“The Lord withdraws no one from their hell unless they see that they are in hell and wish to be led out.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 251
“The Lord withdraws no one from their hell unless they see that they are in hell and wish to be led out.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 251
“ . . . and that is why the numbers of humans entering the kingdom of Hell continually increases to this day,” stated the Devil as he finished up his talk and puffing out his chest with great pride.
The crowd of fiends gave a thundering round of applause after the Devil finished his annual oration. Hand-made signs could be seen everywhere with the slogan, “Hell is what’s hot!”
“I will now take some questions from the audience,” stated the Devil, as he cleared his throat with a refreshing glass of Tabasco sauce.
A hand goes up towards the back of the auditorium.
“Yes. What is your question, sir?” asked the Lord of Darkness.
“There is a rumor on earth that the long-awaited Second Coming is commencing on earth,” said the voice at the back of the room. “Should we be concerned?”
“Hell, no!” came the Devil’s quick answer. “Let me explain why.”
The crowd became totally silent.
“Some of you may be familiar with the Lord God’s strategy of returning to earth, not physically, but through the theological writings of His servant, Emanuel Swedenborg,” The Devil continued. “You see, the Second Coming is actually a new heavenly dispensation whereby the Lord’s Second Advent represents an enlightening of the human heart and mind. Whoever wins the hearts and minds of people gets to control the human race—that is where the great battle of Armageddon actually takes place.”
“Why are you so confident that the forces of hell will win this battle?” asked the same voice at the back of the auditorium.
“Because few humans will grasp what stands in their way of entering this great battle. You see, those on earth have dual consciousnesses—an ‘inner’ consciousness and an ‘outer’ (or ‘worldly’) consciousness.” The Devil then smiled wickedly at the assembly showing his nasty, cavity-ridden fangs. “I have personally intervened to make sure that earth-beings become focused only on their outer or corporeal/sensual consciousness. People believe that because they use this habitual level of mind most often during their daily lives that this acquired, artificial consciousness is who they really are. So even when they read Swedenborg’s theology, under this split psychical condition, God’s new and revelatory influences are merely captured and contained within their memory function, which keeps it from going any deeper.”
“How can you be sure that God’s new heavenly input will not penetrate deep enough into the human psyche, where it can uproot us and our hellish practices?” came the same voice from the back of the room.
The Devil confessed, “I have read Swedenborg’s writings which state that the human heart and will is nothing but evil and that God alone is good. People on earth will have lots of serious problems with that anti-intuitive concept—especially when they look at family photos of their cute smiling children and their grandparents. People want acceptance and affirmation from others, whereas God wants to stress the importance of self-examination and the discovering of one’s dirty underwear. Without such examination and causing an inner conflict between what a person knows and how a person really feels, no contact is made between a person’s inner and outer realities. And without such contact, no spiritual growth can be obtained. I honestly want people to seek goodness—as long as their good deeds find a detour around the process of spiritual cleansing and regeneration.”
The Devil then let out a most hideous laugh. “Students of Swedenborg’s writings will mistakenly gravitate towards promoting love, good works, and usefulness in society, believing that their doctrines of charity are superior to the notion that “faith alone” saves. That kind of debate will only take people down a rabbit hole. Here is what is overlooked—neither faith alone nor good works helps anyone if contact is not made between an individual’s two levels of consciousness. This contact and purifying friction is the only way one’s faith and good works can acquire heavenly innocence. And furthermore, I have ingeniously tricked humans into preferring to express ‘hope’ repeatedly, over choosing to take part in the more uncomfortable operation of spiritual regeneration and digging out one’s personal dirt.
The entire crowd then gave the Devil a standing ovation!
Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The man who has been alienated from good and truth intends nothing but evil, because he cannot intend good; and what he intends, reigns with him, and therefore is in all his thoughts, and in every least detail of him; for the intention or end is the veriest life of man, the end being his love, and the love being his life. And what is more, a man is exactly such as is the end with him, and such also is his image in the light of heaven; and — this may surprise you — such as is his image in general, such is the image of the least things of his will. Thus the whole man is such as his end is.
From this it is evident that the man who is an evil end cannot possibly be among those who are good ends; thus he who is in hell cannot possibly be in heaven; for the ends conflict, and the good ends prevail, because they are from the Divine. Hence also it is evident that they do not think truly who believe that everyone can be admitted into heaven from mercy alone; for if one who is an evil end comes into heaven, his life labors as with one who lies in the death agony, and he is direfully tortured; besides that in the light of heaven he appears as a devil. Hence it is evident that they who have been alienated from truth and good can think nothing but evil; and that this evil is in the least things of their thought and will is very manifest from the sphere which from afar exhales from such spirits, for their quality is thereby perceived. This sphere is like a spiritual evaporation from every detail of the life.
Have you ever wondered why some days we can wake up feeling bright and able to cope with the day and other times, for no obvious external reasons, we can feel ‘down’ or even depressed?
External events can help create positive and negative states and behaviour in us but they are not the only cause. What makes two patients who have been admitted to hospital with kidney failure react in such different ways? One bewails his bad luck and finds fault with everything and everyone whereas the other is thankful that it is not more serious and that he has such a caring family who will support him in the future.
Our outer mind tends to be focussed on the world around us because our physical senses dominate. So it is natural to fall in with the idea that all there is to life is what we can see, hear and touch, and that we are separate from others. When we believe this and rely solely on our own abilities and ideas we can easily feel overwhelmed and vulnerable to negative states.
The reality is, however, that we are all interconnected at the spiritual level. If we are honest with ourselves we know that we need people and rely on others all the time.
“No man is an island, entire of itself” (John Donne)
This network of interdependence and connectedness involves more people than we are aware of in this world. Emanuel Swedenborg said that all our thoughts and feelings flow into us through unseen spiritual companions. This may sound strange to you if you haven’t thought about it before but it explains how an idea can suddenly pop into our mind. So where is the real ‘me’ in all of this?
We have been given the freedom to choose which thoughts and feelings to identify with and make our own. We are in control of the tuning switch and can choose whether to tune into Radio Heaven or Radio Hell.
The choice is yours – choose to identify with your positive thoughts and feelings today!
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
15 Mental Causes of Disease
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” A Hebrew Proverb
Is Illness the Fault of Man?
Many Christians believe that all accidents and diseases are retributions of Providence for personal sins. This idea was common among the Jews, who conceived of no higher good than health and prosperity, nor any higher destiny than a long life on earth. The Lord sought to disabuse the minds of the disciples of this fallacy when he said concerning the man who had been born blind, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”; and when He said that the eighteen killed by the fall of the tower in Siloam were not sinners above others in Jerusalem.381
Men—from no individual fault of their own—may fall sick from natural causes which in turn come from spiritual causes hidden from man’s understanding. And by natural remedies he may be restored. But while the disease lasts, evil spirits are able to extend their operations from the realm of the mind into the body, working against a cure by inflowing into the unclean things which belong to the disease, which they aggravate. The stress of the Writings is laid upon the fact that without the influx from the hells there would be no actual disease. “Every disease in the human race” comes from sin, which is spiritual disease.382 We cannot take this to mean that it is always a man’s fault if he is sick, any more than it is his fault that he has hereditary tendencies to evil. But even as sin bred disease in the human race as a whole, so it is the tendency of a man’s own individual states of evil to lead into corresponding diseases of the body. “If his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes there a disease.”383
It does not follow that an evil man is always, or necessarily, sick, or cannot remain in what appears as perfect bodily health. But actually, the things that come to belong to man’s life are not only of his mind but of his whole body, from head to foot.384 And therefore it is disclosed in the Writings that the blood in the lungs purifies and nourishes itself correspondently to the affections of the mind, and that in evil states it absorbs a subtle food of unwholesome quality, unsuitable to serve the soul in its impartial and wise economy. Yet no one can ascertain this quality of the blood by any qualitative chemical analysis since “it is a purer blood, called by some ‘the animal spirit,’ which is purified” with the regenerating man.385
Certain “lusts and passions of the mind” are more prone than others to “destroy man’s interiors,” and thus to “drag” man into disease and death.388 Such passions may be classed as breaches of the moral law.
Intemperance, drunkenness, gluttony, luxuries of various kinds, and pleasures that cater to bodily enjoyments alone, head the list. For these upset the routine of use and the balance of the body functions; denying to the body the proper exercise or the proper sleep; or compelling the stomach to absorb useless food or drink, for the sake of the transient pleasures of the senses. Drunkenness causes a man to lose his manhood, since it is his intellectual faculty that marks him a man. It not only brings damage on his body and so hastens his death, but it wastes in extravagance what might be of use to many.387 Envies, fears, and anxieties about the future without proper trust in Divine provision, keep the nerves taut by a constant reliance upon prudence. It is a remarkable thing that the human body and brain can rise to emergencies and prolonged strain, and that men in executive positions can do work which even in amount shames others; but this only so long as states of frustration and personal anxiety do not affect them. For generally it is not work but fretting worry and vexation which cause health to break down.
Hatred and revenge also visibly poison the body and heat the blood, as well as warping the judgments of the mind. States of bitterness and brutality have always been compared to gall—the bile rejected from the liver and longing to punish the stubborn food in the intestinal tract. Lasciviousness— when given rein—leads to sexual diseases of varied types, affecting the glands, tissues, and nerves, and even infecting the blood itself. Hypocrisy and deception tax the nervous system by inducing constant fear of detection.
Mental states can so influence the body as to create organic disorders therein into which the hells can operate because the mind or spirit while man lives on earth is not apart from his body nor present only in the brain, but is within the whole body and animates it with life. “The spiritual,” we read, “accompanies every stamen [of me viscera, organs, and members of man] from outmost to inmost, and therefore all the minute structures and fibres of the heart and lungs.” This is the reason given for the fact that the spiritual body, which is formed within the natural body, rises at death in a similar form. Death “is merely the separation of the spiritual substance from the material.”388 The spiritual which is present in the body and its brain, and thus acts into nature, is called, in the Writings, the “ultimate-spiritual” and also the “spiritual-natural degree”; for it is the ultimate degree of the spiritual.389 In the inmost of the brain and body of man this ultimate spiritual is clothed with natural substances from the very inmost of nature,390 and thereby is given the power to separate itself from the higher spiritual degrees and to act against them. When such a perversion sets in it becomes evil.391 By paternal heredity, this lowest degree of the spiritual is now from birth contrary to the order of heaven and open to the influx of hell.392
It is the natural mind that is formed in direct contact with the natural substances of the body. And although the natural mind or the “spiritual-natural” in man is perverted by heredity, yet it is none the less ruled by the superior spiritual degrees in such a way that these can act by it in creating the body into the general image of the soul and usually maintaining it in seeming health. The perversion of the substance of the “ultimate spiritual” is thus of such a nature that its essential function of conveying life is outwardly unimpaired.
This ultimate spiritual degree with man unfolds itself as the natural mind—which is itself of three degrees, sensual, natural and rational. There is need in the body, then, for various planes of organics which shall serve to express the powers of that mind. For no life, no thought or affection, could possibly manifest itself in the realm of nature, unless nature furnished a receptive vessel, responsive to its influx.
Swedenborg’s Early Views on Diseases
In the Writings, little is said of these body-planes which display the powers of the spirit. But in his philosophical works, Swedenborg gives much thoughtful attention to them. What he says therein cannot be taken as revealed doctrine and is not binding on our minds. But what served him for a rational ultimate in receiving the inspired doctrine, might help us to understand its meaning more fully.
His general theory was that there are, in the body, three vital fluids. Each builds for itself a center, or principal court. The grossest of the vital fluids we call “the red blood,” and its center is the heart. The fluid of middle degree Swedenborg calls by various names—the “animal spirit,” the “purer blood” —and for its centers are prepared uncounted millions of cortical “glands” in the brain. Thence it flows at incredible speed through the nervous system and also enters into the composition of blood and tissues in various ways. The third and highest vital fluid—the “spirituous fluid” or “purest blood”—has innumerable centers in each cortical gland—centers which are called “simple corteces,” and thence it flashes like rays of force through the simplest invisible fibres, and through nerve fibres and blood vessels into the entire body. Indeed, the body is the product solely of the ineffable formative activities of these simplest fibrillae. For this “spirituous fluid” is the servant of the soul itself, and may indeed be called “the soul of the body.”392b
Into this framework of vital fluids and fibres, formed by the soul itself out of the best of nature’s gifts, Swedenborg then places the degrees of that mind which man employs in the world. The blood serves as the plane of the vegetative and most sensuous life of the mind. The cortical glands, with their vital nerve juices, are made the plane for the animus, its sensations, imaginations and passions. The simple cortex and simplest fibre and thus the highest vital substances of the body, are cited as the organic instruments of the rational mind and the pure natural intellect.
Diseases are affections of the various natural organics mentioned above. But the spiritual soul itself, which is the immaterial essence of man’s immortal spirit and is above these natural forms, can also suffer a vitiation or a perverse change of state—as to the reception of life. This cannot be counted as a disease, but as “guilt” (reatus).393
Yet the afflictions of the “purest blood” cause a sickness which affects the workings of man’s intellectual mind: it shows itself, not as a disease, but as a perversity in will and judgment—as vain ambition, malice, and a banishing of conscience. Thus insanities and vices result.394 The cure for such irrational states, Swedenborg suggests, is to gain health of body and animus, and then to enlighten one’s mind through masters who have saner judgment; but also to learn from revealed and rational theology, and to exercise freedom of thought and especially self-control !395 (And in the Writings it is added that “all who love uses think sanely in their spirit, and their spirit thinks sanely in their body).”396
If the “purer blood,” which runs through the cortical glands and the nervous fibres, becomes vitiated, there arises not disease as such, but “passions of the animus,” such as moody anger, jealousy, foolish prides or fears, melancholy, fickleness, weakness of the imagination, loss of memory, and many other ills which depend on the state of the brain and its various parts.397
All the natural affections or the mediate loves of the animus are in themselves healthy instincts.398 But when taken as ends-in-themselves, and indulged not for the sake of uses or for the sake of higher ends, but only for selfish satisfaction, then some of them become intemperate and urge us to excesses. We may call these natural affections, “natural goods,” because they are implanted in the natural mind from birth. Each love finds its own expression under the form of some virtue. Some individuals inherit prominent qualities of pity or generosity or courage, or on the other hand, their complements, prudence, thrift, or caution. Curiosity, hope, zeal, the love of the sex, are other examples of natural affections. Within such tendencies there lies hidden hereditary evil, which tends to upset that delicate balance of judgment which should make out of them all a harmonious and perfect whole—a moral life of use. From hereditary evil, the affections of the animus awake gradually into a mutual conflict. If—through intemperance—some of these loves of the animus are given loose rein, they turn from apparent goods into vices or grave faults, into searing passions which disturb the mind. But so long as man keeps them in balance and due proportion the mind is normal, and its natural affections do not then bring about any disease in the body, or any poisoning of the nervous fluid or the organics of the brain.
Swedenborg also suggests remedies for the sicknesses and upsets of the animus. Medicines, he says, may be employed to purify and restore the red blood; for it may be some external condition of the body and its blood that accounts for the mental state. Yet if the cause is not in the body, the state might be amended by an improvement of the mental environment : agreeable feasts, convivial companionships, and broader social contacts may put one in a more normal frame of mind! If this does not help, let the sufferer seek recourse to moral philosophy and in a bit of practical self-analysis, so that he rectifies the mistakes into which he has drifted.399 On the other hand, the trouble may be derived from perversities of the intellectual and rational mind—and then repentance is called for!
Health cannot truly exist, unless all the planes of the body and mind are in harmony and cooperation! If the inner mind is cheated of its ends, the animus may become angered, the blood hot, and a bilious fever may seize the viscera !400
Lack of harmony with interior planes is therefore a cause of bodily disease—disease “properly so called.” But not the only cause; for the body is affected by any organic deterioration of blood, serum, or tissue.401 And the principal and most common cause of bodily disease has to do with the lack of proper nourishment or with the food that we eat; and also with the subtle food which we draw in by breathing the air, and even the still more subtle nourishment which the “purer blood” drinks in from the ether.402 For the blood must be provided with aliments of sufficient quantity and the right quality. Our philosopher therefore classes—among the remedies for the body—not only various drugs, drawn from the three kingdoms of nature, and moderate diet, exercise, rest, sleep, moderate temperature; but also mental calm. And he leaves the field open for new discoveries of ways by which the blood may be purified, amended and renewed.403
The Theological Writings on the Causes of Organic Disease
We have cited these observations which Swedenborg made before he was called to his religious mission, in the hope that they might help us to understand more clearly certain statements made in the Arcana, the Spiritual Diary and the other theological works.
In the Arcana Coelestia we read that evils “close the smallest and altogether invisible vessels of which the next larger, also invisible, are woven; for the vessels which are smallest of all and wholly invisible, are continued from man’s interiors. Thence comes the first and inmost obstruction and thence the first and inmost vitiation of the blood. This vitiation, when it increases, causes disease and at length death. . . . “404 It is difficult to ascertain whether the inmost vessels which evil closes are to be conceived as physical or as spiritual substances, for they seem to be combinations of both. They are called vessels “on account of the correspondence,”405 and indeed “vessels in man’s rational and in his natural,” and are said to be in “contrary position” within him relatively to the inflowing life which none the less still can dispose them. Man perceives the variations of their form as truths.406 And a cross-reference suggests that it is in these “substances which are the beginnings of the fibres” that the objects of sense are organized as memory. They might perhaps be identified with the twists of the spiritual and natural substances of the natural mind which are turned in a sinister order before reformation has occurred.407 The evil heredity of the race is carried over from generation to generation by such correspondent disorders in the lowest spiritual degree present in the germ-plasm.408 And there must be a natural basis for such hereditary evils, since it is only in conjunction with natural substance—thus only in the natural mind while on earth—that evils can arise.409 The reason for this is that it is the very nature of natural substance to resist and react against spiritual substances.410 And owing to this resistance the lowest spiritual can there be separate from its higher degrees, and become perverted into “spiritual substances such as are in hell.”411
Hereditary evils, it is well to note, are not “guilt” or “sin” or “original sin,” but only tendencies or inclinations to evil. It would seem to follow, that with the newborn infant the “smallest and invisible vessels” which are receptive of the spirit and undoubtedly carry the marks of heredity, are not closed but have the tendency to close themselves against the spiritual mind; nor is there as yet any “inmost vitiation of the blood.” So far as the child, and later the man, does not prevent, the Lord continues to hold him in innocence and mental health, by a general influx. With infants and well-disposed children, even the worst spirits, if present, would be compelled to serve the Lord’s will and cannot introduce any evil. It is when the child begins to acquire a sphere of evil that the inmost vessels are “closed” to the influx of the un-perverted spiritual412 and become opened to an influx of cupidity from evil spirits; and then the “animal spirit” begins to absorb the malignities to which it had formerly been immune.
While an evil inheritance may thus give a predisposition to certain diseases, most babes are born healthy; unless some deficiency in maternal nourishment or some accident in the womb has interfered with the execution of the soul’s pattern of the embryonic body—that marvelous four-dimensional pattern which is latent in the germ-cells and which Dr. Schroedinger has described as a code-script for the individual’s entire future development.413 Hereditary evil does not affect the physiological functions of the soul in the body, for the inmost natural vessels are utterly obsequious to the soul in its general influx. Swedenborg therefore stated in the Economy of the Animal Kingdom that the spirituous fluid which is present as a formative substance in the parental seed cannot be perverted or injured or essentially changed in its form except with reference to a variant reception of life and wisdom.414
If this be so, it may be surprising that any one could be born an idiot. Yet even if the “spirituous fluid” is perfect in its physiological action there can be congenital defects in the derivative organisms or injuries to the nervous tissues due to malnutrition or to some trauma experienced either before or after birth. There are no doubt special reasons in the Divine providence why idiots should remain in the state of innocence for their entire life time, or why those who lose their rational balance through disease should be arrested for a time in their mental development. But the law is that “life . . . acts according to the ultimate determinations, but not from them.”415
The internal man may be quite rational even when the mind cannot be rightly channelled into corresponding imaginations, words, or acts. In a private letter, Swedenborg observed that “real madness and insanity resides in the external or natural, not in the internal or spiritual man.” There are no natural diseases among spirits in the other life, nor any hospitals; although there are spiritual asylums for spirits who become insane and idiotic from a denial of God. Natural diseases, blindness, lameness, insanity, etc., are cured when man sheds his externals and his internals are opened in the other life.416
Yet natural insanity may be caused or abetted by unwholesome mental habits and by the leading of evil spirits. For if our rational mind is not in control, spirits will lead man and cause mental fixations and monomanias.417
Nerves, Glands, and Spirits
There are two general ways by which mental and emotional states can affect the body. One is through the nervous system, the other is through the secretions which the glands communicate to the blood. Both originate in the brain. Swedenborg explained that the brain is not only a common sensory and a common motory for the body, but is also a complex gland which acts as a chemical laboratory. And the soul and the mind exercise their special functions, both conscious and unconscious, through the brain. The influence of our spiritual environment thus affects us first of all through the brain. And even as speech corresponds to the thought of the mind, so the influx of the mind into the body always expresses itself according to laws of correspondence.
It is a particular influx from hells attracted by our chosen states that stirs up partiality and dissension among the affections of the natural mind, causes mental symptoms, emotional moods, psychic disturbances and disorders in the functions of the braincells, and upsets the balance in the products of the endocrine glands.
The conscious part of the mind, or the voluntary, by its deliberate or at least perceptible decisions moves the body by means of the central nervous system. Our errors of judgment or intent may thus cause injury to the body by overstraining it or leading it into perils with which it is not equipped to cope. But emotional states may cause illness even when man is not really aware of them except as a frame of mind; and they may affect the body through the autonomic nervous system centered in the hypothalamus and midbrain, causing unwanted muscle tensions and pains in the oesophagus and stomach and in various parts of the alimentary canal, resulting in symptoms like those of peptic ulcers or gas or appendicitis. The breathing may be affected and cause undesirable changes in the blood. The blood vessels are most sensitive to emotions, as in blushing or in headaches, and the heart beats faster when one is deeply moved. Certain prejudices or constant irritations may cause outbreaks on the skin or rheumatic ailments. Frustrations may explode in hysterical weeping or laughter, or in violent actions not intended. Anger may lead to hemorrhages on the brain and possible death through coronary occlusions.
The second bodily agency to respond to our mental states is the glandular system. In his physiological works and later in the Writings Swedenborg called attention to the important functions of what is now called the endocrine glands—anticipating many discoveries by more than a century. In fact he noted that there is no viscus which does not contribute a secretion to the bloodstream.418 Chief of all the glands he considered the brain with its constituent “cortical glands,” some of the products of which were strained through the region of the hypothalamus into the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and thence—modified in various ways—into the jugular vein, thereby vivifying the blood with “animal spirit.” Health depends on the proper balance and purity of these fluids, and many diseases result from their deficiency or wrong distribution.419
Swedenborg concluded that the “animal spirit” which is so essential for the balance of all body functions contains within it a life-carrying “spirituous fluid” which is generated in the inmost structures of the cortical cells. All the ductless glands in the body are regulated through the pituitary gland which is the outlet for this subtle nerve-product. In his various treatises he points especially to the uses of the thymus, the adrenals, the spleen, the pancreas, the liver and the testicles; which all aid in modifying, tempering, and salvaging the animal spirit. And in the Diary he says of the learned of his time: “So long as they dispute whether there exists an animal spirit in the fibres, which they may still do for a thousand years, they can never come to the courtyard of knowledge, but will stand far away.”420
It can hardly be doubted that what Swedenborg called “animal spirit” is closely related to what medical science in this century refers to as hormones produced by internal secretory glands. The pituitary is now acknowledged as the master gland and the source for a number of hormones which regulate almost every process in the body and condition the various organs to avert any threats to bodily well-being. Most important, however, is the finding that these glands are so sensitive to emotional stresses and psychic states (such as mental blocks and aversions) that they can cause corresponding illnesses and symptoms in the body. The relation of the endocrine glands to our inner states is so close that some have named them “the glands of personality.” The accumulating evidence of symbolic symptoms in psychosomatic diseases is not surprising to the New Church man who is familiar with the universal correspondence of the natural to the spiritual and knows the body as the instrument and clothing of the mind. Yet we may sometimes forget the further truth—that our inner life does not originate with ourselves but is induced by the spirits who are attracted by the contents of our mind.
Our morbid psychic states need not at once, nor necessarily, cause disease in the body. But when a disorder exists in the body itself, the sphere of evil spirits acts spontaneously by a law of correspondence. In certain cases, they can cause disease only when men invite the evil which these spirits represent; and in such cases the Lord cannot avert their sphere.421
We read strange things in the Writings about this correspondent influx—things which can be appreciated only after reflection and a study of the doctrine of the Grand Man. Thus hypocritical spirits—who wish to evade judgment— tend to inflow to produce toothache and what appears to be neuralgia.422 Certain dominating, pompous and impatient spirits induce great pain and weakness and weariness of mind and body.423 The sphere of selfish and slothful spirits produce numbness and oppression in the stomach. Spirits who have been in much solicitude or are inclined to avarice and are unwilling to leave “the state of externals” in which newcomers are in the other life, affect the stomach with nervous indigestion.424 Revengeful spirits aggravate superacidity in the stomach.425 Those who make everything a matter of conscience also induce abdominal anxieties.426 In each instance there are profound correspondential reasons for such influxes.
Anxieties of a different kind are due to the presence of unworldly female spirits of the province of the adrenal glands who are in solicitude from a life lacking in variety. But these spirits, who also act on newly born infants, are merely concerned to hold the mind in some line of thought that excludes what is worldly. Certain other spirits, who in the Grand Man relate to the infundibulum, are—like the fluids in the ventricles—inconstant and undetermined, and cause in man states of impatience and suspicion.427 Those who do not like work but seek social prominence and pleasures as their sole gratification, correspond to obstructions in the brain, and their presence causes stupidity, dullness and loss of affection.428 Those who relate to the viscid humors of the brain with which vital fluids are mixed, love to incite scruples of conscience in trivial matters. Such rather narrow-minded spirits induce a sensible anxiety in the upper abdomen; and they are also wont to come to a man during temptations and make them unbearable.429
When sickness coincides with temptation, man’s lot is unenviable. “Temptations,” we read, “are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains, and still more so when those pains continue for a long time and no deliverance is granted even though the Divine mercy is implored.”430 Yet illness itself, even when the mind is anxious and moody, is very different from spiritual temptation. Real temptations have a spiritual issue involved—a struggle to retain spiritual health and faith and charity. Still, moods of sadness may break like a flood upon a man who has lived in good when he relapses into the sphere of his proprium; and then he may become indignant and angry. He thinks restlessly and his desires become impetuous; although when this flood is lifted, he returns to a serene and cheerful state. Such temptations affect the animus and perhaps the body. In the case of the last posterity of the Most Ancient Church, such a profane flood of evil and insanity was let loose that people perished physically, by a species of suffocation. This, therefore, was actually a death of sin, and—as was shown above—was described by the great Deluge.431
The indications are that diseases are usually receptive of an influx from particular spirits, who then inflow by their sphere into a particular part of man’s body. But a localized disease may become general, or may attract a more general influx.
This is noted in the case of fevers. Many places in the hells, among obstinate and pernicious spirits, exude an excessive heat, impure and corporeal. This sphere inflows partly into the mind of man, by means of particular spirits, to inflame him with cruelty or adulterous lust; but partly also it may, by a “general sphere or a general influx,” produce a febrile heat in the diseased parts of the body as well as a delirium in the mind.432 Indeed it is stated that “the sick man summons” those who infuse such heat, and that spirits most marvelously know how to determine their sphere into the body, and this despite the fact that spirits do not know the man with whom they are. Fortunately the Lord controls them under laws of order, withdrawing them periodically; “wherefore several fevers have stated alternations.”433 It is generally admitted that the rise of body temperature into fever heat is a defensive reaction of the body in its resistance to disease.
Spiritual Uses of Sickness
Disease and melancholic anxiety may be classed among “natural temptations.”434 But the difference between an illness and a state of spiritual temptation is well illustrated in the case of certain spirits who relate to the province of the stomach and especially to the undigested things therein. The general action of these spirits is to instill feelings of oppressive sadness and uncomfortable melancholy for which no perceptible cause or occasion can be recognized. The spirits who thus inflow are not the spirits who are with man as his attendants and who resemble him as to affections; but they are strange spirits who have been sent forth from some infernal society into the sphere of his life. They flow in by a more general influx to produce these effects, which are contrary to man’s own affections. Such spirits may also infest man during a spiritual temptation; but then they would not only inflow “in general,” for the temptations themselves are produced by particular spirits who excite certain evils that man has done and put a wrong interpretation on the good things in his mind. Only by such a “particular” influx can the man be placed in freedom to resist, and his guardian angels then engage in combat on his behalf.435
What has been said may aid us to understand the teaching that a man cannot be reformed—or he cannot change his ruling love—while in states of sickness of mind or body.436 While ill, the mind is not always rational, and if rational yet is not free. Man then lives apart from his world of uses and duties and is withdrawn in his spirit. The Writings liken such a man to a religious recluse, a hermit bent on thoughts about his own salvation; and the same is the state of one who is in some extreme danger or in sudden misfortune. Besides, the sick man may be oppressed by moods beyond his control, and is released from his usual responsibilities and from the pressure of many of the affections that normally wage their silent warfare for predominance.
So far as a man can carry on his uses, he cannot be called sick in the above sense. Nor does illness prevent a person already on the road of reformation from being strengthened in his good resolutions by the reflections on his sick-bed. There is therefore room for the further teaching that a very large class of men (who are represented in the Word by the Hebrew manservant) “cannot be reformed otherwise” than through the hardships of life, such as anxieties, misfortunes, and even sicknesses! These are they who from infancy have given little thought to anything but worldly life and success, yet have lived morally and accepted the doctrine of their church on hearsay. With them, sickness is turned into an opportunity to review life’s real purposes, and something of spiritual good may then adjoin itself to their thought. They may turn again to the consolation offered by their church, and confirm their faith more deeply while their worldly loves lie dormant for a while.437
Even like gifts of wealth and peace, the gift of health is happily in the Lord’s hands to dispense—for those to whom health may be a blessing. In our hearts we all pray for health when it eludes us. Yet it is the Lord’s admonition that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. “He who is in faith from the Lord asks for nothing but what contributes to the Lord’s kingdom and to himself for salvation.” The angels told Swedenborg that if they should pray for anything else, they could have no faith that they would receive it.438
Sickness is not a total waste in the Lord’s sight. We are encouraged to practice foresight and to seek to maintain our health by prudence as well as by medicine. But to be brooding constantly upon the possible ailments of our body and to delve intently into anatomical details all one’s life, is not in itself an aid to health.439 “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The regenerating man, even in his pastimes, looks to uses as an end. He loves the things of his body for the sake of having a healthy mind, and consults for his body as the first requirement for usefulness; and he “loves his mind and its health for the sake of an end still more interior—that he may have a relish for good and may understand truth.”440 This is further explained as follows:
“He who is in merely external pleasures makes much of himself, indulges his stomach, loves to live sumptuously, and makes the height of pleasure to consist in things to eat and drink. One who is in internal things also finds pleasure in these things, but his ruling affection is to nourish his body with food pleasurably for the sake of its health, to the end that he may have a sound mind in a sound body; thus chiefly for the sake of the health of the mind, to which the health of the body serves as a means. One who is a spiritual man does not rest here, but regards the health of the mind or soul as a means for acquiring intelligence and wisdom—not for the sake of reputation, honors, and gain, but for the sake of the life after death. One who is spiritual in a more interior degree regards intelligence and wisdom as a mediate end having for its object that he may serve as a useful member in the Lord’s kingdom; and one who is a celestial man, that he may serve the Lord. To such a one bodily food is the means for the enjoyment of spiritual food, and spiritual food is a means for the enjoyment of celestial food; and as they ought to serve in this manner, these foods also correspond, and are therefore called ‘foods’ ” (AC 4459:6).
Starting Science From God
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
For anyone who believes in heaven, one question stands above all the others: How can I get there? How can I be saved?
Christianity has offered a variety of answers over the millennia, from early sects that simply followed the example of Jesus to monasticism to the elaborate rites and rituals of medieval catholicism to crusading warfare to the Protestants’ hope in the mercy and blood of Jesus.
For the most part, those concepts have regarded heaven as a paradise, where anyone would be happy no matter what he or she did to get there, and no matter what kind of person he or she is. This actually does not make a lot of sense if you think about it. If the cruel and power-hungry could attain heaven alongside the kind and caring, then surely they would make heaven a hell through their cruelty and desire to rule. And if the cruel and power-hungry were rendered non-cruel and non-power-hungry, would they still be themselves anymore?
Swedenborg’s idea of heaven – and hell – is different. In his theology both are simply spiritual states where we live with others who love the same things we do. If those loves are good and kind it will be a wonderful life of sharing and joy; if those loves are cruel and selfish we will end up in endless contention with others who are cruel and selfish.
Salvation, then, is a matter of letting the Lord change our hearts from the naturally selfish state to a heavenly, loving state. We do this by learning what is right and good, using our minds to lead us in doing those things, and asking the Lord to change our hearts. If we continue and stick to it. He will little by little do that, so that eventually we can reach a state where we love what is good and know what is true.
So is that salvation by faith? Salvation by works? In a way both, and neither. Works are involved, because we have to make ourselves do what we know is good and loving. Faith is involved because we have to invite the Lord into our hearts to make a true change. But neither can get us there without the other, and the ultimate judgment is on what we love, not what we’ve done or what we believe.
(References: Divine Providence 338, 339; Divine Providence 258 ; True Christian Religion 150, 726)
Most of us would welcome a life without temptation. It would be so easy to be good!
According to Swedenborg, however, a life without temptation would actually guarantee the opposite: It would leave us mired in evil and bound for hell. In fact, his theology says that temptation is the only way we can root out our evils and let the Lord into our hearts, so we should recognize it as an opportunity even if we can’t exactly embrace it as a good time.
The reasoning behind this starts with the idea that we are what we love; that what we care about actually determines our character and defines our identity. That might sound odd at first, but consider: If you say that you “know” someone, you’re really talking about an awareness of what they love, not an awareness of all their thoughts. What we love is who we are.
And from the beginning of our lives, what we love is highly self-centered. Much as we love babies for their innocence, they can’t even form the concept of putting someone else’s needs first. And while children and teenagers learn to be kind and considerate, that kindness is more in their external levels – inside they are busy with the work of becoming themselves, and that remains a self-involved process.
Somewhere between there and the end of life, we’re called on to change completely, setting our self-interest aside and replacing it with a genuine love for others and love for the Lord. That, however, involves uprooting the things we love most. And since those loves form our identity, that’s really hard, and has to be done in many, many steps.
The key element working for us is the mind: from our knowledge and thoughts we can know what’s right even when we don’t want it. In fact, from our knowledge and thoughts we can actually want to be better people, while in our hearts we still want to wallow in those attractive evils.
Elevating the mind this way creates a conflict between “the person I want to become” and “the person I am,” between “what I want” and “what I want to want” (sort of like, “I want to be craving celery, but I’m really craving cookies”). And since the hells want to keep you enslaved by cookies, they go on the attack, using both blunt desire and twisted logic and argument to try to break you down.
Key to the hells’ attack is the fact that what we want forms our identity; giving up each evil thing we crave feels like sacrificing a little part of who we are. But the Lord’s promise is this: If we actually do it, stick through it and let that piece of ourselves be sacrificed, He will eventually replace it with the desire for something good, pure and loving.
An interesting twist is that if we tried to do this all at once, we actually would lose our identity, destroying every love we have at once. This may sound odd – wouldn’t we want such a transformation- – but imagine someone you think of as thoroughly evil: Hitler, perhaps, or Caligula, or Vlad Dracula. Then imagine removing, in one swipe, all their evil desires. Would we even recognize them anymore? Would they be themselves? Would they be anything?
But imagine a child’s stuffed bear, loved so much that it loses an arm. You replace the arm, and then it is loved so much that it loses the other arm. And then the legs, and the head, all replaced one at a time. Finally the body wears through and you replace that too. So what you have is the same bear, but with every part replaced. That’s kind of how the Lord works on us: Through a lifelong series of temptations we can root out and replace one little bit at a time until we emerge all-new and ready for heaven while still being who we are.
It’s clear, then, how crucial a role temptation plays. If we never had that conflict between what we want to be in our minds and what we are in our hearts, the evil would just stay in our hearts untouched. We have to take on those battles, one by one over a lifetime, to become the people the Lord wishes us to be.
(References: Arcana Coelestia 730, 739, 755, 757, 1690, 2334, 2338, 4274, 5246, 8403)
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
11 “Cuticular Spirits” and “Sirens”
“Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world . . . For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father . . . And the world passeth away and the lust thereof.” John’s First Epistle 2: 15-17
It is impossible even to classify the various spirits who inject evil enticements of different kinds. But two types are described in the Writings and these may serve as examples.263
Swedenborg once became aware of the predominance of certain spirits from the province in the Grand Man which answers to the cuticle or the surface of the skin. And it was then shown him what the state is of a person “who takes an excessive care of his skin, which is the same as to have his mind ruled by such spirits.” “When a man is in this state, he is withheld from all useful endeavors (studio), and at the same time there is insinuated into him a distaste for doing anything real, so that there is a certain reaction and consequent repugnance against any project, whether in civil or moral life or in matters of faith and charity, and whether in deed or in thought. For he is held back from these, while at the same time certain blasphemies against them are insinuated into him. …” There is then a distaste for anything interior or spiritual.264
“Cuticular spirits” flock cajolingly around those who place their delight in the appearance or in the sensations and delights of the skin, and draw them away from any good or essential work. Such people are called “delicate” and “fastidious,” placing life in daintiness, culture, refinement, and judging all things by aesthetic standards rather than by their moral, civil, and spiritual values. And so naturally their tendency is also to “place their wisdom … in being able elegantly to vituperate or refute the doctrine of an internal man. . . . “265
It is difficult for a man to guess the tremendous forces of evil that are sometimes present around him, laboring to establish their power by what appears as relatively innocent habits. Evil spirits can hide themselves behind apparent goods, turning these goods gradually to a sinful or shameful end; with a view to exclude spiritual and celestial spheres from the mind and to fill it with worldliness or with externals. All of us find a number of good things to do just to make life pleasant and safe for ourselves and our families—enough to fill our day without taking time out to read the Word or to enjoy a while of worship and meditation before the family shrine. It is a question of Martha versus Mary.
The superficial uses of life, which regard the introduction of grace and beauty and soft comforts into the home and the society, are in themselves good. But they represent only the cuticle, the scarf-skin, of that eternal body of human uses which doctrine calls “the Grand Man.” Their proper function is to introduce, to contain, and to defend interior things. And when there is an equilibrium with other obligations, and they are pliably disposed to serve interior uses, then only are they genuine and in their place.266 Tremendous groups of good and salvable spirits therefore belong to the province of the skin. And their character varies widely.
In relation to heaven as a whole, the spirits who come from our planet mostly serve the function that is described by that of the skin, the membranes and external senses of the Grand Man. Thus their uses have to do with the sciences which are based on sensual observation.267 Yet this does not mean that the spirits of our earth cannot “easily come into the interior and inmost heaven after their exteriors have been devastated.” And some can serve as “ministries for the instruction of others who have no knowledges from revelation” such as our Word provides.268 Among those who come to constitute the skins, cartilages and bones of the Grand Man are also many gentiles who while on earth could not be reached by the Gospel. The modest uses which these perform after death still give them the highest joy of which they are capable.269
All spirits of the province of the skin are comparatively external in type. Since they have no extension of mind, they are mostly easily deceived. Some are devoid of perception and only want to argue about everything, and always from the appearances of the senses.270 Being in relatively little of spiritual life, such spirits dwell in the entrances or forecourts of heaven.271
The “Sirens,” and Interior Obsessions
Depraved skin-spirits are all in the desire to possess man’s whole life. If it were possible, such spirits would fain cast out man’s own spirit, and enter instead. But this can, of course, be done only in fantasy, for man’s spirit is his interior organism which cannot be changed for another.272
The only type of obsession possible at this day is called “interior obsession.” Bodily obsession of healthy individuals by spirits, such as occurred in the time of the Lord, has not been permitted since; although something similar apparently takes place in insanity (which is a physical disorder) and with “mediums” who invite a control by spirits. The things of the body have been exempted from the particular influx of spirits and angels and are instead ruled by a general influx.273 There are indeed spirits (or societies) allotted to the office of ruling the body, but these—like the man—are unaware that they do so. But if spirits should inflow to rule man’s members without such an appointment, and so “that they are quite aware that they are there,” this would constitute a bodily obsession.274 The spirit would then take possession of all man’s senses, speak through his mouth and act through his limbs. In ancient times there were spirits abroad in the world of spirits who could in that way actually possess men’s bodies, which took place by an influx which caused not only endeavors, but acts. Such spirits are now all confined to their hells. Yet the desire to obsess men is still present with many kinds of evil spirits, especially the adulterous, the cruel, and the “corporeal” type.275
Among these are the “sirens,” so called because they allure the unwary. They obsess man’s interiors through his exteriors.276 Such sirens are both male and female, but are mostly women who on earth were distinguished and esteemed, having lived in fair externals and in elegance—in which alone they delighted.277 They are bound by a regard for decorum and apparent propriety which had influenced them more than others; but when acting among themselves, their external bonds are relaxed. Their influx is especially destructive of conjugial love and tends to loosen the bonds of marriage and insinuate what is obscene and voluptuous. The main delight of the sirens is to obsess man and thus as it were return into the world.278With remarkable obstinacy they attempt to insinuate their fantasies even while man sleeps—fantasies which Swedenborg describes. They present themselves in a beauty almost angelic, naked (in order to suggest innocence), and contort themselves like snakes, with the view of breaking down any internal bonds of conscience.279 They labor to come into the very senses of man, especially into the sense of taste (which is however forbidden), and cause an itch in the skin.280 They try to put on the external memory and imagination of man, to obsess and hold it for themselves, clothing their designs by whatever of knowledge and cognition they find. And their power is such that they can identify themselves with good affections and inflow approvingly into the ideas of what is holy and innocent and even doctrinal. In that way they stimulate what is good and true and retain the pretext of what is honorable, while all the time they strive to obsess man’s interiors. They do not so much disturb the exteriors of man’s mind, as his interiors. They enter the thought of some one, follow it for a while, and then they begin to lead it.
We cannot refrain from suggesting that it is the hells of the sirens that are the real source of much of the literature and drama of today which flood the mind with prurient and profane imagery under the pretense of “realism” or “art”; hovering on the brink of the forbidden, making mock of innocence and marriage and the sanctities of human life, or insinuating contempt for the Lord and the Word under the guise of learning. This is the modern form of sorcery and obsession.
Man is of course ignorant of the interior obsession which results from such spheres of thought. But Swedenborg testifies, “This is the obsession which exists at this day.” There is an “incredible multitude” of obsessing spirits, “mostly from the church.” Their power over other spirits was such, he writes, that “unless the Lord should deliver the world of spirits from such, scarcely any good spirits could be in that world without being led captive by them.” He compares them to modern Nephilim, because of the terrible sphere of persuasion which they emit. They could only with difficulty be dislodged from the world of spirits. For they are present with men through simple spirits who relate to man’s external thought; and through these they enter into man’s thoughts and wholly lead them, “so that, being internal, they are the worst who take possession of men; and men cannot be defended from them at all, except by the Lord.”281
At the last judgment the sirens were confined in their hells. But continually new spirits of the same type enter the other life from the earth, and especially from the “civilized” world. And for our admonition the seer was prompted to write:
“Whether many persons are at this day thus obsessed may … be inferred from this: Let a man examine himself as to whether he is in any internal bond so that his thoughts abhor and turn away with loathing [from evil], and he suffers himself—inwardly or as to the thoughts—to abstain in some way from the most wicked, unmentionable, and obscene things; or whether it is merely external bonds which detain him.” Man may then find out whether he is struck with shame and fear and recoils in horror from the thought of such evil, or whether, if fear of the law and public opinion were removed, he would desire to do it. For if the latter is the case, “then he is inwardly obsessed by such sirens.” “Let a man thoroughly ponder whether he is of such a quality, for he is now able to know !”282
This is the purpose of these revelations of the Second Advent. “Man is now able to know.” He is able to know that when his thought is led into evil, this is the direct result of spirits who belong in hell and who must not be entertained in the human mind. But such thoughts—entering as they do even through innocent channels—are not imputed to man nor appropriated by him if he acknowledges their source and prays to the Lord for deliverance.
New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.
From Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The Lord’s Omnipresence and Omniscience can be Comprehended
Discovering inner health and transformation
The idea of punishment of hell seems unbelievable because these days we are less likely to see good and evil; no black and white, only shades of grey. People say if human beings are inherently good, then just take them away from a bad social environment, treat disease, or give them what they need, and they will be happy and useful.
If doing bad things is caused by environmental circumstances rather than individual moral choice, then surely an eternal punishment after death would be unjust? And if you balk at the idea of evil then you may dismiss the idea of hell and the punishment of hell.
But who would disagree that there are villains around stealing, embezzling, and murdering? Is their crime always just as an uncomfortable complication in human relations rather than as an offence against a standard of right and wrong, good and evil?
There is some evidence about the afterlife in the remarkable similarities in the way the near death experience is told by many individuals. Also there are the accounts of modern mediums of what they have been told by spirit communicators about life after death.
This information tallies with the meticulously written up reports of the eighteenth century writer Emanuel Swedenborg about his own psychic experiences of what he termed “the spiritual world” which lasted during the last twenty-seven years of his life.
Swedenborg describes one of his psychic visions. He saw inside a building where there was a court for a judge. A certain person came along who is described as ‘a lover of self’ and sat on a kind of throne. He believed he was admitted into the place so he might be the judge.
There was a crowd of people there who went around the throne, some crawling underneath. As a consequence the spirit became invisible. The crowd made fun of him, by sitting near him and over him.
At length the judge came along and sat down. His cheeks became fiery and we are told that this was a sign not only that he was the judge but also that he would administer judgment.
He inquired whether anyone had committed evil. Some were arraigned and sentenced to punishment – what might be called a punishment of hell. The rest were commended and let go. The judge tolerated everyone making fun and having their jokes, only they must not do wrong to anyone. They were afraid of him because of his power. If you treasure peace of mind, such a bedlam can perhaps be described as a hell.
This and many other experiences convinced Swedenborg that, in the next life, no-one suffers any punishment of hell for crime done in the world. Punishment and the fear of punishment is only used when needed as a deterrent if spirits were to deceive, steal from or abuse their companions with more evil intent than they did before their bodily death.
Some religious writers have spoken about infernal torments in hell as the stings of conscience on the part of remorseful souls when they are convicted of sin. However Swedenborg says people who have led spiteful and selfish lives may have regret for getting found out but no repentance because they have no real deeper conscience about right and wrong, other than concern about how they are viewed by others.
Swedenborg compares a heavenly state of mind with a hellish one. The former is an attitude of ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘loving one’s enemies’. However the latter is an attitude of ‘an eye for an eye’ and getting even with one’s foes. This then he says is really the punishment of hell. If, and only if, a malicious person does something horrid towards another individual beyond what has been done to him, he is immediately open to punishment or persecution from other spirits who do so with impunity.
Apparently fantasy can be a punishment of hell. Swedenborg observed proud spirits filled with their own importance as academic scholars. They lived in underground libraries wanting to be left to their studies and to escape responsibilities of life. But as they read, the candles went out!
Another proud person had contempt for others and became inflated like a balloon that grew to fill the universe – until he had no place to go!
Swedenborg was repeatedly told by evil spirits that “they would rather a thousand times live in hell than out of it.” Nowhere else could they indulge in their sole delight, which was to see others suffer and thus boost their own sense of importance. Nowhere else could they escape the light of truth, which spoiled their selfish plans and dispersed their cherished fantasies. For them to be allowed to enter heaven would be more aversive and unpleasant than whatever punishments their hellish companions could administer.
Swedenborg claimed that punishment of hell applied in the next life do not go on continually for ever. They are not retributions for sins committed on earth, but disciplinary reactions to criminal acts that selfish and cruel people commit in hell. Thus punishments in hell cease when external order has been restored.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on30th December 2011CategoriesEthics, Private EthicsLeave a comment
Verses 28, 29. Verily I say to you, All sins shall be remitted to men, and blasphemies with which soever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never remission, but is exposed to eternal judgement.—What is signified by “sin and blaspheme against the Holy Spirit,” and by a “word against the Son of Man,” has not yet been known in the church, and this by reason of its not having been known what is properly meant by the Holy Spirit, and what properly by the Son of Man. By the “Holy Spirit” is meant the Lord as to Divine Truth, such as it is in the heavens, thus the Word such as it is in the spiritual sense, for this is Divine Truth in heaven; and by the “Son of Man” is meant Divine Truth such as it is in the earths, thus the Word such as it is in the natural sense, for this is the Divine Truth in the earths. When it is known what is signified by the “Holy Spirit,” and what by the “Son of Man,” it is known also what is signified by “sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” and what by a “word against the Son of Man;” it may also be known why the sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be remitted, and why a word against the Son of Man can be remitted. For “sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” consist in denying the Word, also in adulterating its essential goods, and falsifying its essential truths; but a “word against the Son of Man” consists in interpreting the natural sense of the Word, which is the sense of its letter, according to appearances. The reason why a denial of the Word is a sin which cannot be remitted in this age, nor in that which is to come, or to eternity, and why it exposes to eternal judgement, is, because they who deny the Word, deny a God, deny the Lord, deny a heaven and a hell, and deny the church and all things belonging to it; and they who deny those things are Atheists, who, although they say with their lips that the creation of the universe is the work of some Highest Being, Deity, or God, yet in heart they ascribe it to Nature; such persons, inasmuch as by denial they have loosened every bond of connection with the Lord, must of necessity be separated from heaven, and conjoined to hell. The reason why the adulteration of the essential goods of the Word, and the falsification of its essential truths, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which also cannot be remitted, is, because by the Holy Spirit is meant the Lord, as to Divine Truth, such as it is in the heavens, thus the Word such as it is in the spiritual sense, as was said above. For in the spiritual sense are genuine goods and genuine truths, but in the natural sense are the same goods and truths as it were clothed, and not naked except here and there, wherefore these are called apparent goods and truths; these are what are adulterated and falsified, and they are said to be adulterated and falsified when they are explained contrary to genuine goods and truths, for in such case heaven removes itself, and man is put to pieces from it, by reason that genuine goods and truths, as was said above, constitute the spiritual sense of the Word, in which the angels of heaven are principled. As for example:—If the Lord and His Divinity be denied, as was done by the Pharisees, who said that the Lord worked miracles from Beelzebub, and had an unclean spirit, this is to commit sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, because it is against the Word. Hence also it is that Socinians and Arians, who, although they do not deny the Lord, still deny His Divinity, are out of heaven, and cannot be received by any angelic society. To take another example. They who exclude the good of love and the works of charity from the means of salvation, and assume faith exclusively as the only means, and confirm themselves in this idea, not only bv doctrine, but also by life, saying in their hearts,—” Goods do not save me, neither do evils condemn me, because I have faith;” these also blaspheme the Holy Spirit, for they falsify the genuine goods and truths of the Word, and this in a thousand passages, where love and charity, deeds and works, are named. Moreover, as was said above, in all and singular things of the Word, there is a marriage of good and truth, thus of charity and faith, wherefore when good or charity is taken away, that marriage perishes, and adultery is committed in its place; hence it is, that neither are such persons received into heaven. The reason also is, because in the place of heavenly love they have earthly love, and in the place of good works they have evil works, inasmuch as they proceed from earthly love, which, separate from heavenly love, is infernal love. But it is otherwise with those who indeed believe from the doctrine of the church, and from teachers, that faith is the only means of salvation, or who know, and do not interiorly affirm or deny, and still live well, under the guidance of the Word, that is, because it is commanded by the Lord in the Word: these do not blaspheme the Holy Spirit, for they do not adulterate the goods of the Word, nor falsify its truths, wherefore they have conjunction with the angels of heaven; Few of them also know that faith is any thing else than to believe the Word; the doctrine of justification by faith alone without the works of the law they do not comprehend, because it transcends their understanding. These two examples are adduced to the intent that it may be known what is meant by “sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” and that sin against the Holy Spirit consists in denying the Divine Truth, thus the Word, and that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in adulterating the essential Goods of the Word, and in falsifying
its essential Truths. The reason why a “word against the Son of Man” signifies to interpret the natural sense of the Word, which is the sense of its letter, according to appearances, is, Because by the “Son of Man” is meant the Lord, as to Divine Truth, such as it is in the earths, thus such as it is in the natural sense; and the reason why this “word” is remitted to man, is, Because most things in the natural sense, or in the sense of the letter of the Word, are goods and truths clothed, and only some naked, as in its spiritual sense; and goods and truths clothed are called appearances of truth. For the Word in the ultimates is as a man clad in clothing, who yet as to the face and hands is naked, and where the Word is thus naked, there its goods and truths appear naked as in heaven, thus such as they are in the spiritual sense; wherefore it can never come to pass but that the doctrine of genuine good and genuine truth, derived from the sense of the letter of the Word, may be seen by those who are enlightened of the Lord, and be confirmed by those who are not enlightened. The reason why the Word is such in the sense of the letter, is, that it may be a basis for the spiritual sense; hereby also it is accommodated to the apprehension of the simple, who can only perceive those things which are so said, and when they perceive, can believe and do them. And whereas Divine Truths, in the sense of the letter of the Word, are most of them appearances of truth, and the simple in faith and heart cannot be elevated above those appearances, hence it is not sin and blasphemy to interpret the Word according to appearances, if so be principles are not formed from them, and these confirmed even to the destruction of Divine Truth in its genuine sense. AE 778.
By “saying a word against the Holy Spirit” is meant to speak well and to think ill, and to do well and to will ill, respecting those things which relate to the Lord, His kingdom and church, and also which relate to the Word, for thereby a false principle lies concealed inwardly in the truths which are spoken, and in the goods which are done, which false principle is hidden poison, whence they are called an offspring of vipers. In the other life it is allowed to an evil spirit to speak what is evil and false, but not what is good and true, inasmuch as all in that life are compelled to speak from the heart, and not to divide the mind; they who do otherwise are separated from the rest, and are immersed deep in hells, from which they can never come forth. That such are they who are meant by “saying a word against the Holy Spirit,” is manifest from the Lord’s words on the occasion,—” Either make the tree good and the fruit good, or make the tree corrupt and the fruit corrupt; how can you speak what is good when you are evil?” (Matt 12:33, 34.) The “Holy Spirit” is the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, thus the Holy, Divine Principle Itself, which is thus principally and materially blasphemed. The reason why it will not be remitted to them is, because hypocrisy or deceit about holy Divine things infects the interiors of man, and destroys the all of spiritual life belonging to him. AC 9013. See also, AC 882, 9264, 9818. Also, DP 98, 231. Also, TCR 299.
” Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is blasphemy against the Lord’s Divinity, and “blasphemy against the Son of Man” is something against the Word, by giving a wrong interpretation of its meaning; for the “Son of Man” is the Lord as to the Word, as was shown above. D. Lord. 50.
Verses 31—35. Then came His brethren and mother, and, standing without, sent to Him. And looking round on those who sat about Him, He says, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.—That a “servant” denotes the Humanity belonging to the Lord, before it was made Divine, may be manifest from several passages in the Prophets; the reason is, as has been occasionally observed above, that the Humanity belonging to the Lord was nothing else but a servant, before He put it off and made it Divine. For the Humanity belonging to Him was from the mother, thus an infirm Humanity, having with it an hereditary principle thence derived, which He conquered by temptation-combats, and altogether expelled, insomuch that there remained nothing of the infirm and hereditary principle derived from the mother; yea, at length, nothing at all from the mother, so that He totally put off the maternal principle, in such a manner as to be no longer her son. To this purpose He Himself also says in Mark,—” They said to Him, Behold, Your mother and Your brethren, standing without, seek You; and He answered them, saying, Who is My mother or My brethren? And looking round about on them who sat near Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren; for whoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and My mother.” (Mark 3:32-35; Matt 12:46-49; Luke 8:20, 21.) And when He put off this Humanity, He put on a Divine Humanity, from which He called Himself the Son of Man, as on several occasions in the Word of the New Testament, also the Son of God; and by the “Son of Man” was signified the essential Truth, and by the “Son of God” the essential Good, which His Human Essence had when made Divine. The former state was that of the Lord’s humiliation, but the latter of His glorification, concerning which, see above, AC 1999. In the former state, namely, of humiliation, when as yet He had an infirm Humanity belonging to Him, He adored Jehovah as one distinct from Himself, regarding Himself as a servant, for the Humanity respectively is nothing but a servant. AC 2159.
It is to be noted that the Lord successively and continually, even to the last moment of life, when He was glorified, separated from Himself, and put off what was merely Human, namely, what He derived from the mother, until at length He was no longer her son, but the Son of God, not only as to conception, but also as to nativity, and thus One with the Father; and Himself Jehovah. That He separated from Himself, and put off all the Humanity which He had from the mother, so that He was no longer her son, is manifest from the Lord’s words in Matthew,—”A certain person said, Behold, Your mother and Your brethren stand without, seeking to speak with You; but Jesus answering, said, Who is My mother, and who My brethren? And stretching forth His hands over His disciples, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren! for whoever shall do the will of My Father who is in the heavens, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.” AC 4649.
My brethren,—The reason why the Lord calls those His “brethren” who do the will of His Father, is, because in heaven no other affinities are given but such as are spiritual, thus no other fraternities; for in heaven they do not become brethren by virtue of any natural nativity, and they too, who have been brethren in the world, do not there know each other, but every one knows another from the good of love; they who are most conjoined in that good, are as brethren, and the rest, according to conjunction by good, are as relations and also as friends. Hence it is that by “brother,” in the Word, is signified the good of love. That in heaven all are consociated according to spiritual relationships, which are of the good of love and of faith, and that they know each other as relations, see the “Treatise on Heaven and Hell,” 205, and AC 685, 917, 2739, 3815, 4121. That hence by “brethren” in the Word are meant those who are conjoined by good, see AC 2360, 3303, 3803, 10490. AE 46.
By the “disciples,” over whom the Lord stretched forth His hand, are signified all who are of His church; by His “brethren” are signified those who are in the good of charity from Him; by “sisters” those who are in truths derived from that good; and by “mother” is signified the church consisting of such. AE 746. See also AC 685, 917, 2739, 3815. NJHD 9.
Verse 35. Whosoever shall do the will of God, &c.—By “doing the will of God,” is understood to do His precepts, or to live according to them from the affection of love or charity. The “will of the Lord” is, in the Old Testament, called His good pleasure, and in like manner signifies the Divine Love; and to “do His good pleasure,” or “His will,” signifies to love God and our neighbour, thus to live according to the Lord’s precepts. AE 295.
The Source of Anxiety, Worry, and Depression
Quoting from the Writings Sacred Scripture:
Much less can anyone love himself and at the same time the neighbor, and still less the Lord.
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
8 Influx and Cupidity
“So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Matthew 8:31
The Awakening of Hereditary Evils
It is a general doctrine that the life of man’s understanding and thought is constantly stimulated and enriched from the sensations of his body, or from without, while the life of the will, or that of his emotions, seems to well up from the depths of his being, or from within. In other words, truth comes from without, good comes from within. That which affects his understanding can be traced to other men and to various other agencies and sources; while that which is of his will seems to originate in himself.
Yet the doctrine shows that even the life of man’s emotions or affections comes to him through media, namely, through the spiritual world and its many societies. The influx of life from the Lord is both immediate, into man’s soul and essential human faculties, and mediate. And the mediate influx from the Lord is through heaven. The Lord rules men mediately through angelic societies which are in subordination and mutual dependence. He rules also by lower types of spirits, good and evil, who are present in endless chains connected with all the particulars of man’s memory, on which his conscious life is founded.
The infinite operation, or the ordering influx of the Lord, is not made any the less infinite or less Divine, although it works through these finite mediations. Yet there are also things which come to man from the media themselves, that is, from angels and spirits: and it is true of this influx that it takes color and character from the qualities of the life of those angels and spirits. The life which the evil spirits voluntarily transmit is evil and is felt by man as perverse and harmful cupidities. It is even true that “the things that come from the angels themselves” and “accommodate themselves to the affection of man,” “are not in themselves goods, yet still serve for introducing the goods and truths which are from the Lord.”199
“There is no good without influx through societies.”200 Nor is there any evil which does not have extension into infernal societies according to the quality and extent of their evil. All man’s affections arise from the influx of spirits. It is therefore stated that evil spirits induce in man cupidities, but no persuasions; and that they operate into man through his affections, and that they excite his evils.201 But it is specified that spirits are not allowed to operate into those evils which are hereditary—as long as such evils are merely latent, as in infancy. Evil spirits do not venture to introduce any evil so long as the apparent goods of ignorance hold sway. Evil spirits are then held in subjection, and merely serve. But the case is quite different when man has procured evil to himself by sinful acts, and has acquired a sphere of cupidities and falsities. Then the evil spirits as it were rebel, and stir up his evils, and seek to dominate. This is represented by the rebellion of Sodom against Chedorlaomer.202
If evil spirits could operate directly into the hereditary tendencies to evil before these come to man’s consciousness, there could be no salvation for man. For they would then excite his whole native will, and set loose such an influx of cupidity that man would perish as with a flood. This actually took place with the antediluvian race—the decadent offspring of the celestial church—which lived at the time of Noah. Their whole mental life became inundated with passions which turned their unresisting thought into terrible fantasies.
But the Lord, whenever possible, acted to save the human race by separating man’s understanding from the primal emotions and thus preventing the evil will from swamping man’s conscious life. This He did by confining to hell all those evil genii in the spiritual world who operated into man’s hereditary will; and by placing man’s conscious development in the realm of his understanding. He thus absolved men from responsibility for their inherited evil will. He permitted no spirits to dominate any man unless that man had invited them through actual evils and thereby had taken over conscious responsibility for their presence.
What is this ‘actual evil,’ into which spirits are permitted to inflow? It is evil which is recognized as such by the understanding, and yet condoned, excused and defended. If a man sees an evil as evil, and yet approves it by the understanding, he confirms it and appropriates it to himself, and becomes responsible for it.203
It becomes clear, therefore, that the evil will is not suddenly loosed in man. In childhood, when angels and good spirits rule, man’s first life, with its slumbering cupidities and unanalyzed delights, is however nursed by an influx from evil spirits; and this in order that he may be sustained and not perish.144 At first this is wholly unrecognized by the child and man. Evil is hidden or only latent, because the evil spirits serve and do not rule.204 But as the child emerges from the state of innocence and becomes selfconscious, affections of evil from the will gradually extend themselves into the understanding, and there they appear before man’s judgment, one by one, as his understanding grows: at first external evils, many of them from maternal inheritance; and later more interior evils, derived from the father. If man then should turn away from these evil affections as they seek to clothe themselves with knowledges and persuasive reasonings and symbolic forms in his imagination, evil spirits would have to stop infesting him—although still remaining to serve in various ways.205
In this connection we may understand the statement that in the temptations of a man of the spiritual church “evil spirits are associated who excite nothing but his scientifics and rational things,” while “spirits who excite cupidities are entirely warded off from man.”206 For the evils or cupidities of the native will are not excited, except so far as these are confirmed in the understanding, or have taken on the form of perverted knowledge, sordid imaginations, and false principles.
It is the man himself who thus confirms by thought the cupidity or evil which the spirits infuse, or else refuses to think from that evil and instead decides to think from the purer motives that emanate from good spirits.
Imputation and Control of Cupidities
Hereditary evils which have not been made actual are not imputed as guilt in a man. Neither is a man blamed for evils which spirits infuse without his knowledge—evils which man has not recognized as evils, nor confirmed by his understanding. Such evils or cupidities are only of the will, and not of the understanding.207 Gentiles and children are not rightly held responsible for all their behavior—on the principle, “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin.” This does not mean that such evils do not carry their weight of consequences, but that these miserable consequences are external rather than internal. With those who are in periodic self-examination and are in repentance in the matter of certain sins which they have found in themselves, the law of eternal imputation therefore contains the saving clause, that “if they sin from ignorance, or from some very powerful lust, it is not imputed to them, because they did not propose it to themselves, nor do they (afterwards) confirm it in themselves” by self-justifications.208
Certain acts of sudden passion may thus be caused by an influx of cupidity from spirits in the other life, before a man finds time to consider rationally how insane they are. Even in courts of law, such lack of premeditation is considered a mitigating circumstance, although the crime still remains. If such crimes were not punished at all, society would dissolve. If we were simply to condone our own momentary lapses, we would soon be a prey to evil spirits, a tool in their hands. For we would then relax the effort to use our God-given faculty of reason for disciplining our will: and we would revert to the level of beasts, and go back to the state of the antediluvians, whose own will was their only law. And all hell would rejoice.
Still it is told that good spirits, when angry, have been known to burst forth into effusions which one would expect only from the worst. The cause of their anger—Swedenborg observed—was that they were not admitted to do good.209 An upright man, when angry, is acting from the external man, from the proprium. Yet interiorly he feels that his good intention is foiled, or that a good love is assaulted. His anger, inwardly viewed, is only a zeal to remove obstacles; and to do this by the brute force of his natural affections, without consulting the understanding, is often fatal. With the good, this impure zeal does not last for long. It fights, perhaps, only to “remove those who are in what is false and evil lest they should injure those who are in what is good and true.” A good soldier exercises mercy after the battle is over. But a wicked man continues to persecute his foe from hatred and revenge, and wills evil to all with whom he fights; and his anger persists and accumulates within and is not extinguished.210
It was intimated above that no spirit is allowed to teach or lead man “except from cupidity.”211 Spirits do not infuse new thoughts, whether false or true, into any man. But it is also true, that “the life of cupidities tends to induce persuasion” ; although man must lend his consent to this.212 When a man has confirmed some lust, spirits can inflame him to a high pitch of rage from which his imagination is filled with fantasies of revenge and murder—insane persuasions about how ill-treated or persecuted he is, thoughts of self-importance and of envy which distort the perspective of his whole mind. Evil spirits are then in their delight, for such thoughts exalt their own fantasies with a sense of power and fulfilment. They cause the man to take delight in these thoughts, and—unknown to both—the spirits then rule the man, and hold him so bound that only the Lord can disentangle him.213
The more a man confirms an evil and takes delight in it and persuades himself that it is allowable,214 the more intimate becomes his conjunction with the society in hell which is in that special evil and in its many fantasies and falsities. Indeed, he is preparing himself for that society in which he will be a slave after death. A succession of emissaries from that infernal society are always with him—spirits who for a time are lifted out of that hell into the world of spirits to rule him. Or else he is attended by unjudged spirits who are like him.215
Yet the whole leading of the Divine Providence seeks to prevent a man from confirming his favorite vices except so far as he insists. The pressures of daily necessity, the rush of natural routine, the fact of man’s limitations and lack of opportunity to enter very deeply into his particular evils, are all means that tend to mitigate his state, and preserve him from rushing headlong into his hell. By his everyday life, his work and his social contacts, he is kept in a state of freedom—a state in which other spirits can operate upon him. Even if he lacks an interior plane of conscience through which angels can be near him, still good spirits can associate themselves with him externally whenever he is not in open evils.216 For even a wicked man may have a hereditary good nature and possess many lovable traits and apparent goods; and he may have many truths in his understanding. Heaven can inflow through spirits into his externals, into his regard for others and into his fear of the law, even though this proceeds from a dread of losing reputation or life. Thus they hold him in an external honorable conduct as far as they can. “This is the plane into which heaven inflows at this day”; but this plane is not retained in the other life.217
The Lord thus rules the thoughts and speech of man through good spirits, who hold him as it were bound while he is engaged in thinking about his uses. And in this state the evil spirits with the man are also held in servitude. It is related of a preacher who lived a bad life, that while he was preaching and commending the life of good, the angels excited the evil spirits present to think and speak in a similar vein. But when the preacher returned to the state of his interiors, and his ordinary life, the evil spirits immediately began to control him.218
By a life of use to society, even an evil man is therefore a partaker in the benefits of heaven in that he is temporarily removed from the control of evil spirits, and can therefore be in external order. Indeed, all men come by uses into the stream of Providence. Swedenborg cites the Swedish proverb, “Idleness is the devil’s pillow,” as an indication that when we are no longer in the sphere of the love of uses we become the prey of disorderly spirits who roam through all sorts of by-places in the world of spirits seeking rest.219
It is remarkable that the Writings refer to the corrupt states of the Christian world, yet refer to each of the nations as noble, e.g., “the noble French nation,” “the noble German nation.” This is because a nation is an organization of uses, uses so ordered that heaven can be present in them. A country is therefore a higher form of the neighbor, inferior only to the church. When we depart from the spirit of cooperating in the uses of state, society, or church; or when, in the execution of our duties, we withdraw into ourselves and turn away from the common illustration of others who are in the same use, the protection of ultimate order is no longer over us. We become like a house, empty, swept, and garnished— inviting the influx of strange spirits.220 We become unable to see things in their true proportions or to see the true relative significance of things. Our mind comes into various moods, solicitudes, and fancies; comes to brood over imagined slights, to worry about unimportant details or obstacles, or feel frustrated because of certain conditions which are quite outside of our power or office to alter; to become despondent about the state of the people about us; in short, to come either into melancholy, pessimism, or sadness, or else into some fanatical zeal or into religious scruples. And in some cases, where bodily conditions and temperamental tendencies concur, this may even develop into delirium, self-delusions, and insanities. Indeed, bodily diseases which intercept the life of use, may themselves be sufficient to invite such states.
The Causes of Morbid Moods
Swedenborg had experience with a great many of the different groups of spirits who caused these moods to which we are all so liable. Most of these spirits operate by holding man in reflection upon a certain object of thought, until the idea becomes almost an obsession, a “fixed idea” against which no argument or conscious effort avails. Thus Swedenborg found that as often as he was anxious about his garden and its care, about the probable reception of his Writings, or about money-matters and other like things, spirits would immediately throw in inconvenient, troublesome and evil suggestions, with confirmations and cupidities. He thus learnt that the longer a man is held in such thoughts, the more difficult do spirits make it for man to free himself of them.221
In the same way, when anyone comes to brood overly much upon spiritual or abstract things without finding relief in varieties and social contacts; or when his thought dwells on the fear of hell-fire or ruminates some misfortune; the spirits with him stir up his proprium and draw out from his memory many related things which thus continually haunt him so that the subject becomes—sometimes—a form of monomania.222 Those who live a solitary life are especially prone to melancholy and delirium. But there is particular danger when a solicitude of self-love, or a love of gain, prompts a man to be anxious about the future.
Modern psychiatrists indeed recognize the setting of these symptoms. They particularly mention the existence—deeply hidden among the forgotten things of the memory—of thwarted longings, repressed desires, and fears of various sort, forming “complexes” of subconscious ideas or states which have their disguised emissaries in the conscious thought. Mental patients sometimes have unreasonable antipathies or inhibitions, or fears of some ordinary object, such as a chair or a street or a certain room or a person, or a dread of heights or of crowds. Others have an inordinate and irrational delight in some color or some thing—which may recur in their dreams or their day-dreams.
But New Church psychologists know in addition that such phobias and fixations are organized by the influx of spirits and must therefore correspond to the lusts of a group of spirits in the other world. And just as each society sends out emissary spirits or employs some one spirit as a subject-spirit through which they can act with man, so these hidden knots of passion which are called “complexes” have symbolic representatives in the conscious mind—objects of thyught, which the spirits love to arouse. When man’s attention is held fixed on these objects, which are usually harmless in themselves, he comes into a certain mood because an influx from these spirits then takes place. These things occur with perfectly normal people. A man may be unable to account for his anxiety, his unreasonable fear or melancholy, or for his excitement and enthusiasm. His friends may wonder at his depression or elation—wonder why he is getting so excited or irritated over some triviality. Often he could not possibly explain. He does not know. But the spirits with him, they know; although they are not aware that they are with the man.
All human minds are subject to some of these irrational moods. Ordinarily their coming and passing is quite normal —part of the life of the mind. But—we read in the Diary— “some persons are led by spirits to such an extent that they cannot return into truths. Their fantasies have become so deeply rooted that whenever they fall into those thoughts, they are so altogether immersed in them, that they cannot be dislodged even through varieties. They remain persuaded that the matter is such or that the persons are such.” When these obsessions appear before the world, they are called monomania; for on all other subjects the man is sane.223
It is obvious that if evil held sway in man’s mind, his reason would soon totter. Passions such as envy distort man’s thought about others. Hatred or revenge fill his imagination with fantasies. The fear that springs from a sensitive self-love gives birth to hideous suspicions, utterly unfounded. And in the other world the lust for gain and wealth turns evil spirits periodically into gloating idiots. Indeed, hell is insane from no other source. And the Scribe of the Second Advent consequently writes :
“Therefore the Lord alone makes provision that man may not come into such insanities, and thence into innumerable fantasies : in order to prevent this, He commands that we shall have no care for the morrow; for this is what is meant by having solicitude for the morrow. Those, therefore, who are in such conceits, and strongly incline to them, can by no means be drawn out of them, except by faith in the Lord. Those who are in faith are liberated by the Lord, however infested by spirits, and this by innumerable methods, both external and internal.”224
New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.
New Christian Bible Study
Heaven And Hell
People seem a bit unclear about heaven’s landscape – is it a tropical garden with fruit for the picking, or is it a place of fluffy white clouds and harp music?
They are also divided on how to get there. Is it by accepting the forgiveness brought to mankind by Jesus on the cross (the Protestant version)? Or is it by doing the things God has told us to do through holy books and churches (the version for Catholics and most other monotheists)?
But this much seems to be agreed: It is a paradise and a reward, and anyone who gains entry will be happy.
Hell, meanwhile, is quite the opposite: It is a fearsome place where people are tortured. Some see is cold and snowy; most think of it as hot and fiery, but either way it is torment for anyone who goes there. And who is that ends up there? Anyone who doesn’t believe the right things, which will vary depending on which version of the “right things” actually turns out to be right.
But does that all make sense? It seems someone could be a thoroughly nasty person, full of hatred for others and love of himself, and still go to heaven for saying or doing specific, sanctioned things. Someone else could be the nicest guy in the world, always ready to help and with a genuine delight in the good fortune of others, but trot off to hell’s torturers for believing in the wrong version of God.
The obvious question there is “what kind of God would torture people just for believing the wrong thing?” That’s caused a lot of people to question whether hell exists.
A more intriguing question, though, involves that nasty, selfish, horrible person going to heaven. His whole life his delight has been fleecing people out of their money and laughing at them for their stupidity, and now he’s supposed to hang out eating grapes with these same pathetic losers? Worse, he’s not allowed to run any scams, trick them, laugh at them, nothing! This goody-two-shoes “love and harmony” garbage makes him gag. What kind of heaven is that?
Swedenborg’s take on heaven and hell is quite different. It stems from the idea that we are what we love: that our deepest affections and feelings determine our true character, not what we’ve done or even the thoughts we have. After we die, his works say, our affections come to the surface so that everyone can see them, and then we are in a sense free to associate with anyone we want to. So naturally we find people with similar affections so we can live together and share the things we love.
Heaven, then becomes a state where good people can share their lives with other good people. Even better, they share their lives with others who love the same specific good things, and can work on those good things together. This flows out as uses, work that’s important, and that is a delight to everyone involved.
Hell, on the flip side, is simply a place where nasty, selfish people congregate and filter into groups based on the specific lusts and desires they have. Since they’re all evil, they all want to hurt and dominate each other, so it’s a rather endless struggle. And since the Lord prevents them from really hurting each other – and prevents them from attacking the good people – it’s rather frustrating. But that torture from within is the only torture there is; the Lord has no desire to and no reason to punish them. In fact, He still loves them and wishes for them to be as happy as they can be, considering what they have chosen to become.
There is much, much more that could be said; Swedenborg wrote an entire book on the subject. Here are a few key points:
1. People are married in heaven; in fact, the pure love of marriage is the central love of heaven. Those marriages are of husbands and wives who are perfectly matched, suited to each other uniquely because of what they love and how they think. In some cases those are marriages continued from this life; in other cases couples part mutually and are led to the right partners. Swedenborg calls the love of heavenly couples “conjugial,” and says a husband and wife actually become one soul. And yes, those marriages are “complete,” with the addendum that the merging of external bodies we can experience in this life is but a faint reflection of the merging of spiritual bodies that an angel couple experiences.
2. There is no separate race of angels: Angels are people who accepted the Lord’s love in this life and went to heaven after they died.
3. Children who die go to heaven to be raised by angel parents. They are still human and still have free will, but growing up in heaven all but guarantees they will become angels as well.
4. People’s surroundings – and even their outward appearance – are projections of what they are internally, so that both are of surpassing beauty and pleasantness, all perfectly suited to the people who are there.
5. Between heaven and hell is an area Swedenborg calls the World of Spirits. People go there when they first die, and while there learn the truth about the Lord and heaven. People’s inner loves also slowly emerge while they are in the World of Spirits, so they recognize others with the same loves and begin their journeys toward heaven or hell.
6. Heaven itself is in three layers. The lowest is the natural heaven, where people are on a love of being obedient and doing the right things. The middle is the spiritual heaven, where people are in the love of other people, and from that in a love of what is true. The highest is the celestial heaven, where people are in love to the Lord, and express their ideas as wisdom. These layers are mirrored in hell, with those in pure love of self and hatred of the Lord in the deepest hells.
The Swedenborg Foundation recently published a new translation of Swedenborg’s “Heaven and Hell,” with modernized language for greater accessibility. You can order that here: http://swedenborg.com/book_detail.asp-pkproductid=82
You can also download a free version of an older translation here: http://swedenborg.com/page.asp-page_name=complete_works
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