerns more with each other.
The heavenly norm, as Emanuel Swedenborg saw it, is that
every thought of every angel is shared with all in his heaven:
One can see how great the delight of heaven must be from the
fact that it is the delight of everyone in heaven to share his
delights and blessings with others. And as this is the character of
all who are in the heavens, it is clear how immeasurable is the
delight of heaven.
It has been shown above that in the heavens there is a sharing
of all with each and of each with all. Such sharing goes forth
from the two loves of heaven, which are love to the Lord and love
towards the neighbor; and to share their delights is the very
nature of these loves.
Love to the Lord is like this because it is a love of sharing
everything it has with all, since it wills the happiness of all. There
is a similar love in everyone who loves the Lord, because the Lord
is in them. And from this comes the mutual sharing of the joys
of angels with one another. (Heaven and Hell #399)
These three things will mark the man of the new age:
- An inner urge to pursue the truth, till it is captured and made to
- An urge to concern oneself deeply with the needs and wants of
- An urge to communicate and share one’s affections for each
To love freedom; to respect the liberty of all; to help make hunger,
want, and illness as rare as can be; to share one’s joys and happiness
with others affectionately allied: these are the ends, purposes,
and goals of life of the angel in heaven—and of the men and
women of the new age on earth.
O God of the new age that is dawning upon this earth, we thank
you that you have created us to live in this exciting time of new
discovery and new understanding. We thank you that you have
given to the people of our earth a new freedom to explore both
the physical and the spiritual world. We thank you that you have
revealed new and deeper truth to us in the pages of your Word,
through the enlightened teachings of the New Church.
We pray that each one of us, and all of us together, may accept
the new and greater social responsibility that this new freedom
and deeper insight gives us. We pray that we may work together to
rebuild our communities here on earth more and more in the
divine pattern of your heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Rev. Othmar Tobisch