When Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that the Lord God and His angels always work gently to bend our flawed desires into something that is more, noble, this does not mean that we are separated or immune from any suffering or discomfort whenever the Heavens act and try to purify us.
While The Lord removes many undesirable traits from our lives secretly and without our knowledge, conscious spiritual transformation requires real knowledge and difficult choices.
Swedenborg tells us that the trajectory of Divine Providence is to take humanity from states of evil to less evil, and even to good. But this cleansing process is lawfully intensified by our reciprocation and partnership with the Creator. We must consciously choose and endure the “ego-popping” self-discoveries that spiritual challenges bring upon us.
Our reactions to this divine cleansing influence can often be intense and lead to real agony because of what we most strongly identify with (self-centeredness—or that which we believe belongs to us from lower, worldly principles) is being criticized and challenged from above.
As the saying goes, “old habits die hard.”
Furthermore, the higher, psycho-spiritual interpretation of the Apocalypse in Revelation and other biblical battles represents the inner intensity of genuine spiritual confrontation. It is a cosmic war. Even Jesus was in a sweat as he prayed in the olive grove at Gethsemane about his future challenges (because his finite human form still contained some doubts and physical fears).
The belief that spiritual growth is always a joy can delude us and make us complacent to our spiritual responsibilities, where it becomes a real struggle to see God’s help and providence working through our various misfortunes.
Spiritual transformation is a life and death struggle between our old self and the new self that God has planned for us. So one of those selves has to die! This process can only be gentle if we receive truths sparingly and let our inner battles simmer slowly over a long period of time.
There is real evidence that Swedenborg’s own spiritual journey was harsh (especially since he left the world with a completely new dispensation from heaven—that is not yet accepted).
The more truth we acquire, the greater the battle (spiritual conflict) to incorporate those truths into genuine love and action, which emerges from a growing conscience.