How Temptations are excited by Evil Spirits

How Temptations are excited by Evil Spirits

Scarcely any one in the Christian world at this day knows whence temptations arise. He who undergoes them believes no otherwise than that they are torments arising from the evils which are interiorly within man, and which render him first unquiet, then anxious, and finally torment him; and he is not at all aware that they are effected by evil spirits who are with him. He is unaware of this fact because he does not believe that he is in fellowship with spirits while he lives in the world, and scarcely that there is any spirit with him; when yet as to his interiors man is continually in the society of spirits and angels. As regards temptations, they take place when a man is in the process of regeneration; for no one can be regenerated unless he also undergoes temptations. And they then arise through evil spirits who are about him; for man is then let into the state of evil in which he is,—that is, in which that which constitutes his very proprium is,—and when he comes into this state evil or infernal spirits encompass him; and when they apperceive that he is interiorly protected by angels the evil spirits excite the falsities which he had thought, and the evils that he had done; but the angels from within defend him. It is this combat which is perceived in man as temptation; but so obscurely that he scarcely knows but that it is merely an anxiety. For man, especially one who believes nothing about influx, is in a state entirely unenlightened, and scarcely apperceives a thousandth part of the things concerning which the evil spirits and angels contend; and yet at that time a contest is being waged concerning the man, and concerning his eternal salvation; and it is waged from the man, that is, from the things and concerning the things that are in the man. That this is the case it has been given me most certainly to know. I have heard the combat; I have perceived the influx; I have seen the spirits and the angels; and then and afterwards have talked with them even on that subject. Temptations, as was said, arise chiefly when a man is becoming spiritual; for then he spiritually apprehends the truths of doctrine. The man is often ignorant of this, and yet the angels with him see the spiritual things in his natural; for his interiors are then open towards heaven. And hence it is that the man who is regenerated, after his life in the world is among the angels, and there both sees and perceives the spiritual things which before appeared to him as natural. When therefore a man is such he can be defended by angels in temptation, when assaulted by evil spirits; for the angels have then a plane in which they may operate, for they flow in into the spiritual in him, and through the spiritual into the natural (AC n. 5036)

As few know the nature of temptations, it may here be briefly explained: Evil spirits never make assault against anything but what a man loves; and they assail it the more violently in proportion as he loves it more ardently. Evil genii are those who assail what has relation to the affection for good, and evil spirits are those who assail what has relation to the affection for truth. As soon as they observe the least thing that a man loves, or perceive as it were by the smell what is delightful and dear to him, they assail and endeavour to destroy it. They thus endeavour to destroy the whole man; for his life consists in his loves. Nothing is more delightful to them than thus to destroy man; nor do they ever desist, were it even to eternity, unless repelled by the Lord. Those that are malignant and cunning insinuate themselves into the very loves, by flattering them; and so they lead man into them, and presently when they have thus drawn him in they try to destroy the loves, and so to kill the man; and this in a thousand ways which are incomprehensible. Nor do they combat merely by reasoning against goods and truths. Such combats are nothing. For if defeated a thousand times they still persist; since such subtle reasonings against goods and truths can never be wanting. But they pervert goods and truths, and enkindle a sort of fire of lust and persuasion, so that the man does not know but that he is in such lust and persuasion; and these at the same time they inflame with a delight which they snatch from the man’s delight from another source, and thus most deceitfully they infect and infest; and this so artfully, by hasting from one thing to another, that if the Lord did not bring help, the man could by no means know but that it is so. In like manner they act against the affections for truth which form man’s conscience. As soon as they perceive anything whatever of conscience, they form to themselves an affection out of the falsities and infirmities in man, and by this affection they overshadow the light of truth, and so pervert it, or induce anxiety and torment him. Besides which, they tenaciously keep the thought on one thing, and so fill it with fantasies, and then at the same time clandestinely involve lusts into the fantasies. Together with innumerable other artifices, which can by no means be described to the apprehension. (ibid. n. 1820)