Emanuel Swedenborg &
Light in My Darkness by Helen Keller
Chester, Pa: Swedenborg Foundation, 1994
Chapter titles of Helen Keller's occult book:
1. Awakenings 2. Swedenborg's Search 3. Swedenborg's Accomplishments
4. Into the Holy of Holies 5. Revolutionary Ideas
6. Secrets of the Spiritual World ... 10. The Mystic Sense
Preface: "Light in My Darkness is a revision of My Religion, a book originally published in 1927, when Helen Keller was forty-seven years old...."
Introduction: "Swedenborg teaches us that love makes us free, and I can bear witness to its power of lifting us out of the isolation to which we seem condemned. When the idea of an active, all-controlling love lays hold of us, we become masters, creators of good, helpers of our kind. It is as if the dark had sent forth a star to draw us to heaven. We discover in ourselves many undeveloped resources of will and thought....
These are the words of Helen Keller. They have a special claim to our
attention - for they are the words of a woman who became a world-renowned
author, lecturer, political activist, and crusader for human rights, despite
having been stricken at the age of nineteen months with an illness that left
her unable to see, hear, or speak. ...
Helen Adams Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880. ... The mysterious illness that left Keller without sight, hearing, or the ability to speak was diagnosed by the family doctor only as an 'acute congestion of the stomach and brain...
By six years of age Keller was 'an untamed little creature' who kicked, pinched, scratched.... It was then that her parents finally contacted... the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, where Anne Sullivan, a twenty-year-old teacher, was selected to become the personal tutor to the Kellers' difficult child. ...
A Life of Service: Keller's activities... went beyond helping only those who were confronted by blindness or deafness. ... She worked to end ignorance, racism, and poverty. In an era when it was politically incorrect to do so, she upheld the right of workers to strike and the right of women to vote. ... She was the first woman to touch the great Bronze Amita Buddha at Daibutsu, Japan; she was the first woman to ever receive an honorary degree from Harvard University... She met with world leaders -- Churchill, Nehru, Einstein, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and many more....
She took special comfort from the theological writings of the eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and seer Emanuel Swedenborg, whose vision of the other world gave her life a special focus. "We who are blind," she wrote, "are often glad that another's eye finds a road for us in a wide, perplexing darkness. ...To her, Swedenborg's testimony about the life to come seemed 'a sweet breath from God's presence.' ...
Her father was a deacon in the Presbyterian church... her mother was an Episcopalian. As for Anne Sullivan, she had grown up in a Catholic family and, as Helen put it, 'had no faith in religion.' When she was an infant, Keller was baptized, but she received no special religious training in her early years. ...
At age sixteen, however, she discovered the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Deeply touched by them, she embraced the "new church" - a phrase used by Swedenborg to refer to God's inauguration of a new Christianity and later applied to the church movement based on Swedenborg's teachings....
As Keller understood it, the New Church was not a matter of doctrine, but a loving way of understanding the world. It ... proclaimed the universal brotherhood of mankind and the immediate presence of a loving God. ... In 1928 she gave a forceful address to a national meeting of Swedenborgians in Washington, D.C., in which she urged fellow believers to abandon their sectarian attitude and proclaim the great message they held in sacred trust....
Always ecumenical in her outlook, she saw that the God of her faith was the God of all faiths. Yet her belief remained rooted in Swedenborg's teachings. Whenever she was asked who her favorite philosopher was, she would reply without hesitation, 'Why, Swedenborg, of course!' And on one occasion, she was disturbed by a misunderstanding that arose after she had expressed enthusiasm for the teachings of Bahá'ě. When some reported that she had embraced that religion, she set the record straight emphatically:
"...since I was sixteen years old, I have been a strong believer in the doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg. Why should I change my faith, since it opens my eyes to all that is beautiful and noble in the thoughts and beliefs of men.... I have a profound respect for the teachings of Baha Ullah, just as I have for the noble thoughts of all great prophets and seers...."
"...her version of Christianity was universal, all-encompassing.... In Swedenborg's teachings, she found support for what she believed to be true
in her own heart - that every human life is of sacred importance and that
there is dignity in all true religious paths. That is why she could declare,
without reservation: "I am a Swedenborgian ... Its spirituality and idealism appeal to me. It also
fosters all kinds of true freedom, places humanity above party, country,
race, and it never loses sight of the essence of Jesus' gospel - the supreme
and equal worth of each individual soul. That doctrine is the heart of
Helen Keller's religion was indeed larger than any organized church. Her Lord was Jesus Christ, the gentle, forgiving Nazarene.... In him, she saw the great smiling God of all souls, encompassing multitudes and showering all with unceasing love, wisdom, and power. Keller knew that God's true church - the kingdom of heaven - is not here or there, but within each person. And that is why she could rise above all theological language and theological systems to proclaim:
"I believe that life is given us so that we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower-the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence."