Equilibrium: The Balance Of The Worlds

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Equilibrium: The Balance Of The Worlds


(Spiritual Freedom) is given to man with his life as if it were his; and this is done that man may be reformed and saved; for without freedom there can be no reformation or salvation. (Heaven and Hell 597)

The Lord created the world so that there would be a heaven from the human race. He created both the spiritual and natural worlds so that people might be able to receive His life and live to eternity in heaven; and He created the universe in such a way that each person could be a vessel receiving His life and at the same time be separate from Him. This separation makes it possible for His love to be received, and then returned. To further provide for people to be able to freely return His love, He provides a spiritual environment which is kept in perfect balance or equilibrium. Our purpose today is to see the operation of this equilibrium provides a fundamental order for our spiritual lives, and makes it possible for us to make the changes necessary to prepare ourselves for heaven.

The most important function of equilibrium, or what is the same, spiritual freedom, is to make it possible for a person to express his own will, to act as if of himself, to freely enter into the joys of heaven if he wishes to – or even the freedom to embrace the insanity and filth of hell – all according to what he himself freely chooses.

Equilibrium is essential because, as to our spirits, we live between two powerful forces. On the one hand, all of hell is striving to pull us down. On the other hand, the angels of heaven are constantly working to draw us up into heaven. Both the angels and the devils are anxious that we should join them, and they would prevent our free expression of our will if they could and if it would bring us closer! Fortunately for us, the Lord holds our spiritual freedom to be the most important thing in His government, and He protects it every moment. He constantly acts to keep the spiritual forces around us in perfect dynamic balance so that we are free to act as we ourselves wish to act.

The key word in this idea is “dynamic.” We sometimes think of a balance or equilibrium as something that remains static, completely still. We may think of a scale with the pointer steady, or a sheet of financial figures that all adds up the way it’s supposed to. However, real equilibrium is achieved through the constant activity of action and reaction (See HH 589, 593). With those who are good, the activity is from within with the hells reacting to it. With those who are evil, the activity again comes from within, but the balance is achieved by the reaction of heaven.

If we are to reform our lives, we must first be free to choose to make changes in the way we live. The Lord provides our spiritual freedom by allowing us to associate, as to our spirits, with spirits from hell who love the same evil things we love. These evils spirits serve the use of serving as a conduit for that evil to come to us from hell, thus giving it life and reality in this world. We are also associated with spirits from heaven who serve to stir the good loves within us. They too serve as conduits, directing the influx of good from the Lord into our lives, giving our heavenly delights life. In order to keep us in freedom and balance, the Lord does not allow us to associate directly with angels and devils for their states are too different from ours. Instead, our closest spiritual associates are those who have recently entered the spiritual world and are still mostly in the sphere of the natural world. We still have much in common with such spirits, and they can associate comfortably with us. These associate spirits are in turn watched over by more experienced spirits, and so on, until it reaches to the Lord Himself on the one hand, or to the depth of hell on the other. This connection of one life and one state to another is what the Writings call “mediate” influx, for it flows into each man from the Lord by means of other spirits. (See HH 599-600)

Writing in the Arcana Coelestia, Swedenborg tells how he personally felt and perceived the sphere of spiritual freedom. For many years I have observed the general sphere of the influxes around me. It consisted on the one hand of a continual endeavor by the Lord to do good; by these endeavors opposite to each other I have been constantly kept in equilibrium. Such endeavors and consequent equilibrium are with every one; from this all have freedom to turn withersoever they please; but the equilibrium varies in accordance with the good or evil that reigns with the man. (AC 6477)

And in the work Heaven and Hell, he further teaches: The hells have no power on their own. Life and activity, even for the hells, is nothing but a gift from the Lord to which a person is free to respond in any way he chooses. The reason that spirits who communicate with hell are also adjoined to man is that man is born into evils of every kind, consequently his first life can only be from them. Therefore, unless spirits of a nature like his own were adjoined to man he could not live, nor indeed could he be withdrawn from his evils and reformed. He is therefore held in his own life by means of evil spirits and withheld from it by means of good spirits, and by the two kept in equilibrium. Being in equilibrium, he is in his freedom, and can be drawn away from evils and turned towards good, and good can also be implanted in him, which would not be possible at all if he were not in freedom. Freedom is not possible to man unless spirits from hell act on one side and spirits from heaven on the other, and man is in between.… (HH 293)

The Heavenly Doctrines here teach an amazing doctrine of mercy. Because of his corrupt native (or hereditary) will, a person could not live in the natural world if he were only in the association of good spirits. There would be nothing to communicate with the delights of his own spiritual life, nothing to stir his native will, nothing to arouse his reactive life, nothing to enable him to enjoy conscious life in his initial corrupt state, and as a result, he would not even be conscious! (See AC 2886,2887) Therefore, the Lord provides that evil spirits be adjoined to man so there can be a means of conjunction between the person in the world and his life inflowing in through the heavens. If he could not be adjoined to spirits who had a will similar to his own, he could not receive the influx of life through the world of spirits, and thus would not have conscious thought. If a person cannot have conscious thought, it is obvious that neither can he repent, reform, or be regenerated. Thus, without this connection with the spiritual world, we could not be prepared to enter heaven.

The Lord uses evil spirits to enliven a person’s own life, and yet still protects his freedom by using good spirits so that He Himself can subtly inflow and gently withhold the person from the lusts of his own evils.

The angels, on the one hand, seek to fight for a person against his evils. But, because they love his freedom, they hold themselves back until they are invited to help. On the other hand the devils want nothing more than to drive the person from his own body so that they can enter it and so return to the delights of the natural world (See SD 2656, D. Min. 4693, AC 4793). Obviously, as it is the devil’s intent to enslave, a person’s freedom is not highly regarded by them. The Lord, however, oversees the whole process, so that neither the hells get too strong, nor the angels too enthusiastic, and that these two forces are kept in perfect balance. Thus, any activity of a person’s will is able to move towards heaven or hell according to his own freely chosen reasons and delights.

The way spirits are adjoined to a person reflects the very nature of mankind itself. Within each of us are two conflicting, or balancing, elements: the one is our corrupt native will, the other element is a special gift from the Lord called “remains.” Remains are all those things that are good and true which are secretly implanted by the Lord in a person’s mind from the first moment of life, and which remain with him throughout his life as a kind of connection with heaven (See AC 8, 19, 561, 1906). These two elements, remains and the native hereditary evils, correspond to heaven and hell. Our conscious life exists in the place between these, and therefore corresponds to the World of Spirits. The Lord alone controls remains in order to keep them in perfect balance with the strength of the native will.

As a person matures, the kind of spirits associated with him must change. We sense this when we feel the wonderful sphere of a little newborn baby. We are actually feeling the presence of the angels who are with the baby. Little children also have their appeal, but it is a different kind of sphere, and not as strongly felt. This happens because the sphere of heaven has withdrawn as the child’s own personality and character has grown. The same process continues throughout life, only it is not so easily felt in young people and adults. The spiritual reason for this is that the mind, which is the medium of conjunction to the spiritual world, has itself changed. In infancy, the mind is sensual, interested in receiving and organizing sense impressions of the world around it as it becomes aware. In childhood, the mind opens up into the area called memory-knowledges, and from there it matures to the level of youth where there are the beginnings of rational thought. As the mind goes through this process of opening, it enters into a series of new states which correspond to new affections and therefore attract different kinds of spirits (AE 739:2,3). As these changes take place, the Lord oversees the operation, and adjoins spirits to each person in such a way that he is kept in a dynamic balance between the forces of good from heaven and the forces of evil from hell. The Lord also does this in such a way that each person is kept completely unaware of the spiritual activity surrounding him and providing a sphere in which he may exercise his freedom of choice in spiritual things.

Even if a man is of such a nature that he delights in doing evil, and deliberately chooses to do that which he knows to be evil, the Lord adjoins good spirits who, although not in his immediate presence yet, moderate that love in him, to hold him in some kind of order, and in some kind of proper thought while he yet lives in the world so that if possible he might be withheld from plunging into the deepest hell. He is still completely free to choose hell if he desires it, but he is let down into it gently, so that at any time before his actual entry into the spiritual world, it is still possible that he may see the truth, choose to obey it, and begin his life anew. (See AC 868, 929, 3318:5, 9333:2) Until a person leaves the natural world, it is always possible for him to turn away from falsity and towards truth. He can always begin to amend his life when he chooses to live the truth for himself, when he chooses to flee from evils as sins against the Lord. That is what spiritual freedom is – the ability to turn away from the loves of self and the world and turn towards the Lord by means of the truth from the Word. This can happen at any time during our life in the natural world because the Lord has provided spiritual equilibrium for us.

It is the Lord alone who maintains the balance between the forces of good and the forces of evil, for He alone has the power to do it, and He alone is without a proprium that is wholly evil and turned to hell – so nothing selfish can creep into His motives and affect His Mercy and Justice as it would if mere humans were making these decisions.

A spiritual equilibrium in its essence is freedom because it is an equilibrium between good and evil, and between truth and falsity, and these are spiritual. Therefore to be able to will either what is good or what is evil and to think either what is true or what is false, and to choose one in preference to the other, is (spiritual freedom). This freedom is given to every man by the Lord, and is never taken away; in fact, by virtue of its origin it is not man’s but the Lord’s, since it is from the Lord. Nevertheless, it is given to man with his life as if it were his; and this is done that man may be reformed and saved; for without freedom there can be no reformation or salvation.… (HH 597) AMEN.

1st Lesson: GEN 12:1-9

Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. {2} I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. {3} I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” {4} So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. {5} Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. {6} Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. {7} Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. {8} And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. {9} So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. Amen.

2nd Lesson: MAR 6:45-51

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. {46} And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. {47} Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. {48} Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. {49} And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; {50} for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” {51} Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. Amen.

3rd Lesson: DLW 68

68. Regarding the elevation of a person’s interior elements which are those of his mind, the following, too, must be known.

Everything created by God has present within it a reaction, life alone being capable of action, and the reaction is occasioned by the action of life. This reaction appears as though it were a property of the thing created because it occurs when the thing is acted upon. Thus the reaction in a person appears as though it were his, because he has no other sensation than that life is his, when in fact the person is only a recipient of life.

It is because of this that a person prompted by his evil heredity reacts against God. However, to the extent that he believes all his life to be from God, and that all goodness of life is owing to the action of God, and all evil of life to the reaction of man, to that extent his reaction becomes one of action, and the person acts in concert with God as though of himself.

The equilibrium of all things is owing to a simultaneous action and reaction, and everything must be in equilibrium.

This much has been said to keep people from believing that they ascend to God of themselves rather than from the Lord. Amen.



A Sermon by the Rev. James P Cooper


And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (REV 21:6,7)

The text this morning is taken from the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelation, and encompasses the whole of the doctrine of man’s freedom of choice in spiritual things. The Lord provides spiritual truths in super abundance for anyone to take their fill. That is, the Fountain of the Water of Life, from which He gives freely and those who then use those truths from that fountain to overcome their sins, are promised that they will inherit blessings and will be conjoined with their Heavenly Father.

There are two things that are brought out in this text that we will focus on today. The issue of freedom of choice in spiritual things and the issue of cooperation with the Divine Providence and with the Lord in our own regeneration.

As the text so clearly states, He who overcomes shall inherit all things. Notice how that is phrased: He who overcomes. Notice especially what it does not say. It does not say “he for whom I shall overcome.” The work and the effort of regeneration are ours , not the Lord’s. He who overcomes shall inherit. So this in turn leads us to consider the fourth law of the Divine Providence as was read in our lesson.

According to the list of the laws given at the end of the Apocalypse Explained, the fourth law is That the understanding and the will ought not to be in the least compelled by another since all compulsion takes away freedom, but that man ought to compel himself, for to compel oneself is to act from freedom (AE 1136).

When we think about freedom and compulsion we may think that they are mutually contradictory. How can you be free if you are compelled? Isn’t it true that you must either be free or compelled – but not both at once? It is also true that the desire to be free from restraint or compulsion from another is innate because freedom is the most precious gift that the Lord gives all people, after life itself. We all enjoy the sense that what we are doing is our own decision and from our own freedom.

Everyone has been given the ability to think about both truths and falsities and everyone has been given the ability to want to do both good and evil things. It sometimes appears to us that we can do these things simultaneously and that there is nothing that another person can do to take that ability away. Certainly the Lord will never take it away, for our freedom is that which gives us the capability of becoming unique individuals as we make our choices in life, and our freedom is the means by which we can reform our lives and eventually be regenerated by the Lord.

We have life and we have spiritual freedom from the Lord. We have hereditary tendencies to evils of every kind from our parents, and we have natural inclinations from our natural bodies. All these things, brought together, make up the vessel that is an individual human being on earth. We may freely choose from a tremendous variety of things on every level that are good or true. Think for a moment about the celestial angel. His freedom is expressed in his choices of ways to show his love to the Lord. The spiritual angel expresses his freedom in his choice of the truths that he learns so that he may act in charity toward others. The angel of the natural heaven chooses among his various duties and uses and does them with good cheer because he is serving the Lord.

If, while living in the world of nature, we choose only from natural inclinations of the body without looking any higher, the result is the drive for absolute freedom from constraint or law. Such freedom from constraint or from law is called “license,” and license is encouraged in us by the hells, because they want us to focus on the things of the world. The more we focus on the things of the world, the less time we will spend trying to understand or get spiritual things. The result is that the purely natural person believes freedom is to be free to do whatever he wants without regard for the freedoms or rights of others.

The situation in the natural world demands that there be laws for the sake of an orderly society, but there are two very different kinds of laws in the world. The first is the kind of law that people make to govern their own behavior in society, and a simple example of that would be traffic laws. It doesn’t really matter whether we drive on the left hand side or the right hand side of the road, there is nothing spiritual in that decision, we don’t need to search the Word for guidance. What is really important is that we all do it the same way. Such laws are easily broken because there is nothing inherent in them to keep them from being broken. They are nothing more than an expression of society’s consensus of how things ought to work at a particular time and place.

The other kind of law is the description of the observed behavior of things and systems. We sometimes call it “Science.” For example, the law of gravity is a description of an order or a power that binds the things of the universe together in an orderly and predictable way. The law of gravity cannot be broken, it can only be applied.

Sometimes people will say in casual conversation that an airplane is a device that “defies the law of gravity.” But when we reflect on it for a moment, it can be easily seen that a device that flies through the air doesn’t defy any physical laws, but that its flight depends on the constant an unchanging nature of the law of gravity and other physical laws to operate safely.

Both kinds of laws have this in common, that they describe how things work. Either they describe the relationships of objects and forces in the physical universe (such as the law of gravity), or they are descriptions of how individuals ought to behave in society, such as the traffic laws.

When we think about the laws of the Divine Providence we must be careful to distinguish between which kind of laws they are. The laws of the Divine Providence are not restrictions on the Divine, which leads to people asking the absurd question “Can the Lord make a rock that is too heavy for Him to lift?” That’s a trick question, a play of words designed to confuse and to detract from the idea. Instead, the laws of the Divine Providence are descriptions of the principles by which He operates. It’s not paradoxical to speak about laws of order or laws of providence for these laws do not in any way restrict God. These laws exist to teach us how we can understand the principles from which and through which He acts in our lives. Thus the Lord can have laws of providence and still be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent because the laws are from Him and simply describe to us the way in which He governs His created Universe.

If we can see that the Lord can operate according to laws and still be entirely free, can we not also see that the laws that come from within ourselves do not restrict our own freedom, for they are simply the forms through which our will presents itself to the outside world? On the other hand, when laws come from outside, from another person or agency, and they are opposed to what we ourselves believe and feel, when they are opposed to what we want to do, when we feel that we are being compelled by another, we immediately rebel because we feel that we are no longer in freedom.

We see this all the time in our relationships with others. The minute we sense that someone is trying to force us to do something, we immediately set up our defenses. On the other hand we know from many different experiences that if we want to get someone else to do something for us we cannot simply issue a command but instead we try to find a way to introduce the idea to the other person so that it appears that it was his idea in the first place. If we can do that, he is then likely to happily go along with it.

True freedom is heavenly freedom as the angels have it. The freedom of angels is the action of their wills, their desires that are within themselves, upon the various truths that they have in their understandings from the Word. The will then selects those truths, those areas of wisdom that are appropriate to itself, and they are then free to act according to their loves through the wisdom that they have. What compels them to do this is their own will and the delight that they feel from doing what is good from the Lord. Thus their compulsion is from within, from their own will and they can do whatever they want to do. An angel’s freedom is complete because he only wants to do what is good and thus is totally free to express any love that he feels.

Unfortunately we can’t have that kind of freedom while we are yet on earth. We each have this freedom within us as a potential, from creation, but its nature is determined by the nature of our will. Each of us is born with a will that delights in expressing a mixture of hereditary tendencies to evil, affections of good and truth, and loves that we have made our own through choice and practice.

While our minds remain free to contemplate good and evil, truth and falsity, we are restrained from acting according to our every passing desire by a fear of punishment, and because of breaking the laws of human society, we are totally free to think about things while we are in this world but we do not have license to act totally according to our will because it’s mixed, because its full of evil, because we will then do harm to others.

We are taught through the doctrines that what makes a person is his loves, and before regeneration the loves that make up our character are not unified, they are not one, but are made up of literally thousands of competing desires and affections, both good and evil. Therefore during temptation the various loves fight one against another for dominance within us. When one love wins, the other opposite love must necessarily have lost. Since the delight of our life was in the losing love as well, we feel that the freedom and delight that we had from that love are gone. We feel that our very life and freedom are in question. And yet, at that very moment we have overcome some evil, we feel that we are actually the most free because we are choosing for ourselves to do what we know to be right according to the Word.

It’s important to note that we have to first shun evil before we can do good because to have good we have to make room for it, we have to move the opposing evil, otherwise they mix themselves in our minds. A thief who steals a particular object but still plans other thefts has not rejected his love of evil by doing the opposite good, for he still believes that stealing is right for him. An adulterer is not reformed by spending time at home with his family while in his mind he plans the next seduction. Both the thief and the adulterer must see the evil that lies behind their actions, search it out, see it for what it is and then flee from it as if from hell. They must see that what they have been doing is wrong and shun it before the opposite good can have any spiritual effect.

When a man does a good deed the Lord gives him a love of doing that good. When a man does an evil deed he confirms and appropriates to himself the delight in doing that evil. A man must first sun the evil before doing good so that there will be room for the good love, so that the evil will be removed and the good love can take its place. If this does not happen then good and evil become mixed in his mind and then they can only be separated by a long and painful vastation after death.

We are told that man’s conscience begins as a gift from the Lord. His freedom and his heavenly proprium are also gifts from the Lord, everything in man is first borrowed from the Lord and then made his own or appropriated to his own through his use of it in freedom of choice. While man in and of himself may be nothing but a vessel of life, he is not nothing, by using the things which the Lord gives him throughout life and in the combats of temptation, he forms the vessel that is the essential individual, stripped of all gifts. By borrowing freedom and using it he forms the unique vessel that can receive and react in a unique way to the influx of life that flows in from the Lord.

The Arcana teaches that it is a universal law that all that which is good and true is inseminated in freedom, for otherwise the ground cannot possibly receive and cherish that which is good, and in fact there is no ground in which the seed can grow (See AC 1937:e).

We read further in the Divine Providence that the internal of thought cannot be forced by any fear; it can be compelled by love and the fear of failing to love. In the true sense, fear of God is nothing else. To be compelled by love and by the fear of failing in it is self-compulsion . . . and is not contrary to freedom and rationality (See DP 136:e).

According to the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church, self-compulsion, which is essential to regeneration and to our own sense of personal freedom, is nothing other than acting according to our own will. If the will has been made new by the Lord through as-from-self conquests in temptation, then it feels wonderful to compel oneself. If one does not really want to do truth, but knows that he should, and thus tries, he can still feel delight in the attempt, because the Lord implants the appropriate affections in him. If he only acts according to the law because of fear, or to hide his evils from others, he burns with his lusts, and chafes under the slavery to his own evil which is called “hellish freedom.”

We close by reading from the Arcana number 1937: In all freedom there is man’s life, because there is his love. Whatever a man does from love appears to him free. But in this freedom, when a man is compelling himself to resist what is evil and false, and to do what is good, there is heavenly love, which the Lord then insinuates, and through which He creates the man’s (heavenly) proprium (AC 1937:6). AMEN.

1st Lesson: REV 21:1-8

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. {2} Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. {3} And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. {4} “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” {5} Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” {6} And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. {7} “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. {8} “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Amen.

2nd Lesson: AE 1136:2-10

The laws of order which are called the laws of Divine Providence are the following:

(1) Man does not feel and perceive and thus know otherwise than that life is in him, that is, that he thinks and wills from himself, and thus speaks and acts from himself; and yet he may acknowledge and believe that the truths that he thinks and speaks and the goods that he wills and does are from God, thus as if they were from himself;

(2) Man does what he does from freedom according to reason, and yet he may acknowledge and believe that the very freedom that he has is from God; and the same is true of his very reason, viewed in itself, which is called rationality.

(3) To think and speak truth and to will and do good from freedom according to reason is not from oneself but from God; and to think and to speak falsity and to will and do evil from freedom is not from oneself but from hell; and yet in such a way that while the falsity and evil are from hell, the freedom itself, regarded in itself, and the ability itself to think, will, speak, and do, regarded in itself, are from God.

(4) Man’s understanding and will must not be compelled by another in the least, since all compulsion by another takes away freedom, but man himself should compel himself, for to compel oneself is to act from freedom.

(5) From sense and perception man does not know in himself how good and truth flow in from God and how evil and falsity flow in from hell; nor does he see how the Divine Providence operates in favor of good against evil; if he did he could not act from freedom according to reason as if from himself; it is sufficient for him to know and acknowledge this from the Word and from the doctrine of the church.

(6) Man is not reformed by external means but by internal means; by external means miracles and visions, also fears and punishments are meant; by internal means truths and goods from the Word and from the doctrine of the church and looking to the Lord are meant; for these means enter by an internal way, and remove the evils and falsities that have their seat within, while external means enter by an external way and do not remove evils and falsities but shut them in. Nevertheless, man may be further reformed by external means when he has previously been reformed by internal means; but a man that has not been reformed is merely withheld by external means, which are fears and punishments, from speaking and doing the evils and falsities that he thinks and that he wills.

(7) Man is let into truths of faith and goods of love by God only so far as he can be kept in them until the end of life; for it is better that he should continue to be evil than that he should be good and afterwards evil, for he thus becomes profane. This is the chief reason why evil is permitted.

(8) God continually withdraws man from evils so far as man is willing from freedom to be withdrawn. So far as man can be withdrawn from evil God leads him to good and thus to heaven. But so far as man cannot be withdrawn from evils God cannot lead him to good and thus to heaven; for so far as man has been withdrawn from evils so far he from God does good that is in itself good, but so far as he has not been withdrawn from evils so far he from himself does good that has evil within it.

(9) God does not teach man truths either from Himself or through angels immediately; but He teaches by means of the Word, preaching, reading, and conversation and communication with others, and thus by thoughts with himself about these things. Man is then enlightened in the measure of his affection of truth from use. Otherwise man could not act as from himself.

(10) Man from his own prudence has led himself to eminence and opulence, when these lead him astray; for by the Divine providence man is led only to such things as do not lead astray and as are serviceable to eternal life; for all things of the Divine providence with man look to what is eternal, since the life which is God, from which man is man, is eternal life. Amen.

 Bible Meanings Home






A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Lake Helen, Florida, June 7, 1992

“And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them: You are those who justify yourselves before me, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God'” ( Luke 16:14,15).

One of the most common weaknesses of mankind, yet one of the most deadly, is the tendency to justify one’s actions or behavior regardless of their nature. We are all guilty of doing this, and yet, sad to say, if this becomes a habit and becomes deeply entrenched by constant repetition, salvation becomes impossible until we overcome it. If we indulge this instinctive evil without restraint, we cannot even begin to regenerate, for we destroy for ourselves the means provided for our regeneration.

The Word teaches clearly and unequivocally that everything good and true comes from the Lord. He is the source of all spiritual and natural life. We are only vessels who receive these Divine gifts from Him. But we are not passive vessels. We are endowed with the ability to respond, as of ourselves, to the influx which we receive, both directly from the Lord into our souls and mediately through heaven into our minds. We can respond, according to order, by using our life, and the good and truth we receive from the Lord, for use; or we can respond by using these things for our own satisfaction, pleasure and advancement.

When we adopt the latter course we enter into a denial that we receive everything by influx, and we ascribe good and truth to ourselves. That is, we regard ourselves as the source of the truths we understand and speak and the goods that we do. Nevertheless, we are told by the Lord: “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:26).

However, the Lord gives us these gifts of life, love and wisdom in such a way that we feel them to be our own so that we can enjoy their blessings. If we allow ourselves to be deceived by the appearance, we are inevitably led into evil. For since we do not acknowledge them as gifts from the Lord, we feel no responsibility for using the gifts for their intended purpose. Instead, we use them for the gratification of selfish loves, pleasures and ambitions.

The Writings declare: “So long as a person believes that he does all things from self, both goods and evils, so long goods do not affect him and evils adhere to him; but the moment that a person acknowledges and believes that goods flow in from the Lord and not from self, and that evils are from hell, then goods affect him and evils do not adhere to him, and, moreover, insofar as goods affect him, so far evils are removed, thus the person is purified and liberated from them” (AC 10219:3).

The evil of self-justification arises when a person ascribes all things to self. If we truly acknowledged that good and truth flow in from the Lord through heaven and evil and falsity from hell, we would neither claim merit for our goods and truths, nor would we seek to justify our evils. But when we ascribe the things we feel, think, do and say to self, then when evil is revealed in us, we automatically seek to justify ourselves and our actions, for if we acknowledge our evils to be evils then, because we attribute every thing to self, we must condemn ourselves.

We see from this that the tendency to justify one’s faults, errors and evils springs from the false and mistaken idea that we live of ourselves and therefore are not accountable to God for the way we live.

All evil allures and deceives the mind, for all evil arises from, and seeks to satisfy, the loves of self and the world. “These loves,” we read, “like the unseen currents of a river, continually draw the thought and will of man away from the Lord to self, and away from heaven to the world, thus away from … truths and goods to falsities and evils” (AC 9348). Because of this, when a person is in evils of life, he seeks falsities which are in agreement with his evil, and finds truths distasteful, for they are not in harmony with a love of evil. We have this teaching: “Evil of life is attended with its own falsity, which falsity lies hidden in the person who is in evil of life, and sometimes the person is not aware that it is in him; but as soon as he hears or thinks truth, then this falsity comes forth, and if it cannot deny the truth outright, it seeks to explain it in favor of its own evil, and thus falsifies the truth” (AC 8094).

When we love evil, this affection continually inflows into the rational faculty, and a kind of fallacious light pours in from the fire of the affections of evil, and causes us to see falsities as truths. “That every principle whatever,” the Writings say “… when once taken up, can be confirmed by innumerable things, and be presented in the outward form as if it were truth itself, may be known to everyone. Hence come heresies, from which, when once confirmed, the person never recedes. Yet from a false principle nothing but falsities can flow; and even if truths are interlarded among them, they become truths falsified when used to confirm a false principle because they are contaminated by its essence” (AC 2385:3).

“A person who is in evil as to life is in the falsity of that evil, and does not believe the truth however well he knows it. He sometimes supposes that he believes, but he is mistaken. That he does not believe will be granted him to know in the other life when his perceiving is reduced into agreement with his willing. Then the person will disown, hold in aversion, and reject the truth, and will acknowledge as truth that which is contrary, that is, falsity” (AC 7950:3).

This may all seem a bit abstract, and yet it has a very practical bearing on life. The tendency to justify one’s evils exhibits itself very early in life. The little child when caught doing something which he is forbidden to do learns very quickly to make excuses for himself. It does not take a child long to learn that if he can make it appear as though his motives were good, he may be pardoned. Or he tries to make it appear that he was forced against his will, by circumstances, to do it. With children and young people these excuses are usually transparent. But as we grow older, if we habitually justify everything we do, we develop this art to a fine point of subtlety, so that at length we may even begin to deceive ourselves.

Truth exposes evil. It is like a spotlight shining into a dark room. When our eyes are accustomed to the dark we cannot bear the light, so we either close our eyes and turn our backs, or we blot out the light, or perhaps we direct the beam elsewhere so that its light does not shine on us. That is, when one of our faults or evils is exposed by the light of truth, we tend to close our mind to it, refusing to see its application to ourselves, or we may try to extinguish it by denying it, or else we may try to show that it does not apply to us, and direct the light of truth toward others.

The Writings tell us that the difficulty of resisting evils increases so far as we do them from delight. For in the same measure we become accustomed to them until we no longer see them, and at length love them and from the delight of love excuse them and confirm them by every kind of fallacy, and declare them to be allowable and good. “This is the fate,” the Writings state, “of those who in early youth plunge into evils without restraint, and also reject Divine things from the heart” (HH 533).

The tendency to justify our faults, errors and evils is one which we must be watchful for. As we grow up, certain things become habitual and customary, and therefore delight is associated with them. We tend to think that whatever is customary or widely practiced is good. What we often fail to realize is that humanity and society, like ourselves, are unregenerate and therefore motivated by selfish loves and worldly pleasures, and therefore many customary ways of living and acting which we love are actually evil. Whatever springs from evil is evil.

It is not enough to acknowledge that we love evil generally, for such an acknowledgment does not change our life. If we do not acknowledge specific evils we continue to delight in them and confirm ourselves in them (see AC 8390). Of those who do this it is said in Jeremiah: “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods … and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say: We are delivered to do all these abominations’? … Therefore I will do to this house, which is called by My name, in which you trust … as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight … The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. Do they provoke Me to anger?’ says the Lord. Do they not provoke themselves to the shame of their own faces?'” (Jeremiah 7:8-10,14,15,18,19)

This passage from the Scripture makes it clear that the acknowledgment of the Lord without living according to His Divine truth is not enough. To do this is to stand in the house called by His name, and make cakes to other gods to the shame of our own faces. The Writings say: “He who wills good does good; but he who does not do good, however he may say that he wills good, still does not will it when he does not do it” (AC 3934:7). I want to focus on this statement for a moment on some of its implications.

Good in many places in the Writings is defined as use. This means that if we really love a use, we will be willing to perform it when opportunity is granted. If we are not willing to perform it, we do not really love it, no matter how we may seek to justify our refusal. Love is the life of man. What we really love we seek and find the opportunity to do.

The performance of uses, especially those uses for which we receive no monetary reward, seems opposed to our happiness and well-being. It seems to deprive us of the opportunity of enjoying pleasures. So when we are called upon to perform uses which we think will interfere with pleasure, we seek to justify our refusal. We do this in various ways. We may hide behind a facade of humility, or we may turn the spotlight on somebody else whom we claim would be more suitable, or we may belittle the use itself and thus destroy it in an effort to justify our unwillingness to do it.

Use is good. The neglect of uses in favor of self and worldly gain and pleasure is evil. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” We would recall the teaching that evil which a person has justified by reason and confirmed by life cannot be removed to eternity unless the person repents of it in the world (see AC 4172). For in the process of justifying evils man destroys his rational faculty and thus his essential humanity (see AC 4156e). When a truth is presented which makes us uncomfortable, we must guard lest we close our mind to it, for, the Writings say: “Nothing … is of more importance to man than to know what is true” (AC 794). “To think from the truth is the truly human principle” (DP 321:5; cf. TCR 354:3).

If we would be inhabitants of the Lord’s kingdom, both here and hereafter, we must be willing to acknowledge His truth as our sole guide in life. We must be willing, at all times, to acknowledge our faults, errors and evils, and strenuously resist the temptation to justify them. If we do not, we end up either rejecting or profaning Divine truth. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come. We must keep our minds open to the shining light of truth. We must have the intellectual honesty to recognize evils in ourselves and disorders in our lives and in society. We must have the courage to acknowledge them, and the resolution, strength, fortitude and determination to rectify them. Amen.

Lessons: I Sam. 15:1-23, Jer. 7:1,2,8-28, AC 5096

Arcana Coelestia 5096

“Who were bound in the prison house.” That this signifies which were among falsities is evident from the signification of “being bound in a prison house” as being to be among falsities (n. 4958, 5037, 5038, 5085). They who are in falsities, and still more they who are in evils, are said to be “bound” and in “prison” not that they are in any bond, but for the reason that they are not in freedom, for those who are not in freedom are interiorly bound. For they who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth; and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth, and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves.

They are such as not at all to admit truths, but to reflect or strike them back again, and this with hardness according to the degree of the persuasion, especially when the falsity is from evil, or when evil has persuaded them. These are they who are meant in the Lord’s parable in Matthew: “Some seeds fell upon the hard way, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matthew 13:4);

the “seeds” are Divine truths; the “hard rock” is persuasion; the “birds” are principles of falsity. They who are such do not even know that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are affected with their own falsity, and love it for the sake of the evil from which it springs; hence they suppose that they are in freedom, for whatever is of the affection or love appears free. But they who are not in confirmed falsity that is, in the persuasion of falsity easily admit truths, and see and choose them and are affected with them, and afterward see falsities as it were beneath themselves, and also see how they who are in the persuasion of falsity are bound. These are in so much freedom that in view and thought they can as it were range through the whole heaven to innumerable truths; but no one can be in this freedom unless he is in good; for from good, man is in heaven, and in heaven truths appear from good.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida April 26, 1992

“Love is the life of man” (DLW 1).

Through the ages philosophers have wrestled in vain with the question, What is life? Scientists reluctantly admit that they do not know what life is, though some are confident that they will create it in the laboratory. The Writings, however, answer this question very simply and directly, saying: “Love is the life of man.” One may wonder, If the answer to this question is truly that simple, why have people not discovered the answer before this? The answer is that man cannot discover this from human intelligence. Life is Divine, and only the author of life can reveal its origin and nature.

There is another reason why this vital truth has not been known. The human mind is first formed from appearances, which can be put off only with great difficulty. For confirmation of this, take as an example the fact that it took untold centuries for mankind to see through the appearance that the world is flat. Until comparatively recent times people regarded the earth as the center of the universe. Also until relatively recent times, matter was believed to be solid. Now we know that it is not, despite the appearance that it is. When we were children we had to be told that the sun does not rise and set, that in fact the earth revolves on its axis. We, as children, unconsciously believed that everything revolved around ourselves. That is the way it appeared to us. In fact, all things we sense are only appearances of realities that are beyond sensual experience.

The appearances by which the mind is formed cannot be dispersed except by the exploration of causes. People did not discover the nature of matter until they began to wonder why matter behaved in certain ways under certain conditions. As they began to search for the causes, they began to learn more about the real nature of matter.

This same principle applies to our knowledge of the nature of life. We cannot discover the nature of life until we rid our minds of the appearances with which they are imbued from infancy, and look to causes. As the cause is on a higher plane than the effect, we must look for our answer in the pages of Divine revelation wherein are revealed the spiritual causes of all things natural.

The Word states that love is the very essence of man’s life. Everyone who reflects on this statement can see that it is true. For it is plain that the inmost vitality of human beings is from love. When love is present we grow warm; when it is absent we grow cold (see HH 14).

Because love is the life of man, it can be said that we are what we love. That is, we are what we love above all else. We are our ruling love! People have many loves which appear under many and varied forms, but all loves are subordinate to, and derivations of, the ruling love. The ruling love may be likened to the head of a kingdom who governs and controls his subjects, and through them achieves his ends, both directly and indirectly.

That which one loves above all else is continually in the thought and will. For instance, if a person loves riches above all else, he continually revolves in his mind how he may obtain them. We read: “He inmostly rejoices when he acquires them; he grieves inmostly when he loses them; his heart is in them. He who loves himself above all things regards himself in each thing: he thinks of himself, he speaks of himself, he acts for the sake of himself” (NJHD 55). The ruling love is in the will like the hidden current of a river bearing us on even when we are seemingly engrossed in other things. It is the animating force in all that we do. For we like to think about and do that which we love (see NJHD 56,57; Life 1).

The Word teaches that there are two loves from which all other loves are derived, and to which all loves may be referred. “The love which is the head of all heavenly loves, or to which they all relate, is love to the Lord; and the love which is the head of all infernal loves, or to which they all relate, is the love of rule springing from the love of self. These two loves are diametrically opposed to each other” (DLW 141).

This teaching makes it clear that all of our loves are either heavenly in origin or opposed to heavenly love, and thus to the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of when He said to the Pharisees: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30). We would note that these words were addressed to the Pharisees, who are described by the Lord as being those who “say and do not do” (Matt. 23:3). They are also called “hypocrites” (Luke 12:1). This is significant. It means that these words apply especially to all those who are in the habit of living contrary to what they profess with the lips.

It is important for us to be aware of the fact that there is no such thing as a neutral love or affection. All loves and affections spring from the Lord and look to Him, or they spring from hell and look to self. We all tend, when we see an evil in ourselves, to pardon it by saying that it is not really evil; it just isn’t good. Then there are times when we are afraid to examine an affection because we suspect it of being evil in origin. We think if we don’t know its origin it will do us no harm; at least that is our hope. To the extent that we do this, we delude ourselves. The Lord’s words are clear and unmistakable: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30).

Now it is true that we are given freedom of choice, the freedom to choose heavenly loves or infernal loves and make them our own. But this does not make us neutral. Freedom of choice is a God-given faculty; it is not ours. We are what we love. Our ruling love is our life, and our spiritual quality is according to this dominant love. That love our ruling love looks either to the Lord or away from Him toward self.

We see from the doctrine here presented that our text, “Love is the life of man,” is not merely a philosophical abstraction. It is a fundamental truth, with an eminently practical application. In the light of Divine truth we should examine our loves objectively, with a view to determining their origin and quality. To help us in this task we ought to examine our delights. They give us an indication of what we love, for we delight in what we love.

If a person delights in personal praise and the submission of others to self, either in actuality or fantasy, that person loves self more than others. If one delights in obscenity, in thought or deed, or if one delights in reading salacious literature, he is in the lust of adultery; for such things are opposed to conjugial love, which is from the Lord. If we delight in the things of this world, in its luxuries and comforts, in its sports, recreations and entertainments more than we do in spiritual riches, which are goods and truths from the Word applied to uses, or in spiritual recreations which are worship, feasts of charity and discussion of the doctrines of the church looking to use, then we may know that we love the world more than heaven, and ourselves more than the Lord and our neighbor.

Another test that we may apply in determining the quality of our loves is examining the things that we are willing to sacrifice for. We are willing to make sacrifices for things we love sacrifices in time, energy and money. The truth of this is obvious. There is a well known saying that we always find time for the things we love. Another is that if we love a thing enough we will pay any price for it. And again it is said that if a person really loves a thing, no amount of work will keep him from it. The strength of our loves can be measured by the sacrifices we are willing to make on account of the things we love.

This test is easier to make than the former test because it deals primarily with deeds rather than our thoughts and imaginations. Although it is easier to make, it may be more revealing and personally embarrassing, and for this reason we may seek to avoid it. Nevertheless, if we would know what our loves are, indeed what we ourselves are, we must examine ourselves fearlessly and objectively.

We should ask ourselves, Do we set aside time for reading and meditating on the Word of God? Do we make regular provision for attending church in order to worship the Lord, and attend church functions in order to promote our spiritual development? How does this compare with the time we set aside for worldly recreation and entertainment? How much money do we spend on luxuries, and how does it compare with the amount we devote to the maintenance of the Lord’s church and the promotion of its uses? How much of our energy do we expend in serving our family and our church, and how much in doing things that focus on self? I am not suggesting they have to be equal, or even nearly equal, but there should be a rational relationship that represents a solid commitment to the things of eternal life.

The answers to these questions will give us an indication of our spiritual state. As we apply the same principle to our many other loves we will see more clearly the nature of our ruling love. We will be able to see whether the things we love most derive their quality from the loves of self and the world or from love to the Lord and the neighbor.

The spiritual need for self-examination is enjoined on us many times in the Writings. Repentance is said to be the first of the church in man. But repentance must be preceded by self-examination, for we can repent only of evils which we have discovered in ourselves after examining our delights and our loves.

If we do this sincerely, we are bound to find evil, for we are born with tendencies toward evils of every kind. The recognition of evil in ourselves should not surprise us, nor cause us to despair, for while we live in this world we have the possibility of changing our loves. Indeed, we are placed in this world so that we may freely choose those loves which we wish to make our own, and that these loves may become permanent, fixed and enduring in the world of space and time.

When we leave this world, our loves cannot be changed. We lose the ultimate plane, that is, it becomes quiescent and can no longer be active. This is what is meant by the statement, “As the tree falls, so shall it lie” (Ecc. 11:3). Therefore, we are told that after death each person becomes his own love, both as to his interiors and as to his face and body, and that he associates with those who are in similar loves.

Those who have chosen and confirmed good loves appear beautiful and fair, while those who love evil become dark, ugly and misshapen. Those who love what is good are intelligent and wise, while those who delight in evil are stupid and idiotic (see HH 281:2). This takes place for the reason that one’s life is one’s love, and in the spiritual world, where appearances are stripped away, a person’s loves appear in the externals of one’s life.

In conclusion, we would recall a story recorded in the gospels. When a woman who was a sinner was being accused in the Lord’s presence, the Lord said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). Evils are forgiven when we repent of them, and we repent of evils only in the measure that we love what is good and true.

If we would regenerate, we must begin by examining our delights and our deeds in the light of the Lord’s exhortation: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-22). Amen.

Lessons: Deut. 29:10-21, 30:15-20; Luke 7:36-48; HH 480

Heaven and Hell 480

Man after death continues to eternity such as his will or ruling love is. This, too, has been confirmed by abundant experience. I have been permitted to talk with some who lived two thousand years ago, and whose lives are described in history and thus known, and I found that they continued to be just the same as they were described, that is, in respect to the love out of which and according to which their lives were formed. There were others known to history that had lived seventeen centuries ago, others that had lived four centuries ago, and three, and so on, with whom I was permitted to talk, and I found that the same affection still ruled in them, with no other difference than that the delights of their love were turned into such things as correspond. The angels declare that the life of the ruling love is never changed in anyone even to eternity, since everyone is his love; consequently, to change that love in a spirit is to take away or extinguish his life; and for the reason that man after death is no longer capable of being reformed by instruction, as in the world, because the outmost plane, which consists of natural knowledges and affections, is then quiescent and not being spiritual cannot be opened (see above, n. 464); and upon that plane the interiors pertaining to the mind and disposition rest as a house rests on its foundation; and on this account such as the life of one’s love had been in the world, such he continues to be to eternity. The angels are greatly surprised that man does not know that everyone is such as his ruling love is, and that many believe that they may be saved by mercy apart from means, or by faith alone, whatever their life may be; also that they do not know that Divine mercy works by means, and that it consists in man’s being led by the Lord, both in the world and afterwards to eternity, and that those who do not live in evils are led by the Divine mercy; and finally that faith is affection for truth going forth from heavenly love, which is from the Lord.


A Sermon by Rev. Andrew M. T. Dibb
Cataloged May 4, 1997

I am often asked why things happen: why are there husbands who abuse their wives, and parents who abuse their children? Why are there wars in which millions are killed, hurt, maimed, starved, and deprived of essential human rights? Why are animals hurt, abandoned and abused? Why do people inflict terrible things on others?

And why, in counterpoint to the horrors of the world, are there people like Mother Theresa and countless other people who dedicate their lives so that others may prosper – people to bind the wounds of others and bring order from disorder?

In order to fully answer these questions, let’s look at three different scenarios:

1. The first is the well known story of King David, who, seeing Bathsheba, lusted for her. First he seduced her, and then, when she found herself pregnant, he engineered to have her husband, Uriah the Hittite, slain in battle.

2. In the second scenario we are shown two men who went into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector. When the Pharisee began to pray, he lifted his eyes up to heaven and said: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18: 11). “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12).

3. In the third scenario we see the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, also praying. As He prayed, He was in agony, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. The words of His prayer are poignant: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

These three scenarios contain a vital key to understanding why people react differently and as a result either inflict terrible harm on others or do good. It also helps us to see the vast middle ground between the two. As we examine these teachings more closely, it is useful for us to see where we personally fit into this scale of things, for each one of us impacts the world in one way or another, either good or evil.

Human behavior is regulated by many things: in this world we have constitutions, laws, police and courts to keep us in order. On a far greater scale, however, we find the laws of the Lord’s Divine Providence governing our lives. These laws were made by the Lord Himself, and they regulate human behavior on an inner level.

The first and most important of these laws is that all people should act in freedom according to their reason. Civil governments may restrict our freedom to act in certain ways, but they can never restrict our desire to act, nor can civil governments ever cause us to think or feel in specific ways, even though they may try.

The Lord created each one of us to be in full control over our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we surrender that control to another, but if we do, still we do so of our own free will and accord. We could resist if we wanted to.

Freedom in spiritual things is the most precious gift the Lord has given us; no matter what our circumstances are, we are still free to establish a relationship with the Lord. Either we can turn to Him and invite Him into our lives, or we can reject Him. No matter what we do, our relationship with the Lord is determined by freedom.

Spiritual freedom is what makes us people; animals have no such freedom. They cannot turn against their instinct. Their lives are pre-determined for them. Thus we could say that their relationship with the Lord is pre-determined by the Lord Himself.

Because we have freedom in spiritual things, we can, within the constraints of the world around us, behave in any way we see fit. Thus we see three distinct types of behavior in our three scenarios:

1 . King David exercised his freedom when he decided to act on the lowest things with a person: he saw Bathsheba, lusted after her, committed adultery and murder. No one forced him to do these things; he chose, in his own freedom, to follow the lusts of his heart along whatever paths they would lead. In the story there is no evidence that he ever applied spiritual brakes, saying: “This is wrong; I shouldn’t do this.’

The kind of freedom David exercised is called natural freedom, and this is the lowest kind of spiritual freedom. We act according to natural freedom when we simply do what we want and forget the pain we cause other people.

Left to themselves, people who never apply spiritual brakes will always rush into evil. Think of the evils that exist in the world, and let us ask ourselves: “Would these evils exist if people stopped to think of what they are doing? if they submitted themselves to a higher authority than just their feelings?” The answer is no; evil would not exist in its open form. We see the terrible abuses in the world around us, on both a grand and a pathetically small scale. An abused child is the result of an adult who never checks him- or herself. Wars are caused by leaders consumed by greed, or ideology, or fear, and who give in to their instinct.

In many ways we share this lowest freedom with animals – and truly a person who always only does what he or she wants to do is little better than an animal.

2. The example of David contrasts sharply with the example of the Pharisee in the temple. His prayer was one of thanks that he was not like other men. He did not do bad things, and certainly did good things.

This example illustrates the second level of our spiritual freedom: the freedom to put on an external facade of goodness, not actually being good inside. Exercising this freedom is both useful and dangerous.

It is useful as far as maintaining order is concerned. The Pharisee did not lie, cheat and steal. He lived an ostensibly good and useful life, and so contributed to society. But his behavior was dangerous in that while giving the impression of being good, he still was not actually good. He had not learned spiritual qualities or values, like charity and humility. His baser instincts boiled just below the surface; they erupted into pride and arrogance.

The Writings call this second kind of freedom rational freedom, because it arises in our intellect and is carried into practice. A person like this Pharisee who exercises this freedom deliberately chooses to behave in socially approved ways for the sake of his own advantage. We could say that a person like this has a veneer of civility, but that veneer gets awfully thin sometimes.

3 . The third example of spiritual freedom is the Lord Himself: He exercised a spiritual freedom when He was willing to suffer and undergo torment for other people. There was a part of the Lord that really wanted to give up, to do what came naturally. He could so easily have avoided the cross. The thief crucified next to Him actually tempted Him to save Himself from the cross. But that would not have been good for the human race – it would have removed our freedom, and so He resisted it.

At the same time the Lord could have exercised a rational freedom: He could have organized it that His pain and suffering on the cross were merely a stage effect. But that would have been wrong as well. When He prayed in Gethsemane His agony was real – His sweat was like great drops of blood. And when He was on the cross and cried out, His pain was real. It was no stage effect.

The Lord chose to exercise the most important type of freedom available to the human race: spiritual freedom. This is the freedom to act against our basic instincts; it is the freedom to act against a mere sham of a life. It is the freedom to control our negative thoughts and feelings and bring them into spiritual order.

If only all people did this, the horrors of this world would cease to exist. Think of what would have happened if David had chosen to exercise true spiritual freedom rather than just indulging his lusts; he would not have corrupted Bathsheba by committing adultery with her. He would not have murdered Uriah the Hittite, and implicated his general, Joab, in the crime. There would have been no baby born out of adultery, who suffered a lingering illness that finally killed him. David’s life and the life of those around him would have been so different.

And what would have happened if the Pharisee had chosen to extend his good acts from merely a form of behavior into actually cleaning the inside of his cup? Surely his prayer in the temple would have been different. He could have offered up his attempts at a spiritual life as a gift to God rather than as a boast. He could have extended his hand in love and friendship to the tax collector praying with him. But instead he chose to put his faith in external things and to close the doors of his mind to the Lord. In the next world his good deeds would not have done him any good, because his selfish loves would continue to dominate him.

Each of us has the freedom to will, think and act as we wish – that is how the Lord made us. But the consequences of our actions often extend far beyond our immediate environment. It is our own choice if we want to give in to our basest desires, but others will get hurt because of it. Do we really want that? At the same time, we can just maintain a facade of goodness. But that takes a great deal of energy to live a double life. Is it not easier, then, to actually exercise true spiritual freedom – to turn to the Lord, asking His guidance in any situation, and then acting according to our best understanding of what should be done?

As we exercise true spiritual freedom, we will notice a change in our lives: we will stop worrying about getting caught for our actions; we will stop worrying about what others think of us. Instead we will feel the peace of mind knowing that by choosing to follow the Lord, our lives are in His hands.

There is no need for the abuses of this world. There is, on the other hand, a great need for those who do good to reach out to others to help, those who do good and stand up for spiritual values. Let us be these people. Amen.

Lesson: I Kings 11, selections; Luke 18:10-14; Luke 22:39-46

Man is first in True Freedom when he becomes Regenerate

Man is first in True Freedom when he becomes Regenerate

When a man becomes regenerate he then first enters upon a state of freedom; before he was in a state of bondage. It is bondage when lusts and falsities have dominion; it is freedom when affections of good and truth bear sway. A man never perceives in any degree how the case is so long as he remains in the state of bondage; but first does so when he enters into the state of freedom. While he is in the state of bondage, that is while lusts and falsities rule, the man who is subjugated by them supposes that he is in a state of freedom; but it is a gross falsity, for at the very time he is carried along by the delight of his lusts and of the pleasures derived from them,—that is, by the delight of his loves; and because it is by a delight it appears to him as free. Every one thinks himself free while he is being led by some love, —so long as he follows whithersoever it leads; but there are diabolical spirits, in whose society and as it were torrent he is, who bear him onward. This the man imagines to be most free; and to such a degree that he even believes if he should be deprived of this state he would come into a miserable life, yea, that he would be in no life. And this he believes, not only because he does not know that there is any other life, but also from the fact that he has received the impression that no one can come into heaven but through miseries, poverty, and deprivation of pleasures. But it has been given me to know by much experience that this is false; of which experience, by the Lord’s Divine mercy, hereafter. A man never comes into a state of freedom until he is regenerated, and is led of the Lord by the love of good and truth. When he is in this state he is for the first time able to know what freedom is; for he then knows what life is, and what the true delight of life is, and what happiness is. Before he did not even know what good is; he sometimes called that the highest good which is the deepest evil. They who from the Lord are in this state of freedom, when they see, and still more when they feel, the life of lusts and falsities, abhor it as those who see hell open before their eyes. But since to very many it is profoundly unknown what the life of freedom is, it is permitted in these few words to say what it is; namely, that the life of freedom is to be led only of the Lord. (AC n. 892)

Freedom Heavenly Freedom and Infernal Freedom

Freedom Heavenly Freedom and Infernal Freedom

Heavenly freedom is that which is from the Lord, and all the angels in the heavens are in this freedom. It is, as was said, the freedom of love to the Lord and mutual love, that is of the affection of good and truth. The quality of this freedom may appear from the fact that from an inmost affection every one who is in it communicates his own blessedness and happiness to others, and that it is a blessedness and happiness to him to be able to communicate. And as such is the universal heaven, therefore every one is a centre of the blessednesses and happinesses of all, and all are at the same time the centre of that of the individuals. This communication is effected by the Lord, by marvellous influxes, in the incomprehensible form which is the form of heaven. From this it may be seen what heavenly freedom is, and that it is from the Lord alone.

How far distant the heavenly freedom which comes from an affection of good and truth is, from the infernal freedom which is from an affection of evil and falsity, may appear from the fact that the angels in the heavens, if only they think of such freedom as is from an affection of evil and falsity,—or what is the same, from the lusts of the love of self and of the world,—are instantly seized with internal pain and on the other hand, when evil spirits only think of the freedom which is from the affection of good and truth,—or what is the same, from the desires of mutual love,—they instantly fall into agonies. And what is wonderful, so opposite is the one freedom to the other, that to good spirits the freedom of the love of self and of the world is hell and on the other hand, to evil spirits the freedom of love to the Lord and mutual love is hell. Hence all are distinguished in the other life according to their freedom, or what is the same, according to their loves and affections and consequently according to the delights of their life, which is the same as according to their lives. For lives are nothing else than delights, and these are nothing else than the affections of loves. (AC n. 2872, 2873)

To do evil from the delight of love appears like freedom but it is servitude, because it is from hell. To do good from the delight of love appears like freedom, and also is freedom, because it is from the Lord. Servitude consists therefore in being led of hell, and freedom in being led of the Lord. This the Lord thus teaches in John: “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. The servant abideth not in the house for ever; the Son abideth for ever. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed“(viii. 34-36).

The Lord keeps man in freedom of thought, and in so far as external restraints do not hinder,—which are the fear of the law and of life, and the fear of the loss of reputation, of honour, and of gain,—He keeps him in freedom of action. But by freedom He turns him away from evil, and by freedom inclines him to good, —so gently and so tacitly leading, that the man does not know but that all proceeds from himself. Thus in freedom the Lord implants and inroots good into the very life of man; and it remains to eternity. The Lord thus teaches this in Mark: “The kingdom of God is as a man who casteth seed into the earth, .. . and the seed springeth, and groweth up while he knoweth not. The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself” (iv. 26-28). (ibid. n. 9586, 9587)

The evil spirits that are with man, whereby he communicates with hell, regard him but as a vile slave; for they infuse into him their own lusts and persuasions, and thus lead him whithersoever they desire. But the angels, by whom man communicates with heaven, regard him as a brother, and insinuate into him affections of good, and of truth; and they thus lead him by freedom, not whither they desire, but whither the Lord pleases. From this it may be seen what the quality is of the one and of the other; and that to be led of the devil is slavery, but to be led of the Lord is freedom.

Spirits newly arrived are much perplexed to conceive how no one can do good from himself, nor think truth from himself, but from the Lord; believing that they should thus be like machines without any self-determination; and if so, that they must hold down their hands and suffer themselves to be acted upon. But they are told that they ought entirely of themselves to think, will, and do good, and that otherwise they cannot receive a heavenly proprium, and heavenly freedom; but that still they ought to acknowledge that good and truth are not from them, but from the Lord. And they are taught that all the angels are in such acknowledgment, yea, in the perception that it is so; and the more exquisitely they perceive themselves to be led of the Lord, and thereby to be in the Lord, the more they are in freedom.

Whoever lives in good, and believes that the Lord governs the universe, and that from Him alone comes all the good of love and charity and all the truth of faith, yea, that life comes from Him, and therefore that from Him we live, move, and have our being, is in such a state that he can be gifted with heavenly freedom, and with this also peace; for then he trusts only in the Lord, and counts other things of no concern, and is certain that then all things tend to his good, blessedness, and happiness to eternity. But he who believes that he governs himself, is in continual disquietude, being borne away into passionate desires, into solicitude about things to come, and thus into manifold anxieties. And because he so believes, the lusts of evil and the persuasions of falsity also adhere to him. (ibid. n. 2890-2892 )

The presence of the Lord implies liberty, the one follows the other; for the more intimately present the Lord is, the more free is man; that is, in proportion as he is in the love of good and truth he acts freely. Such is the nature of the Lord’s influx by means of angels. But on the other hand the influx of hell is effected by evil spirits, and is attended with the violence and impetuosity of domination,—their ruling desire being to subdue man to such a degree that he may be as nothing and they everything; and then he becomes one of them,—and scarcely one, being as nobody in their eyes. Hence, when the Lord delivers man from their yoke and dominion there arises a conflict. But when he is liberated, or in other words regenerated, he is so gently led of the Lord by angels that there is not the least appearance of bondage or authority; he is led by what is delightful and happy, and is loved and esteemed,—as the Lord teaches in Matthew: “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (xi. 30). It has been given me to know by much experience that it is exactly the contrary with evil spirits; by whom, as was said, man is regarded as nothing, and who, were it in their power, would torment him every moment. (ibid. n. 905)