College Letters

Seal of the "College of the Academy of the New Church"

College Letter No. XVI
May 1st, 1895

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For Private use of Members of the Academy of the New Church. Please read carefully and return immediately to the undersigned.

No. XVI, __ Philadelphia, May 1st, 1895=125.

DEAR FRIEND: That the year and more that has elapsed since the last College Letter, has been fruitful in history, for the Church of the Academy, especially its internal history—appears manifestly in the records of the important meetings set forth below. The recent promulgation of the doctrine concerning the Celestial quality of the Church of the Academy, culminating in the emancipation of the Priesthood from the personal assumptions of men, whether priests or laymen, marks an epoch in the Church, the momentousness of which appears plainly to the eye able to receive the light through which those doctrines have come.


By call of the Vice Chancellor, a meeting of the Academy in Philadelphia was held in the Assembly Hall, 1826 North Street, on November 8th, to listen to a report of proceedings on the first day of the Priests' Meetings, held in London the preceding August. After the opening service, Vice Chancellor Pendleton stated that since the instruction brought out at the London meetings was of marked importance to the Church, and at the same time, in large part, was of a general character, he proposed to give the members an opportunity to hear the reports of the various meetings, as they arrived from England. Those portions of the deliberations which particularly concerned the affairs of the priesthood would not be read, and for that reason the Chancellor's address in opening the meeting would be omitted. The report of the day's proceedings, however, is a connected whole by itself, as read.

The Rev. George G. Starkey then read the report, including also numbers 313 and 314 of The Heavenly Doctrine. At the close of the reading the Vice Chancellor briefly reviewed the salient points presented, and then invited remarks; not in way of discussion, but in order to give opportunity for those who might feel so inclined to express their views.

The Rev. J. F. Potts, referring to government by the office of Chief Priest as being necessarily a government vested in one man, noted the distinction between despotism and New Church government. Despotism is government by the will of man; government from the Writings is government according to the Law of the LORD. A ruler who sets himself above the law is a tyrant. A true ruler is the executor of the law under the LORD. Those who oppose the order as set forth by the Chancellor seem to suppose that he is claiming despotic power.

The Rev. George G. Starkey suggested that the attitude toward the government and teaching of the Church should be positive; we should look to good, in all things of the Church, and in any new teaching or new movement, and not concern ourselves primarily or prominently with the negative side,—with the evil that may arise from abuse of the good. The Providence which gives the good can provide for the opposite evil. The natural man, however, is disposed to be negative to spiritual progress, to new and advanced positions, and, from human prudence, to stand still in the contemplation of possibilities of evil. The LORD sets good before us, not evil. The evil He permits, but out of that also He brings good, and the means for this are all at His disposal. Therefore in considering the order of the Church we need not be concerned on account of the contingencies that may arise to disturb order. The LORD rules in and by order, and He governs for good.

The Rev. L. G. Jordan asked if the Report presented all the discussion on the subject which the meeting had brought forth,—if nothing had been omitted which might throw additional light on it; and received answer that nothing material had been omitted.

The Rev. J. F. Potts rejoiced over this development in the Church, as one which he had not expected to live to see. As to the fear of what might happen if the Chief Priest should abuse his heavy responsibility, he would simply counsel not to be afraid. If the Chief Priest should go wrong, he will be direfully punished. His punishment will be in proportion to the enormity of the evil. No tribunal will be necessary; he will be punished by the laws that rule the universe. We are better guarded by those laws than by any we could invent. Our Bishop is in bonds in his government of us.

The Rev. L. G. Jordan did not acquiesce in the views presented in the Report, as read. To the last point of the previous speaker he objected that if true it would do away with the need of subordination among priests, which need is, nevertheless, affirmed in the Writings, because Priests are liable to go wrong. The Chief Priest, too, is under this liability; but if provision be made for his punishment in such case, that will be in the line of order, and he will be in freedom so long as he does right.

Referring to the apparent paucity of doctrinal quotations in the discussion, the speaker was informed that passages were read, and that the doctrine had been fully before the meeting. He then reviewed the question from an historical standpoint, averring that the Chancellor's present teaching, as the speaker understood it, was opposite to his position in former years, when he had admitted the right of revolution, and had opposed two different ministers who had advocated such one-man rule, one of which two he had charged with Popery.

To establish a court of appeal, the speaker said, is not against the teachings of the Writings. It has been said that the proper appeal from the King, or from the High Priest, is to the LORD; but the appeal will not be the less to him if it be made through finite officials of higher degree. There is subordination of many sorts, and all must in some way come under it. The speaker could not believe that all the toil and treasure and blood that had been sacrificed—from the Magna Charta to the French Republic, in order to make the individual free—were to be thrown away. If what appears to be the Chancellor's present position were correct, would not the New Church flourish better under German and Russian militarism than in the freer United States and England? It has been the work of centuries, under the Divine Providence, to set the mind of man free. There is no arbitrary restraint in heaven. Priests there have no power as governors, specifically. Priests, on earth, are to teach truth and lead to the good of life. They have no power over a man's externals. The New Church does not bind any man by a dictum.

Rev. E. J. E. Schreck, asking the Vice Chancellor just what was meant by his placing the Report before the meeting "not for discussion," and receiving answer that every one was free to express his views, continued with the remark that he feared Mr. Jordan's conclusions gave evidence of dwelling too much on what has taken place on earth.

Mr. Jordan returned that there are no Governors in the Celestial Heaven; to which Mr. Schreck replied that there is a form of patriarchal government there. There is a chapter on ecclesiastical government, which represents the laws of government in Heaven; and government involves that there are governors. Priests are governors in Heaven.

Mr. Jordan referred to Heaven and Hell as teaching that there are no governors in that Heaven. While a copy of the work was being brought, other remarks were made. The Rev. C. T. Odhner asked what was the Chancellor's position on the question whether or not there should be several Churches, each with its chief governor, or one general Church, and only one supreme governor on earth.

He was answered that the point had not come up in the London meeting; and that it could not be decided until necessity should arise. Mr. Schreck added that the Chancellor holds that there are now two or three churches on earth, but that he has not advocated one supreme earthly governor for all.

Mr. Starkey remarked that it was unlikely that any one man would have so broad a mind as to be able to govern churches of widely different genius and requirements.

Mr. Jordan here read Heaven and Hell, n. 213-215; and then remarked that in the Spiritual Heaven the governors are not priests, but sometimes are called princes. The different heavens have various forms of government. Why should we resort to an absolute monarchy? It is an unwise choice, out of the heavenly variety.

The Vice-Chancellor said that what to the natural mind seems like absolutism, is the very opposite of absolutism, for in the New Church the LORD alone governs. Opposites appear similar in the external.

Mr. Starkey, referring to the teaching in Heaven and Hell (n. 214) that in the Celestial Heaven in matters of judgment, the less wise question the more wise, and these, the LORD—said that this really implies government by the wiser ones referred to, which they effect by the Truth; for all government is by the Truth. Good, which is the end in Divine Government, comes to man as Truth; therefore it is Truth that governs, but from good. This government takes form according to reception. On lower planes, where the reception is less spontaneous—a more sluggish and obscure perception of the Good within the Truth—there is more of submission and obedience to the governing Truth, which there takes on the form of direction or even command. But the Celestial Angels from love perceive the good which is in the Truth, when it is presented, and spontaneously carry it out. Nevertheless the presentation of that truth for their guidance is government, and those wise ones who present it are governors.

The Vice Chancellor asserted positively that there are governors in the Celestial Heaven. Mr. Jordan replied that it is declared in Heaven and Hell that in that heaven there is no intermediary between the LORD and the governed.

Mr. Schreck rejoined that what follows that teaching shows how it is to be understood. They go to the wise for instruction, so there is an intermediary. There are also preachers there—a further mediation of the Divine Truth. The priesthood is of the LORD'S government. The New Church does not have to obey the dictum of a chief priest. We combat that falsity and reject it to hell. The LORD is our Chief Priest.

The Vice Chancellor, answering a question by Mr. Jordan, said that the doctrine of government does apply to a republic also, as well as to a monarchy, but not to a democracy.

The Rev. C. T. Odhner stated that after many doubts he had at length arrived at the clear conviction that the government of one Bishop, without a court of appeal, was the only one intended and provided for the New Church. The Church must be governed by confidence in the LORD, and not, as in the world, by mutual fear and distrust. The Writings say nothing about a court of appeal, but they do teach that in the Church there must be "a mitred primate, pastors of parishes, and ministers under them." They do not subordinate the chief priest to any human authority. Moreover, subordination in the Priesthood was not intended merely for the negative object of restraining disorders, but chiefly for the positive object of the orderly promotion of uses. There must be degrees in the Priesthood, since there are degrees of uses in the Church.

Mr. Starkey called attention to the point that the LORD's government is twofold, differing according to reception; that is, whether it be received in good or in the opposite. Government in the Heavens is perfectly free, for the angels make their end and desire one with the Divine end. But in the hells it is a government of restraint; for they oppose and resist; yet they cannot escape being governed, only the good of government cannot be given within them, but is only adjoined to them, saving them from the extremity of misery and final destruction to which their own self-government would reduce them. If the Church looks to the LORD and His good, she will not need the government of restraint; but those within her borders who relinquish that end of good will come under the law of restraint, be they high or low. The others, looking steadfastly to the good in the governing Truth, will be in the stream of Providence; in order and safe. But if we try to govern ourselves, we will shut ourselves out from Divine good, will come under the government of Truth alone, of restraints and punishments.

Mr. Potts remarked that we should consider this matter without regard to the political ideas in which we have been trained. We should have some confidence in the New Church. It is not a falling Church, but a rising, a Divine Church, established by the LORD. He knows there are men who can and will receive it. Why not have faith that there is to be a NEW CHURCH, and not a set of despots? We look too much to the Roman Catholic Church—a fallen and dead Church. Absolutism is a misleading term. Absolutism is not what is contended for. The essence of the form proposed exists in every household; every man is ruler in his own household. To be sure, there is the law; but there is no council or committee, composed of the man's wife and neighbors, to keep him straight. At sea we are under absolute command of a captain, and whoever goes to sea must be very glad of that. Imagine a committee of sailors going down below to decide whether a hurricane is coming up before furling sail! There is no appeal when we are a thousand miles out at sea; yet no one has ever advocated abolishing the office of captain on account of bad captains. In the chapter on ecclesiastical government the doctrine is expressly laid down. We shall have to be governed by that, so soon as we are ready to submit to the LORD's will. That is the only chapter in the Writings that treats of government. When the LORD is silent we should be silent too.

Mr. Jordan thought Mr. Potts' illustrations unfortunate. The law steps in when the father goes against the law, and even the child may appeal to that. By the provisions of the law of Admiralty a mate can put his captain in irons under certain conditions. When the LORD is silent we are to act from human prudence. It is for that very occasion that He has given us the faculty of reason.

Mr. R. M. Glenn asked what would be done—supposing a tribunal of appeal to exist—if the tribunal itself should go wrong; and Mr. Odhner asked: "What can such a tribunal do? No pastor would wish to remain under a Bishop who is opposed to him; and no Bishop could possibly perform his work if forced to retain under him pastors who were opposed to his government.

The Rev. Homer Synnestvedt wished to state his position. He said, that it is admitted that this order is that which exists in Heaven among the angels. Their freedom lies in submission to their High Priest and his freedom—in submission to the LORD. True, we live in the natural world, and subject to its frailties; and even the well-intentioned may go astray. But this order can, nevertheless, exist here if there be charity and trust in the LORD. If we cannot have these we have no Church. The Church depends on charity from the LORD.

This heresy is not a new one—that the Supreme Church government requires supervision and restraint—the speaker had met it before. It comes from the bottom of hell; it entails the giving up of whatever of order we have. The remarks made there that evening on that line were the exact opposite of what he had been taught in the Academy Schools from his first coming to them.

Mr. Schreck averred that the fact that the New Church is one in which Charity will prevail, does not debar any one in it from going wrong. A priest may act from caprice or ignorance; he may intend to go even further than the Pope; but it is necessary that there be freedom for even the greatest evil to be done, in order that there be freedom to accomplish the greatest good. The Church, as it becomes more perfect, is liable to greater perversions. Our priests are under a very great responsibility; the greater the freedom the greater the responsibility, and the greater their punishment if they go wrong. It is possible for a perverted Church to exist individually, but the LORD will guard against the perversion of the whole Church. We must be free to do evil.

To this the Vice Chancellor added, that no man is free to do right unless he is free to do wrong.

The Rev. Enoch S. Price made the point, that the decision of a tribunal of appeal from the High Priest, would after all be only the opinion of several; and if they differed, it would be a decision by majority vote, which is democracy. It would be a mere majority opinion, which would not be so good as the opinion of one wise man. Hypatia says: "Can you get wisdom by getting the opinion of all fools?"

Mr. Jordan referred to Swedenborg's commendation of the Swedish form of government, in a letter to the Diet, where he declares that the four houses of the Diet, through which appeals could be carried successively, and to which appeals could be made even from the King, made a safe government. He said that Swedenborg denounced absolute government by one man, as a government of favorites, and of favorites of favorites.

The Rev. Alfred Acton spoke, saying that this law of the High Priesthood is laid down for the New Church, not for the Old. As the world is now constituted, unrestrained civil government by one man would be hell. That is why the New Church cannot flourish under an absolute monarchy at the present day. We are to come into the law and endeavor to be governed by it.

To this it was added that those are ready for that law who can see that the LORD actually rules His Church, and who can subordinate self-will and human prudence, in the presence of the Divine Law operating in the Church.

Mr. Reuben Walker thought it an absurdity to set up against the Higher Priesthood the judgment of the laity, or even of a lower degree of the priesthood.

On account of the lateness of the hour the meeting here closed with singing the Fifth Psalm.

* * * * * *

In this connection, Mr. Jordan wishes it to appear that his position in the above discussion was based on an incomplete understanding of the doctrine of the High Priesthood as held by the Chancellor.

It may be stated, also, that no further meetings of this kind were called, as the reports were more or less fully set forth in the pages of New Church Life, the current May number of which is expected to contain the last instalment. See also the numbers for December, 1894, and January, February, and April of this year.


PURSUANT to the call of the Chancellor, a general meeting of the Academy was held at 1826 North Street, Philadelphia, on January 16th, to consider the requirements of the civil law in regard to the corporate life of the Academy, and the best and most practicable way of meeting those requirements. As a circular letter has been sent to all members of the Academy, giving a summary of the deliberations and a statement of the action taken at that meeting—as well as the roll of members in attendance, sixty-one in all—it will be unnecessary here to more than review the same in brief.

The Chancellor in opening the meeting stated that the Academy had not been conforming to the legal requirements of the charter, in not holding annual meetings of a majority of the members, and annual elections of officers. The obstacles to the fulfillment of those requirements are the widely scattered locations of members, and the non-agreement of the principle of government held in the Academy with that of majority rule, especially in matters of the Church. The members had been invited to this meeting in order to take counsel as to the best manner of coming into conformity with the civil law without sacrifice of either principle or economy. The discussion threw light on the distinctness of the Academy as a corporation or civil body, acting under a charter derived from the civil state,—from the Academy as a Church of the LORD, acting under the Divine Law as revealed in the Writings. It was decided that the natural solution of the difficulty would be for the members to unreservedly surrender their alleged legal rights under the Charter, so as to have the Corporate functions of the body vested in law—as in fact—in the men who alone are engaged in their administration; the other members relinquishing the rights of voting or otherwise directing the affairs of the body—rights which, having never been claimed nor exercised, could hardly be said actually to exist. In order, then, to leave the hands of the Chancellor free to administer legally the civil affairs of the body—by means of qualified and competent lay officials of his selection—the members, at the conclusion of the meeting, tendered to the Chancellor their resignation, retaining, however, membership in the Church of the Academy, with all ecclesiastical rights, privileges, and duties as before. This conclusion from the deliberations was simply the unanimous opinion of those present, who, numbering considerably less than half of the total membership, could not transact business for the body; a majority vote was not wanted, but consultation and then individual action: the latter was promptly taken, as indicated by those present at this meeting.

By means of the circular letter above referred to, the matter is at present before the members of the Academy for individual deliberation and action.

It transpired that the standing of the Academy before the law has not so far been injured by the non-conformity alluded to.

CHICAGO, FEBRUARY 3D, 1893=124. top

ON the above date an Academy meeting was held at the house of Mr. Hugh L. Burnham, to hear College Letter No. XV, and to consider, especially, that part of it which treats of the Academy as a Celestial Church. After the reading, the Rev. N. D. Pendleton read a letter which he had received from the Chancellor at the time of the first annunciation of the teaching, written in reply to one by himself, asking for particulars. The reply had proved very satisfactory.

In the ensuing discussion all showed an affirmative attitude to the doctrine, but seemed desirous of further rational light upon it.


MEETINGS were held on the 13th of May and the 19th of June, for the reading and discussion of College Letter XV; the first at the house of Mr. Charles Brown, the other at the house of Mr. Robert Carswell. All the local members were present, but being only six in number, conversation takes the place of formal speeches. These opportunities for entering into the general thought of the body are much appreciated and enjoyed. Among the various toasts that to the Chancellor and his bride was prominent.

Geo.G. Starkey

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