Equilibrium

THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

Banner777

EQUILIBRIUM >> Good and Evil >> Truth and Falsity >> Heat and Cold >> Light and Darkness

equilibriump_500_333 THE EQUILIBRIUM BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL.

For any thing to have existence there must be an equilibrium of all things. Without equilibrium is no action and reaction; for equilibrium is between two forces, one acting and  the other reacting, and the state of rest resulting from like action and reaction is called equilibrium. In the natural world there is an equilibrium in all things and in each thing. It exists in a general way even in the atmosphere, wherein the lower parts react and resist in proportion as the higher parts act and press down. Again, in the natural world there is an equilibrium between heat and cold, between light and shade, and between dryness and moisture, the middle condition being the equilibrium. There is also an equilibrium in all the subjects of the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal; for without equilibrium in them nothing can come forth and have permanent existence. Everywhere there is a sort of effort acting on the one side and reacting on the other.

[2] All existence or all effect is produced in equilibrium, that is, by one force acting and another suffering itself to be acted upon, or when one force by acting flows in, the other receives and harmoniously submits. In the natural world that which acts and reacts is called force, and also endeavor [or effort]; but in the spiritual world that which acts and reacts is called life and will. Life in that world is living force, and will is living effort; and the equilibrium itself is called freedom. Thus spiritual equilibrium or freedom has its outcome and permanence in the balance between good acting on the one side and evil reacting on the other side; or between evil acting on the one side and good reacting on the other side. [3] With the good the equilibrium is between good acting and evil reacting; but with the evil the equilibrium is between evil acting and good reacting.  Spiritual equilibrium is between good and evil, because the whole life of man has reference to good and to evil, and the will is the receptacle. There is also an equilibrium between truth and falsity, but this depends on the equilibrium between good and evil. The equilibrium between truth and falsity is like that between light and shade, in that light and shade affect the objects of the vegetable kingdom only so far as heat and cold are in them. That light and shade themselves have no effect, but only the heat that acts through them, is evident from the fact that light and shade are the same in winter time and in spring time. This comparison of truth and falsity with light and shade is from correspondence, for truth corresponds to light, falsity to shade, and heat to the good of love; in fact, spiritual light is truth, spiritual shade is falsity, and spiritual heat is good of love (see the chapter where light and heat in heaven are treated of, n. 126-140). [HH589]

There is a perpetual equilibrium between heaven and hell. From hell there continually breathes forth and ascends an endeavor to do evil, and from heaven there continually breathes forth and descends an endeavor to do good. In this equilibrium is the world of spirits; which world is intermediate between heaven and hell (see above, n. 421-431). The world of spirits is in this equilibrium because every man after death enters first the world of spirits, and is kept there in a state like that which he was in while in the world, and this would be impossible if there were not a perfect equilibrium there; for by means of this the character of everyone is explored, since they then remain in the same freedom as they had in the world.  Spiritual equilibrium is freedom in man and spirit (as has been said just above, n. 589). What each one’s freedom is the angels recognize by a communication of affections and thoughts therefrom; and it becomes visible to the sight of angelic spirits by the ways in which the spirits go. Good spirits there travel in the ways that go towards heaven, but evil spirits in the ways that go towards hell. Ways actually appear in that world; and that is the reason why ways in the Word signify the truths that lead to good, or in the opposite sense the falsities that lead to evil; and for the same reason going, walking, and journeying in the Word signify progressions of life.{1} Such ways I have often been permitted to see, also spirits going and walking in them freely, in accord with their affections and thoughts. [HH590]

0017 Evil continually breathes forth and ascends out of hell, and good continually breathes forth and descends out of heaven, because everyone is encompassed by a spiritual sphere; and that sphere flows forth and pours out from the life of the affections and the thoughts therefrom.{1} And as such a sphere flows forth from every individual, it flows forth also from every heavenly society and from every infernal society, consequently from all together, that is, from the entire heaven and from the entire hell. Good flows forth from heaven because all there are in good; and evil flows forth from hell because all there are in evil. The good that is from heaven is all from the Lord; for the angels in the heavens are all withheld from what is their own, and are kept in what is the Lord’s own, which is good itself. But the spirits in the hells are all in what is their own, and everyone’s own is nothing but evil; and because it is nothing but evil it is hell.{2} Evidently, then, the equilibrium in which angels are kept in the heavens and spirits in the hells is not like the equilibrium in the world of spirits. The equilibrium of angels in the heavens exists in the degree in which they have been willing to be in good, or in the degree in which they have lived in good in the world, and thus also in the degree in which they have held evil in aversion; but the equilibrium of spirits in hell exists in the degree in which they have been willing to be in evil, or have lived in evil in the world, and thus in heart and spirit have been opposed to good. [HH591]

Unless the Lord ruled both the heavens and the hells there would be no equilibrium; and if there were no equilibrium there would be no heaven or hell; for all things and each thing in the universe, that is, both in the natural world and in the spiritual world, endure by means of equilibrium. Every rational man can see that this is true.  If there were a preponderance on one part and no resistance on the other would not both perish? So would it be in the spiritual world if good did not react against evil and continually restrain its uprising; and unless this were done by the Divine Itself both heaven and hell would perish, and with them the whole human race. It is said unless the Divine Itself did this, because the self of everyone, whether angel, spirit, or man, is nothing but evil (see above, n. 591); consequently neither angels nor spirits are able in the least to resist the evils continually exhaling from the hells, since from self they all tend towards hell. It is evident, then, that unless the Lord alone ruled both the heavens and the hells no one could ever be saved. Moreover, all the hells act as one; for evils in the hells are connected as goods are in the heavens; and the Divine alone, which goes forth solely from the Lord, is able to resist all the hells, which are innumerable, and which act together against heaven and against all who are in heaven. [HH592]

The equilibrium between the heavens and the hells is diminished or increased in accordance with the number of those who enter heaven and who enter hell; and this amounts to several thousands daily. The Lord alone, and no angel, can know and perceive this, and regulate and equalize it with precision; for the Divine that goes forth from the Lord is omnipresent, and sees everywhere whether there is any wavering, while an angel sees only what is near himself, and has no perception in himself of what is taking place even in his own society. [HH593]

How all things are so arranged in the heavens and in the hells that each and all of those who are there may be in their equilibrium, can in some measure be seen from what has been said and shown above respecting the heavens and the hells, namely, that all the societies of heaven are distinctly arranged in accordance with goods and their kinds and varieties, and all the societies of hell in accordance with evils, and their kinds and varieties; and that beneath each society of heaven there is a society of hell corresponding to it from opposition, and from this opposing correspondence equilibrium results; and in consequence of this the Lord unceasingly provides that no infernal society beneath a heavenly society shall gain any preponderance, and as soon as it begins to do so it is restrained by various means, and is reduced to an exact measure of equilibrium.  These means are many, only a few of which I will mention. Some of these means have reference to the stronger presence of the Lord; some to the closer communication and conjunction of one or more societies with others; some to the casting out of superabundant infernal spirits into deserts; some to the transference of certain spirits from one hell to another; some to the reducing of those in the hells to order, and this also is effected in various ways; some to the screening of certain hells under denser and thicker coverings, also letting them down to greater depths; besides other means; and still others that are employed in the heavens above the hells. All this has been said that it may in some measure be perceived that the Lord alone provides that there shall be an equilibrium everywhere between good and evil, thus between heaven and hell; for on such equilibrium the safety of all in the heavens and of all on the earth rests.[HH594]

Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/spiritual-angels.htm

http://blog.beginningtheisticscience.com/

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

Alone we cannot do good

God is Love

All religions and indeed non-religious ways of living involve the idea that it is important to do good for others. This is best exemplified in the ‘Golden Rule’, expressed by Jesus as: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets  [Matthew 7:12 ESV]. This Golden Rule is also to be found for example, in Buddhism – Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful  [Udana-Varga 5:18] and in Hinduism – This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what you would not have them do unto you [Mahabharata 5:1517]. And Emanuel Swedenborg commences one of his books [Doctrine of Life] with the words: All Religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good.

So, true ways of living involve doing good for others. But can we really do good?

Matthew, Mark and Luke all include an account of a rich man coming to Jesus and asking him a question as here in Mark’s gospel:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
[Mark 10:17-18 ESV]

In these few words Jesus makes it abundantly clear that God alone is Good. But we might also ask the question “What is Jesus saying about himself”? Is it perhaps that he wants the rich man to make the connection that Jesus is Good because Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us”. In John’s gospel we find these words of Jesus: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself  [John 5:26]. We could easily replace the word life with good to emphasise that God in Jesus alone is good.

But where does that leave us?

Emanuel Swedenborg brings clarity to this situation in his opening words of Divine Love and Wisdom paragraph 4: God alone – the Lord – is love itself, because he is life itself. Both we on earth and angels are life-receivers.

Fundamentally we are receivers of love, life and goodness from God. We have no love, life or goodness in ourselves and yet it appears that we can use what we receive as if it were ours alone. And in particular we can try to do good for others from our own resources, motives and desires.

One of the dangers, of course, is that our motives and desires will be selfish and we will try to use our resources to do good for others in a way which seeks to benefit us and make us look good. Such a self-serving approach to doing good may have the external effect and benefit intended for others but internally it is anything but good and certainly does not have God’s goodness at its heart. When we put ourselves first in any situation and concentrate on our needs above the needs of others we are in a sense standing alone. Our world view is then dominated by I, me, mine and we appear alone and totally separated from others and indeed from God. It is in this context that Alone, we cannot do good.

But what of all the good done for other people every day through simple acts of kindness, love and caring, not from some selfish motive but from a feeling that it is the right thing to do? Surely the answer is that, no matter what race, colour or religion we are, when we have someone else’s needs in view the good we do for them is from God whether we acknowledge it or not. What really makes the difference is that we have rejected the error of a life dominated by I, me, mine and moved to one in which you and yours have become more important. We have stopped being alone.

We may still imagine that we are the ones doing good but what we do now has God’s goodness at its heart.

But can we go a stage further in not acting alone?

God gives us life and the sense and awareness that we live from ourselves whereas the reality is that we live only from God. But if we maintain and strengthen the appearance that we live from ourselves by the I, me, mine approach to life then we remain apart, separated and alone from God.

This is clearly not what God wants. In John’s gospel Jesus says the following:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
[John 15:4-5]

God leaves us free to do what we want with the life he gives us and to feel that it is our own. But he wishes that we would link or abide with him in the same way that he can link or abide with us. He wants us to be linked or connected together, to form a union with him, and not remain separated, apart and alone.

And what is the fundamental thing we need to do to make the link and start the process of union?

It is to do good for others as if the love, life and goodness we have is ours but believing, knowing and acknowledging that they are really only from God.

http://www.god-is-love.org.uk/

Foresight

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

← Previous   Next →


The Lord can see how the mind of a person is tending, towards evil or towards good. When the tendency is toward evil the Lord will provide circumstances which allow the person to recognize this and to bend away from that course on his or her own, leaving the person in freedom because he or she is unaware of any actions except his or her own.

In this way a person may turn toward a lesser evil, or even towards good, or – still in freedom – may continue deeper into the evil if that is the strong desire. The Lord’s foresight is in no way a predestination.

 

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

Divine Good Cannot Do After the Manner of Truth Separated from Good

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

A Portion of a Passage from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

… there are two things which constitute the order of the universal heaven, and thence in the universe, namely, Good and Truth. Good is the essential of order, all the things of which are mercies. Truth is the secondary of order, all the things of which are truths. The Divine good adjudges all to heaven, but the Divine truth condemns all to hell; and therefore unless the Lord’s Mercy, which is of good, were eternal, all men, however many, would be condemned.This is what is signified by the statement that the Divine good cannot do this after the manner of truth separated from good.

[There are two things which are predicated of the Lord, namely, that He is King, and that He is Priest. A king, or the royalty, signifies the holy which is true; and a priest, or the priesthood, signifies the holy which is good; the former is the Divine spiritual, the latter the Divine celestial.  The Lord as King governs each and all things in the universe from Divine truth; and as Priest, from Divine good.  Divine truth is the very order of His universal kingdom, all the laws of which are truths, or eternal verities; Divine good is the very essential of order, all things of which are of mercy.  Both of these are predicated of the Lord. If Divine truth alone were His, no mortal could be saved, for truths condemn everyone to hell; but Divine good, which is of mercy, uplifts from hell to heaven. These are what the kings and priests in the Jewish Church represented and these likewise Melchizedek represented, as king of Salem, and priest to God Most High. (Arcana Coelestia 1728)]

That the evil are nevertheless condemned to hell, is not because the Divine good is separated from the Divine truth, but because the man separates himself from the Divine good.  For the Lord in no case sends anyone down into hell, but the man sends himself….

In the following respect also the Divine good is conjoined with the Divine truth: that unless the evil were separated from the good, the evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually endeavoring to destroy order: thus that the good may not be harmed, is of Mercy. This stands just as in the kingdoms of the earth. If evils were not punished, the whole kingdom would be infected with evils, and so would perish; for which reason kings and judges show more mercy in punishing evils and in expelling from society those guilty of them, than by exercising in their behalf an unseasonable clemency.

(Arcana Coelestia 2258)
January 16, 2015

Good, Evil, and Free Will—You Decide

Swedenborg Foundation

by Hanna Hyatt

If you have begun to dabble in Swedenborg’s many works, you might have seen references to influx, a term that’s often rendered as “inflow” in newer translations. Are you curious about influx? Have you wondered how this divine influence relates to free will? What does Swedenborg say about how the interplay between good, evil, and freedom impacts a person’s spiritual life?  If you want to know more, you’ve arrived at the right place!

blog_influx_big

It is common knowledge that we can’t reach out and grab part of the sun. We can only feel the sun’s light through layers and layers of atmosphere. Swedenborg compares the physical reality of the earth with the spiritual reality of heaven and hell. In the same way that approaching the physical sun would destroy our bodies, he tells us that coming into direct contact with God—whom Swedenborg describes as love itself—would completely overwhelm us. We need the layers of separation to turn an immense energy into a nurturing, sustaining force.Swedenborg focuses on this comparison in his book Heaven and Hell, where he describes the nature of the Lord’s love, the relationship between physical and spiritual reality, and the Lord’s goal for humanity: to receive his love and “pay it forward” by behaving in loving ways toward others. Swedenborg writes that God’s love reaches humanity through angels, who help human beings reach the Lord. Once loving ideas and concepts reach people, their minds and souls receive God’s love, which begins to influence the way they perceive the world.

Through his spiritual experiences, Swedenborg found that before people can begin deciding whether or not they want to act on that divine influence, three important processes must happen backstage: the combination of influx, evil influences, and freedom.

Influx

Influx happens when the Lord’s love reaches people’s minds, and Swedenborg writes that our lives depend on it: “We could not survive for a moment if the influx from the spiritual world were taken from us” (New Jerusalem #277). The life-sustaining force that flows into us from God, he continues, is love. If we embrace this love and try to listen for the “little voice” of conscience that it produces, it provides the loving thoughts and inclinations that enable us to love others and embody good ideas. These are our good influences, also known as influx.

If influx were our only influence, we would be nothing more than vessels for the Lord’s love, without any ability to decide how to act or even think. Goodness would be thrust upon us, and we would not be free. We would be nothing more than very loving robots. Swedenborg writes that the Lord protects us against this by allowing us to be exposed to evil.

Evil Influences

Swedenborg focuses on the love of self as one of the primary hellish loves. He notes that the Lord gives us the ability to love hell through all the ways we can love ourselves—valuing success and popularity, making idols of our strengths, and admiring ourselves above all others. With this idea, the Lord allows hell to reach into our lives and influence us, just as his influx influences us. By allowing us to suffer from other people’s selfish decisions, Swedenborg says, God gives us the tools to recognize this behavior as evil. In this way, the Lord gives us freedom to choose between good and evil and make our own decisions.

Swedenborg writes that evil influences are the only way that human beings can be free. While the Lord is providing all good things through heaven, hell is providing us with fuel to love ourselves and the world, to reject all good things and love evil. These two forces working in opposition give us two paths to choose between, and those choices form our character.

Freedom

Through our thoughts and through our values, the Lord’s love meets the influences of hellish love. We have the freedom to think that we want to love others and that we want to love ourselves—which in Swedenborg’s theology are two mutually exclusive things—without skipping a beat. We are the mixing bowl where everything good and bad jumbles together, making it hard to figure out and isolate the good or the bad. From situation to situation, we apply both good ideas and bad ideas, usually with mixed motives and confused influences.

That confusing concoction is called freedom, and Swedenborg tells us that the Lord adores it and protects it fiercely, as Swedenborg notes in his book Divine Providence: “The Lord protects our freedom the way we protect the pupil of our eye” (#97).

We are able to make decisions freely if and only if our heads are breathing the air in the sky with the angels and our feet are planted solidly on the ground, where hell can reach us and influence us. Swedenborg uses this airy imagery to illustrate the Lord’s love for our freedom: “Taking away human spiritual freedom would be like removing the wheels from coaches, the air-catching arms from windmills, the sails from ships” (True Christianity #482).

For people struggling with selfish impulses or negative emotions, influx also allows for divine love and good influences to flow in and provide support. It also supplies us with everything we need to connect with hell. If we go through life searching for the good and the Lord’s love, Swedenborg says, the Lord will continue to open our hearts and minds and allow us to receive more of his love. This leads to an apparently contradictory yet key principle of Swedenborg’s theology: The only way we can freely choose to follow the Lord is if he allows us to leave him.

A recurring image from Swedenborg’s writings is that the Lord’s sunlight warms us, just as the air we breathe fuels us and the ground we stand on gives us balance. We need all influx, evil influences, and freedom to be able to think and act for ourselves—that, he explains, is the only way that human beings are able to love the Lord from their own hearts and minds.

Evil

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

← Previous   Next →


 Evil

This video is a product of the New Christian Bible Study Corporation. Follow this link for more information and more explanations – text, pictures, audio files, and videos: http://www.newchristianbiblestudy.org

 

The essence of the Lord – what He’s made of; what he actually is – is love. It’s perfect love, boundless and pure and complete.

Love, of course, innately desires an object. We can’t just love in a vacuum; we want to love someone or something, and in loving them we want to be close to them and ultimately conjoined with them. To fulfill Himself, then, the Lord created the universe and ultimately created us so that he could have something outside Himself to love.

The Lord’s goal for us, then, is to accept His love and to be conjoined with him. For that relationship to work, though, there are two essential elements. First, we have to have a choice; if we didn’t have a choice it would be compulsion, not love, and would be no more meaningful than the instinctive love a dog has for its master. Second, we have to remain separate from the Lord; if we became part of Him, he would be loving Himself.

The first of those elements creates the potential for evil to exist. To give us a choice, the Lord created us with the ability to refocus His love and turn it on ourselves – to use the power and life He freely gives us to love and worship ourselves instead of loving and worshipping Him. That is pretty much the definition of evil, and the Writings tell us that it is the state we are all in from birth and the state we would all return to instantly if it were not for the loving influence of the Lord.

Many find that idea upsetting. Why would the Lord let us be born into evil? Shouldn’t we be essentially neutral if we are to have a choice? And surely we can’t be saying that babies are evil!

In a way, though, the fact that we’re born into evil is the Lord’s way of balancing things out. He is pouring love on us constantly, leading us toward good in countless ways; if we were not innately evil we would be overwhelmed by His love and would lose our ability to choose. As for babies, the Writings do say that babies and young children have a degree of natural goodness, which shows as a love for their parents and kindness toward other children. As they get older and begin to be more rational, the Lord draws this into their interiors so He can continue to affect them as they grow. They are also innocent, lacking the ability to choose either good or evil.

But for all their innocence and sweetness and the powerful love they inspire in us, children are, if you think about it, deeply self-centered. And that self-centered state often persists through adolescence into adulthood, when real choices begin.

This means that we all enter adulthood with some degree of self-love, love of wealth, love of dominating others, love of being in charge, pride in our intelligence and a sense of entitlement. It might not be dominant, but it’s there. What do we do?

Well, remember that the Lord is pouring love on us constantly; our problem is that we are full of evils and there’s no place for that love to attach itself. What we need to do, then, is start attacking those evils. If we can uproot them, the Lord will fill the space with love.

And that, the Writings tell us, is the work of our lifetimes. We are called on to learn what is good and use that knowledge to shun evils – to push them aside so the Lord can replace them with desires for good. Do it long enough and diligently enough and the Lord will set the evils aside permanently and fill us with love – the state of angels. We will then go to a society in heaven to be with people whose loves are similar to ours.

There are a few points worth making about this process:

● It is slow. Our loves are our life, so if the Lord simply took all our evils away at once it would kill us. It’s a process.

● We have to know evil to fight it. The Lord has given us the capacity to know what is right even while we desire what is wrong; we can use that power to examine ourselves and identify our evils so we can combat them.

● Temptation is key. The only way to really uproot an evil love is to fight it, and the battle can only come when that evil desire is active, eating at us, calling to us, trying to drag us away. This is not to say we should seek temptation – the Lord will provide it at the right time – but we can recognize it as an opportunity to grow spiritually.

● We can’t make ourselves good. Only the Lord can do that; our part is to try not to be bad and ask for His help.

● We’re not necessarily responsible for evil thoughts. Just as the Lord is constantly leading us toward goodness and light, the hells also want us to join their ranks in evil and darkness. One way they do this is by bombarding our minds with evil thoughts. But our thoughts are not our life; our loves are. If we let evil thoughts go on by us and don’t make them part of what we intend to do, we’re not responsible for them.

● We’re not necessarily reponsible for evil intentions or actions. Some people are raised without any knowledge of right and wrong, and have no idea that things they desire are evil. Those evils don’t become a permanent part of them unless they embrace them while knowing they are wrong.

And if we fail, then what? Well, that’s a mirror image of the “going-to-heaven” process – if we choose to embrace evils and knowingly make them our own, we will ultimately go to hell to be with others who have similar evil loves.

But here’s an interesting point: The Writings say that the Lord never really takes our evils away, even if we become angels in heaven. He pushes them aside and negates their power, but he doesn’t remove them. Why?

The answer lies in the second of the two elements we mentioned earlier, that we have to stay separate from the Lord in order to be loved by Him. If the Lord actually removed our evils and made us fully pure and good, He would also remove the element that makes us separate, the part of ourselves that is not part of the Lord. The Lord can’t be evil, so the evil in us will always be outside Him. This maintains our identity even in the most exalted angelic state we could reach.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

Home | About the Project | Project Blog | Read the Bible | Popular Bible Stories | Read Swedenborg’s Works | Contact Us | Generic Search | Suggestion/Bug Report

Three Steps to Making Better Choices

Swedenborg Foundation

By Hanna Hyatt

Dear God,

How are people so awful?

Police shooting unarmed man . . . refugees . . . another massacre . . . bomb threat . . . terror . . . death.

Being entrenched in these nasty ideas, and living in a world where these things happen every week, fills people with all kinds of terror. This terror sometimes leads to people looking to God for some answers.

According to Swedenborg’s theology, people have to be free to be horrible because they have to be free to be good. People must be free to do bad things and good things, so that they can freely choose to love and follow the good stuff and reject the bad stuff.

(If you’d like to know more about Swedenborg’s theology of freedom, check out this page on divine providence. Or, if you’re the visual type, there’s a quick video overview on our offTheLeftEye YouTube channel and a more in-depth discussion in “How You End Up in Heaven or Hell.”)

blog_choices

When people are choosing between good and evil, Swedenborg describes three degrees of decision-making: love, thought, and action. The first step has to do with what we love or value; these are the feelings that, for better or for worse, drive everything we do. In the second step, the love that drives a person connects with their thoughts (“I could do the dishes so no one else has to suffer through them”); and the third step is about what we actually do. Each of these degrees of decision-making helps people connect the things they love with the things they do—and it can lead to good things or to bad things, depending on the person.

Step One: Love

People are all motivated by love, even when they do awful things that destroy something beautiful. People can be motivated by every love that exists in the world: domination, success, fear, horror, helping, leading and guiding others—the list never ends.

Swedenborg says that because people are in this jumbled world, they have a mix of all sorts of loves. They love thousands of things every moment. So a person could be motivated by a good (selfless) love in one decision, and then a bad (selfish) love in the next. That’s just part of being human. But he also says that over time, we will tend toward one type of love or motivation more than any other—what he calls a “dominant love.”

Step Two: Thought

Before we bring love to life by acting on it, we must start to plan or dwell on certain thoughts. Swedenborg notes that people have many loves, and usually people cannot know which love inspires them to think, process, and plan in every moment. The responsibility of human beings on earth is to be careful of the thoughts we entertain; if our goal is to be loving or kind, we should reject thoughts of harming others.

It’s impossible to constantly control individual thoughts, but it’s possible to control the ideas one invites back to stay for a while. Thoughts create a bridge between loving something and doing something about it, and this bridge comes in the form of a plan or developed idea. Usually, these thoughts are fun for the brain to dwell on; fun ideas are fun because of the love that influences them—but for a bad person, it’s the negative thoughts that are fun to dwell on, and for a good person, it’s the loving, caring thoughts.

Step Three: Action

Acting on loves happens in good and bad ways. Someone can love hurting other people, think about and plan ways to hurt others, and then act on that love, making it real and impacting others in potentially awful ways. Someone could love sharing with their neighbor, and think about ways to make delicious food to share with their family, and in that decision, they are acting on that love.

Swedenborg notes that our responsibility lies primarily in action—we can control our actions much more easily than we can control what we love. If everyone could easily control their loves, the world would be a much different place.

In most ways, this is a comforting thought. We are responsible for the actions we take, not the thoughts that wander into our heads or an occasional wish for acclaim or power, even though those aren’t things we would want to rule our lives.

So . . . Why Do People Make Terrible Decisions?

People make awful decisions because they dwell on awful ideas that come from terrifying loves. They are responsible for their actions, because they are acting on wrong and/or harmful ideas that they love. Every person has the ability to do awful things. It’s a necessary choice for people to have, because without the choice, people wouldn’t be free.

Swedenborg says that God allows for terrible things to happen to preserve this most-important freedom for humanity. These bad situations aren’t always hopeless—they also present a chance for humankind to step up and love the people around them, which is why people create GoFundMe accounts for survivors of tragedy or “Take Them a Meal” accounts for people with hardships.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” —Fred Rogers

People have freedom in their response to horrible situations, to turn negative situations into an opportunity for growth or love. People are free to act, think, and love to the best of their abilities.