Support the Center for Swedenborgian Studies
Dear CSS Friends, December 2, 2022
Your generous support allows us to carry on a legacy of Swedenborgian thought, theology, and practice that impacts our world in diverse ways. In my first year as Dean of CSS I have been reflecting on the impact of Helen Keller in particular, as an example of this legacy.
In 1904 Helen Keller became the first deafblind person to earn a college degree, graduating from Radcliffe College cum laude. A year earlier she published a short work on Optimism in which she elaborated the ways her studies were opening her mind and her world. Reading the great philosophers and mystics from history enlivened ideas introduced to her in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, ideas about the limits of the body’s physical senses of sight and hearing and the ability of the eyes and ears of the soul to sense a truer reality. Her studies also confirmed the nearness of the Divine, that God was not in some distant or future heaven, but in the natural world, in the people around her, and in her own internal person. In short, her studies had made her an optimist. “I do live in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present,-not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings.” True optimism, for Keller, was not a naive passivity, but a compulsion to a life of activism, a belief that people can make a difference to the suffering of others. This optimism proved to be more than the passing enthusiasm of a young college student. On the contrary, she would go on to live a long life of service to the poor, the oppressed, and the disabled, inspiring those who encountered her presence and her words around the globe.
The Center for Swedenborgian Studies endeavors to live into the same kind of optimism described by Keller from her days of active learning. Having the time and space to encounter the great ideas of our faith traditions and the philosophies of our ancestors can inspire a life of active service, a usefulness from wisdom and love. And like Keller, our students are encouraged, not only to investigate the richness in their assigned reading material, but to investigate and develop their internal senses, to connect their spiritual world and the world around them, discovering a web of corresponding connections that will inform their work going forward. We invite you to continue supporting their journeys.
Our focus this year and in the years to come is on growing our scholarship support for students, so that rather than being loaded down with debt upon graduation, they can be set free to fulfil their calling in the world. Will you join us in this effort by making a generous gift to CSS today?
Rebecca K. Esterson, Ph.D.
Rebecca K. Esterson, Ph.D.
Dean, Center for Swedenborgian Studies
Associate Professor of Sacred Texts and Traditions
Dorothea Harvey Professor of Swedenborgian Studies