Life in our Solar System
I agree with Mr. Steve Koke's opinion that in Earths in the Universe Swedenborg certainly seems to be speaking with spirits who are still connected with inhabited planets. But I have a hard time believing that the Lord would allow Swedenborg to make such a blunder in His Arcana Coelestia as to misidentify planets. I personally believe that Swedenborg is truly and accurately referring to our own moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. If all Swedenborg's encounters were with planets in other solar systems, why wouldn't the Lord have guided him to refer to all of them as "earths in the starry heavens"?
I imagine that Earths in the Universe is a puzzle for all New Church people-an embarrassing one for some, an intriguing and exciting one for others. Of course, the information in this book is useful knowledge, regardless of how it is literally true. But in this exciting dawning of space exploration, when we are starting to get a closer look at our neighboring planets, it's hard not to wonder how Swedenborg's descriptions of extra-terrestrial people and terrains fit in with the pictures we're receiving back from our space probes.
I think it's important to remember that when it comes to the realities in God's created universe, there are endless things that we are not yet ready to understand. A look back in history shows many examples of times when the human race was simply not ready to believe in scientific realities that we now take for granted.
Think back to the era before it was known that our earth is a great big globe. We can chuckle about those long ago who were sure that the earth was flat, but that's what met their eyes! It took a long time for advances in the ability for long voyages finally to provide enough evidence to convince the human race of the true shape of our planet, but all along the world had been round.
Think back to early views of our solar system. What met the eyes of those who looked upward were the sun, moon, and stars rising and setting, traveling around them while they stood on their seemingly stationary earth. It took a long time for advances in calculations, observations, and equipment to provide convincing evidence that we were actually whirling around the sun along with several other planets, but all along it was so.
There are so many things in the physical world which don't appear to our eyes. Over time, as the human race has been ready, methods have been discovered to find the evidence of unseen realities. Microscopes and telescopes have revealed whole new realms to our eyes, but realities like gravity cannot be grasped by our senses, but only by secondary forms of evidence.
So here we are, launching out into the solar system, and what is meeting our eyes? So far, barren, empty planets, which could not sustain life as we know it. But does that mean that there is no life there?
Personally, I choose to believe in the possibility of human life elsewhere in our solar system, even on the worlds that we've already had a look at. Life on these worlds could have such a completely different form that we don't have the ability to see evidence of it yet. The people that Swedenborg has described could live in a dimension that we don't yet know how to sense.
Consider too that while the inhabitants of Earth have relation to "natural and external sense" (EU 122) and therefore to the "corporeal sensual" (EU 148), the inhabitants of Mars have relation to "the medium between the involuntary and the voluntary, consequently to thought from affection, and the best of them to the affection of thought . . . "(EU 88).
The inhabitants of Mars correspond to "the middle province . . . between the cerebrum and the cerebellum" (EU 88), while the inhabitants of Earth seem to correspond to the skin. (SD 1743, in talking about those who constitute the external skin of the Grand Human, says that a very large portion of those spirits are from our earth.)
Might it not be very hard for a race of people which relates to the corporeal sensual to be aware of a race that relates to the joining of thought and affection? From an external point of view, one can see skin but not an inner part of the brain. HH 209 says that angels in the higher heavens can see inhabitants of the lower heavens. But when the angels of the lower heavens look toward the angels of the higher heavens, they cannot see them. The higher heaven appears to them only as a mist above their heads. Might not the natural world have different levels as well, with the inhabitants of the outer level lacking the ability to see the inhabitants of the deeper levels?
When a person having a near-death experience is out of his body but has not yet crossed into the spiritual world, where is he? Might he be in a more interior level of the natural world? Such a person can still see his earthly surroundings, though no one can see him. He is much more able to see and communicate with inhabitants of the spiritual world, and to be taken on a trip into the spiritual realm. This seems similar to inhabitants of other planets who are described as having much easier and more regular open contact with the spiritual world than we do.
As the surface of the planet Mars is being carefully scrutinized by an earth-made machine, all we can do is theorize about how Swedenborg's descriptions of Martian people match up with what we see. But keep in mind that a particular attribute of those in the province of the skin (which Earth people seem to tend toward) is wanting to reason from the senses, apart from perception (see AC 1385, 4046, 6402).
Maybe contact with other races in our solar system will take an approach of a totally different nature-perhaps an approach in the realm of perception rather than in the realm of sensual evidence.