13 General Influx

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

Image result for swedenborg study

13 General Influx


“He sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.” Matthew 5: 45

Life Inflows

“Life inflows.” This statement is a postulate which no one can refute. For life, wherever it manifests itself, cannot be proved to be inherent in any natural form or to be identical with it. The death of the body testifies to the truth that life is a gift, an “influx” from a realm beyond our sight. Life is a gift—a loan. Revelation assures us that for men it is a permanent loan which shall not be taken away from us. And the further truth is revealed that the life which unfolds its strange qualities in the tiny organisms, from lichens to men, which flourish so miraculously on the surface of the planets, is derived from the Lord God who is infinitely Man—infinite Love and infinite Wisdom.

The Lord governs the heavens and the galaxies of worlds by the modes of His influx—by laws according to which He gives of His life to all finite recipients, just so far as there is response and reciprocation. The Lord alone is Life. What appears as life with man is only reception—variable and limited states of reception. To receive is the esse of man’s life,313 His body is not his own, but is built for him out of the matters of the earth and the atmospheres. His soul is beyond his control and is eternally under the Lord’s care, being formed from higher spiritual substances as the Lord’s own abode with him.314 His mind is formed from lower spiritual substances, and into it are focussed knowledges and thoughts and spheres of affection from neighboring minds and spirits; for no man either wills or thinks from himself.

Man himself is but a state of reception, a state of response to the rich gifts of life which press in from within and from without—”good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over.” Yet he is the focus, the ultimate upon which all the influxes of life are centered as upon their final object in and through which all the ends of creation are to be fulfilled.315 The faculty of reception is given to man by the Lord’s life acting both immediately and through diverse instrumentalities. The Lord inflows into the interiors of man, or into his rational thought and will, both immediately from Himself and mediately through heaven or the spiritual world. He also inflows into the exteriors of man’s natural, both immediately, and mediately through the spiritual world.316

The Lord’s immediate influx is not only into the will and thought of man “but also at the same time into many things which befall him”—thus ruling apparent accidents, chance and fortune; which (as was shown in a preceding chapter) are called “Providence in the ultimate of order, in which all things are relatively inconstant,” or wherein no order or necessary sequence can be discerned, but which are according to Divine foresight.317

The Lord’s mediate influx, or His mediate government of man’s mind and body is effected through the spiritual world— through the heavens and the hells. We have already stressed the teaching that all man’s states draw their causes from the spirits and angels who attend him. We are creatures of changing moods. But we are usually able, on reflection, to account for the states into which we have imperceptibly drifted, by tracing them to natural causes. To excuse our frailties or our impatience, we complain that we are tired, are unjustly treated, are bored or homesick, etc. We tend to blame our rebellious moods, our moral lapses, or our indulgence in self-pity upon deficient health or other natural circumstances.

Yet common experience tells us that the same apparent natural causes do not always produce the same moods but serve merely as an occasion favorable to their appearance. The Writings convert this vague perception into a clear doctrine which teaches that there would be no conscious life, no realized affections or distinct thought with man, except for the influx of spirits and angels; and that the real meanings which we attach to our sensations and experiences in this world are derived from the moods which spirits instil into us—moods of delight or aversion.

If we are to pursue the subject further, however, we must learn to distinguish between “particular influx” and “general influx”—between two types of influx, both mediated by the spiritual world, but affecting men in different ways.318

General Influx and Particular Influx

“There flows from the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world a general influx and also a particular influx—a general influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those which are not in order.”318 Animals are all born into the order of their creation and are ruled by a general influx, without the mediation of any spirits and angels; which is of course obvious, since animals existed before mankind. The first men were also created into the order of their lives. And before the Fall, men, like the animals, were no doubt born into similar instinctive grasp of the knowledge needed for their natural life; but they were also born with a faculty to develop a perception of spiritual wisdom which beasts cannot have. The primitive race would then have been governed, even as to their mind, by no other than a “general influx.”319

But differently from the beasts, man could change the original order of his life—although only with reference to his mental life. With the fall into sin, as hereditary evils began to multiply among men, man’s natural mind became utterly divorced from heaven. The sensual degree of that mind became by heredity so infected and perverted that the Writings declare that every tender babe now born is born in “a state of damnation!”320 For an infant feels anything as good if it favors self. This shocking truth implies first of all that man’s mind cannot any longer be governed by a general influx from heaven. The only general influx that it could receive would be a general influx from hell which would flood his unresisting understanding with fantasies of self-love. All his mental instincts would then be perverse beyond any possibility of change, and he would live like a ravening beast without any restraints of reason.321

It was therefore provided by the Lord that man’s will should be separated from his understanding so that the rational part of his mind could be built up in a certain independence of the native will. Although he might long for evil, he could then still learn about truth and good. He could see truths and reflect upon them, so that a new world could be created within him in which he becomes more or less detached from that which was natural and spontaneous to him from birth. He could then be governed in a new way under the Lord’s auspices—by “particular influx” or by limited influences through a succession of angels and spirits so counterpoised that man might be held in a freedom of choice. Two good spirits and two evil spirits thus become his attendants.

Each spirit could act upon him only by affections aroused one by one and presented as intentions and perceptions in his understanding. Good spirits could approach him through the “remains” of good and truth implanted since infancy; and evil spirits would excite the hidden states of his evil loves.

Under the regime of particular influx man is born into ignorance, not as a prey to his instincts. His responsibility is confined to the states which would be gradually aroused through knowledge and experience. His native will is mere self-love, with animal appetites capable of incredible ferocity. But man does not normally realize the character of these dormant loves, for they are mercifully covered over with apparent goods. The hereditary will is covered over, closed and reserved, lest it should overwhelm the mind with irresistible waves of passion. This is the salvation provided for the “spiritual” race on our earth, and is signified by Noah’s retreat into the ark, the lowest mansion of which was shut up.322

Through particular influx man becomes aware of his evil potentialities by their gradual admission into consciousness, as intentions; which is permitted only so far as the understanding is equipped to analyze, to recognize, and to challenge them. Man has no power to change the general state of his natural mind by any sudden exertion of free choice. But he has the power to act from his understanding and judge as to particular states when they come forth one by one. He cannot shun all his evil tendencies, but he can resist them one by one as they appear while he is in free and rational states. By placing man under the rule of particular influx, the Lord as it were permits man to break the bundle of sticks one by one.

By placing man’s disordered mind under particular influx, the Lord did not abrogate the general influx of heaven wherever such influx could be received. General influx still rules all things which are in order, and thus governs those things in body and soul which man does not control. Man has no command over his inmost soul nor over the secret operations within his body. Particular spirits attend man and rest upon his ideas and stir his various emotions, thus affecting his thought and will. But no individual spirits are appointed over that in man’s life over which he has no real direction. He is free to think, to decide what to do, and to initiate an action. But the will flows into act spontaneously, and thought flows into speech by natural processes according to an order which man does not understand because it occurs by general influx in an instinctive manner. It is done by order itself, and neither man or spirit has any part in it.323 After spending many laborious years trying to understand the subject, Swedenborg concluded that “it is better simply to know” that the will inflows and moves the body than to attempt to trace the operations in their intricate fluxions through the fibres from brain to muscles.324 The order itself is as it were implanted in nerves and muscles. Other bodily functions, like the growth of the embryo during gestation, are performed without man’s real assistance. Similarly, one tastes food and swallows it; but this being done, the digestive canal acts without the help of man in converting the food into blood.

On reflection we may see that man’s own part in life is very small, and it is sometimes said that “Nature” carries out the processes of growth, digestion, etc., with an instinctive intelligence immeasurably wiser than man’s own. But nature has no intelligence. It is the Creator Himself who inflows with life immediately into the human soul—the inmost of the spirit—and operates these miracles. The soul, which is above the ken or control of both angels and men, is created in the image and likeness of God and bears within it the cause, pattern and conatus by which the body is formed and maintained.325

The body, as to its essential form, is therefore also under the Creator’s direct rule, so that man cannot by any mental resolve make a single hair white or black. For it is under a general influx, not needing the mediation of any particular spirit.326

Yet the medium through which the human body is created and maintained by general influx is “the Grand Man, which corresponds in all its minute details to human bodies.”327 “Bodily things are exempt from the particular influx of spirits and angels,” lest men should suffer bodily obsessions.328 But the ordinate flow of the will and the thought into bodily acts is “by means of a general influx according to the correspondences of the Grand Man.”329 The human form of the body is indeed modified by parental and environmental factors, through angels, spirits and men. But this modification is comparatively slight and superficial. For “what is effected through mediate influx … is relatively very little.”330 The image of the whole of the Grand Man dominates every society of heaven, and the more general societies correspond to the organs and viscera of the body, and so regard each other mutually and make a one.331

It is a new truth revealed in the Writings that there is a general influx from each general society of heaven into the corresponding part of the human body.332 Such an influx is necessary to maintain the uses of these organs. Without it, not the smallest part of the body could have any life. We read that “spirits are appointed to every member of speech and every member of action; but these spirits do not know it.”

In fact, they are apparently not appointed as individual spirits, but as societies acting by general influx.333

From all these things the universal law may be seen that from the Lord through the spiritual world there flows a general influx into those things which are of order, and a particular influx into what is not in spontaneous order, and that man’s mind, being now in a contrary order, could not subsist without spirits adjoined to him who agree with his life.334 With the people of the most ancient church the affections, such as joy, fear, reverence or shame, were involuntarily expressed in their faces “by a general natural influx.”335 Animals, whether mild or ferocious, are governed by general influx. Indeed, nature, in whole and in part, is so governed.

But general influx has an even wider range. It may be compared with the pressure of the atmosphere which holds all things in their order. The sphere of Divine good, like an atmosphere, infills the universal heaven and encompasses, guards and preserves it. Inmostly it acts even upon the hells, although it is not openly received there and can rule only as Divine truth.336 Unless order was so imposed both in heaven and in hell, the end of creation could never be fulfilled, for even particular influx through spirits would not be possible. No freedom can exist except on the basis of order; without order there can be no clear distinctions, and thus no choice.337

Swedenborg sensed this general influx as a stream of general affections—an invisible stream of providential guidance which overrules all the conflicting endeavors of spirits and men and unifies them into forms of uses through laws of spiritual necessities. It is like an atmospheric current which holds everything in freedom, yet always within bounds. He likens the sweep of this river of heaven to the general motions of the heart and the lungs which dominate the body yet leave its parts in freedom even to the point of contrariety. He saw in it a picture of the Divine mercy.338

Spheres of Universal Loves

All life would perish unless there proceeded from the Lord certain universal spheres which fill each world, the spiritual and the natural, and sustain it.339 One of these Divine spheres looks to the preservation of the universe by means of the procreation of successive generations, and with men this makes one with the sphere of conjugial love. By a general influx it operates the miracle of propagation in all forms of life—from the simplest fern to the most perfect tree and from the unicellular protozoa to the highest mammalian structure. This sphere causes the cells to multiply and the sexes to unite from a spontaneous impulse.

With men, this sphere descends also through the celestial heaven as a free gift of conjugial love which with its ineffable delight comes to lovers everywhere as a temporary loan, by a general influx. But the feeling of selfless surrender which is instilled by this sphere cannot long remain pure, but vanishes like the manna in the desert, leaving life bleak and meaningless unless the minds of the partners are opened, by their own choice and effort, to the particular influx of celestial angels. For these inspire a resistance to evils as sins against God, and a love of the truth which alone can knit the lives of lovers more and more closely into a union of common uses— uses which make marriage the nursery of the human race and the seminary of heaven.

The second universal influx is the Divine sphere which looks to the preservation of what has been procreated. Even in the ultimates of nature we see a distant reflection of this influx in that gems are found in matrices and seeds in husks. Animals have protective coloration and by instinct build nests for their young, which they feed and defend from an inborn love called “storge.” Such a natural love of offspring is implanted in all creation. It gives the birds and beasts a herding instinct that impels an animal to give up its life for the preservation of its kind; in an unwitting resemblance to mutual love.340 Ferocious beasts and evil parents have this love as part of their love of self. How otherwise could life in its many forms be propagated generation after generation ?

A reason why the young of every species are so protected is that a sphere of innocence inflows into the helpless progeny and thence affects parents. With men, the love of procreating and the love of infants can become spiritual loves when the final end regarded is to enrich heaven with as many angels as there are descendants and when the offspring are loved for their moral virtues and their spiritual intelligence.341 Natural loves are provided as free gifts by the Lord’s general influx, to sustain His creation. But spiritual loves can be received only through the man’s own selection of associate spirits, or by particular influx.

Social Order

General influx is described in the Arcana as “a continuous endeavor from the Lord through the whole heaven into everything pertaining to the life of man.”342 It presses continually for the maintenance of external order and connection and health, so far as man’s freedom will allow it. Evil spirits also are brought into order, within “generals” which govern their particular forms of spiritual rebellion.343 Indeed, there are no hells which are not opposites or perversions of some general good of heaven. And upon these opposites a certain general form of order is externally superimposed, by general influx.

How the general influx of heaven as a whole—all its provinces and societies—maintains order, is seen illustrated in human society. For in a city or commonwealth “every use derives its life from the general” or from the community. Each use depends on the common good (Char., chap. vi). And the uses spring from the natural loves which are implanted in all men. All rewards of use, all wealth, all knowledge, conies to each man from the community, which is therefore likened to a lake from which each man derives his necessities, utilities, and delights; even as the organs of the body derive their nourishment from the common bloodstream. Because of a general influx into the “common good” there can be order in society in spite of the prevalence of evil and selfishness among individuals. There is a general influx of the whole into all the parts, holding them in form. The social instinct comes from a general influx, like the herding instinct with animals. Particular influx through specific spirits who are ever changing, makes for individuality and freedom for both the evil and the good. But general influx protects the state as a whole and causes the common good to be regarded. It causes a nation to unify in face of common dangers, to harbor common ideals and common delusions and to be moved by prejudices and passions peculiar to itself.

General influx maintains cooperative order. But it does not reform the spirit of man. Only by the repentance and regeneration of its citizens can the spiritual state of a nation be changed for the better. Order and legislation can never regenerate society. They merely facilitate the mutual uses of the people. And by this they furnish a neutral plane in which both good and evil men seek their individual ends. It is a common plane for many individual states and particular attitudes, a plane of automatic procedures which cannot be essentially changed or upset by any single person. Yet there might arise a state of disorder, a break-down of civic responsibility and national consciousness on the part of individuals, a state in which the means for the proper performance of uses are lacking and the sphere of general influx can no longer operate. Such a condition brings disease and sometimes death to the commonwealth. This principle has a tremendously important bearing on national and social issues. Totalitarian government while man is evil means a surrender of that particular influx which gives freedom to repent.

Habit and General Influx

It is the Lord who rules our spirit-associations in correspondence with our states and needs. Yet man can select the spirits who rule him. Doctrine states that there is no physical influx—no influx from men to spirits or from this world into the spiritual world. We can therefore not alter the character of the spirits who are with us. They do indeed adopt our natural memory and along with it our beliefs and ideas; and they are held in these ideas as long as they are with us. But we cannot transfer to them the changes of heart which we may experience. If we from free choice shun an evil, the spirits who induced that evil are simply compelled to retire, and are separated.

Students of the Spiritual Diary have marked with surprise that the world of spirits seemed to show no effect of the strong sphere of spiritual interest and exaltation which is apparently present among Christians on the occasions of festival seasons such as Christmas and Easter. To judge from Swedenborg’s entries on such days, the spiritual world was utterly unaffected by the holiday moods of men. Yet we seem to feel a stronger sphere from the spiritual world on such days; as we also do at church gatherings and at the death of a friend. Such is the relation of the two worlds that what we do on earth—our direction and concentration of thought and affection—does no more than invite an influx from such spirits and angels as are already in the loves and thoughts which we on earth wish to entertain. They enjoy the internal sense of the things which we then read about in the Word, for in such ultimates they find their delight. And we may be allowed to hope that the spirits of evil do at least retreat somewhat when the spirit of Christmas or Easter seizes hold of men.

What men do—their habits and their reflections—invites the corresponding types of spirits. This is indeed how habits are formed. For usually a habit is of the mind before it is of the body. Our states of mind mould our habits; which is the same thing as to say that we make our own habits quite freely, by repeating the same decision again and again, thus acting in the same way under similar circumstances. We thus become less and less conscious of our habit. It becomes “second nature,” and thus almost automatic. We add it to our life, and the control of it is as it were elevated into our subconscious memory. We give up controlling the habit. It controls us.344

Viewed from the spiritual world, the establishment of a certain habit actually means that we have placed ourselves under the rule of a special kind of spirits who delight in that routine. We no longer bother to spend any thought upon it. The question whether it is right or wrong no longer comes up. This is for us a great saving of mental labor and even of physical energy. Human life would be most arduous, if not impossible, if whatever a man learned to do would have to be reasoned out again whenever he wished to repeat it. Man could then never acquire skill or facility in anything. No matter how often he had convinced himself of some truth, he would still have recurrent doubts until he worked it all out in his mind again. Under such conditions there could be no progress. Therefore we are allowed to relegate what we have once approved to the interior or subconscious memory; or what is the same, to the spontaneous working of an accepted influx from the spiritual world. And when after death we enter that world, the roads we will see and wish to travel will correspond in general to the habits of thought which we have established in this world.345

When we exercise our freedom of thought in the course of our earthly life we are, from time to time, making decisions as to what particular spirits we desire to receive; for choice has to do with “particular influx.” As long as we are in the life of the body there will be repeated opportunities for such choice. Yet it seems likely, that when we are being carried along in a confirmed habit, which has established an unconscious plane of order or second nature, individual spirits are not so much in question as whole groups of spirits—a selected group of societies through whom life is channelled into our minds.

A man must therefore take thought and explore his habits of mind and body, before they are confirmed beyond the point of no return. In our habits we can recognize the workings of our self-love, our lack of consideration and charity, our impiety, brutality, conceit, or vanity. Our habits will reveal to us our ruling loves, our besetting sins and temptations. External habits which are in themselves good may because of their obsession over us indicate that we place overmuch value on external things.

We can imagine an evil man, a slave to his passions, without restraints or shame, who by his habits has abandoned himself to the general influx from an infernal society. His love has been fixed to the degree that he no longer desires to exercise his freedom of choice, but has surrendered to evil openly and irrevocably, so that his rational mind no longer resists. His spirit is immersed into the hell of his delight. Particular influx is then renounced, and a general influx from hell takes over the government of his mind.

Yet if this be true of an evil man, it must also be true that a regenerating man—after his work of reformation, with its cultivation of good habits, has been completed—will thereafter be upheld in the spontaneous sphere of a more general influx from heaven.

General States and General Influx

A man has freedom and choice in the particular states of his life. But general states are outside of his control. It is from a “general influx” that infants grow up in an unvarying order of development, year by year. Common ages imply common states, with only slight variations. In later life there is very much more differentiation between individuals of the same ages, because as to particular states, self-chosen, men are quite unlike each other in thought and affection.

Even so, there are general or common states among adults. Those in the same use or profession are also in a common state. We often speak of the illustration of a man’s use, a peculiar attitude, light, inspiration, or wisdom, which dignifies an office. The Writings indicate that this is based on general influx, which is given where there is the order of some use. This general influx is not based on man’s regeneration, but on his devotion to the use. An unregenerate man is of course constantly tending to break down the order of his use through dishonesty or indolence and is thus in danger of losing his professional illustration. But a faithful worker—although moved by selfish interests—is externally associated with societies of that use in the other world, and is restrained by their general influx from injuring his use.

That this is so is clear from the appointed rite of priestly ordination. The use of the priesthood being essential to the welfare of mankind, the entrance into this use must be orderly, and is solemnly marked by the laying on of hands (which represents the communication of the powers of illustration) and by “the promise of the Holy Spirit.” In effect the candidate accepts the order and responsibility which open him to a general influx from societies of the priestly use in the other world. But his own personal and inward repentance and regeneration can alone open his heart to the reception of the Holy Spirit. Such internal reception must come by way of particular influx.

With respect to the general environment in which man’s spirit is, order requires that the spirits normally around a man should be those of his own religious persuasion. Without this order—which implies also a general influx to maintain it— there could be no true freedom or normal progress, but man would become an easy prey to fickle states of doubt and spiritual indecision.

Generals come first, particulars come later. We know that as an infant grows up, he enters first into concepts of most general truths and that particulars are later given to infill them. The generals of childish thought are such that they may be accepted from natural affections which are full of hereditary evils as yet hidden. It is not to be doubted that these basic orders of generals from natural experience and from the natural sense of the Word, are maintained by general influxes from the other world. And even with adults, the literal sense of the Scriptures is delightful because the things therein can be explained to favor their own states and opinions, until these generals are qualified by an understanding of particulars and these by a perception of singulars.346

It is the same with generals of doctrine which are taught in the church. These call forth a general influx—which is very vital for preserving the church. If generals of doctrine are denied or contradicted or called into question, the general influx of heaven fails to hold the thought of the church together, and a temptation arises, the outcome of which depends on the individual choice and illustration of each man of the church; for the battle must be decided in the field of particular influx. The prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” is a prayer for the continuance of general influx whereby men are held in a general sphere of faith and charity, the protecting sphere of heaven and of the church as a whole. We are not to seek temptation, nor introduce temptation to others. Yet it is true that general influx by itself cannot at this day preserve the church. Advance can only come if there is individual study of the doctrine and an interior entrance into truths. Generals of doctrine are protective, and must be maintained as basic. But they may easily become lightly and thoughtlessly accepted—intoned as empty ritual and vain repetition.

The Invitation to the New Church—a work which records the results, in past churches, of relying on the momentum of a merely historical faith—therefore contains the following statement: “Unless the present little work be added to the preceding one [the True Christian Religion], the church cannot be healed. For it would be a merely palliative cure. . . . The doctrine of the New Church indeed furnishes the medicine, but only exteriorly” (Inv. 25). The little work referred to was therefore added; for it contained certain particulars of utmost importance for the establishment and survival of the church.

General Influx into the Mind

The body is held by the Lord under general influx, as an instrument for man’s mind. The externals of human society are also held in order by general influx. But the mind is attended by particular spirits, good and evil, which grant to men freedom of choice in matters of thought and will. Yet even within the mind general influx dominates. It is only in the thin conscious fringes of the mind that man’s own choice is actually operating. In the unplumbed depths of the mind and in the surrounding spiritual world general influxes order all things, and endow man with the power of reasoning, analysis, and logic. General influx must flow into the minds of all men. Thus it is mentioned that “there is a universal influx” into the souls of all men predisposing them to perceive “that there is a God and that He is one.”347 No man is taught by influx; but the gyre and flux imposed upon the mind are especially attuned to accept such truths. There is also a general influx out of heaven as a whole which disposes the minds of men to think of God in terms of the human form, but variously according to their states of perception and provided that there is something of order in the mind by the shunning of evils as sins. The perception of immortality is also mentioned as universal.343 Such general concepts are indeed said to be “implanted” in the mind, or to be “intuitive.” But what is meant is that they come from a general influx.

Indeed, our faculty of thinking could not operate unless certain “generals” were so implanted in our minds that we are not aware of them. Animals, of course, are wholly led by a connate disposition and order which automatically responds to specific general influxes of their predestined natural affections. It is from an ordering by general influx that both men and animals instinctively learn to judge distances and without reflection learn to avoid objects. And man learns to order all that he knows into general categories, arranging his knowledge into series and orders according to general qualities, classing particular ideas under general heads, and thus marking out limits and protective bounds within his thoughts.349

But, finally, general influx is also responsible for that gift which is common with the simple but often lacking among those of the learned who cannot think from general principles. This is “common sense”—thought that is not the product of learned arguments or preconceived logical formulas, but comes from seeing truth in its own light. Common perception is the great preservative of mankind.350 It can in a moment explode the most elaborate structure of fallacy. It spans our practical difficulties. It cuts the Gordian knot of seemingly hopeless dilemmas. It nullifies theological doubts. As a fresh breeze it clears the smoke clouds from the scene of our intellectual battles; and remains usually the sole victor. And upon it rest the blessings of heaven. Yet common sense—alone— cannot regenerate or even reform. It can but preserve the remnants of order in the mind.

Whatever comes from general influx depends on a remnant of order, on the health of the body or the mind. Where evil steps in or disease enters this order is disturbed, and heaven reluctantly withdraws her protective wings somewhat, with the distressing result that individual spirits of hell begin to inflow.


The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html

Image result for swedenborg study

The Spiritual World
Spirits and Men
Talks: Spiritual World
10Q: Life After Death




8 Influx and Cupidity

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel SwedenborgImage result for study 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

Image result for  study swedenborg


New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

Cover picture





influx8p_500_327 The truth of the matter is this. From the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world there is a general influx and also a particular influx–a general  influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those things which are not in order.  Animals of every kind are in the order of their nature, and therefore into them there is general influx.  That they are in the order of their nature is evident from the fact that they are born into all their faculties, and have no need to be introduced into them by any information.  But men are not in their order, nor in any law of order, and therefore they receive particular influx; that is, there are with them angels and spirits through whom the influx comes.  And unless these were with men, they would rush into every wickedness and would plunge in a moment into the deepest hell.  Through these spirits and angels man is kept under the auspices and guidance of the Lord.  The order into which man was created would be that he should love the neighbor as himself, and even more than himself.  Thus do the angels.  But man loves only himself and the world, and hates the neighbor, except in so far as he favors his commanding and possessing the world.  Therefore as the life of man is altogether contrary to heavenly order, he is ruled by the Lord through separate spirits and angels. [AC 5850]

The same spirits do not remain constantly with a man, but are changed according to the man’s states, that is, the states of his affection, or of his loves and ends, the former being removed and others succeeding.  In general there are with man spirits of such a quality as is the man himself.  If he is avaricious, there are spirits who are avaricious; if he is haughty, there are haughty spirits; if he is desirous of revenge, there are spirits of this character; if he is deceitful, there are the like spirits. Man summons to himself spirits from hell in accordance with his life. The hells are most exactly distinguished according to evils of cupidities, and according to all the differences of evil. Thus there is never any lack of spirits like himself to be called out and adjoined to a man who is in evil. [AC 5851]

But influx is of such a nature that there is an influx from the Divine of the Lord into every angel, into every spirit, and into every man, and that in this way the Lord rules everyone, not only in the universal, but also in the veriest singulars, and this immediately from Himself, and also mediately through the spiritual world.  In order to make known  the existence of this influx, much has already been said about the correspondence of man’s parts with the Grand Man, that is, with heaven; and at the same time about the representation of spiritual things in natural; at the close of chapters 23 to 43, and afterward about the angels and spirits with man, at the close of chapters 44 and 45; and this is now to be followed with a specific exposition of the subject of influx and the intercourse of the soul and the body.  But this subject must be illustrated by experiences, for otherwise things so much unknown and rendered so obscure by hypotheses cannot be brought forth into the light. The illustrative experiences shall be presented at the close of some of the following chapters. Let what has been said thus far, serve as an introduction. [AC 6058]

As the subject here treated of is Influx, and this is mentioned so frequently, it is necessary to say in advance what influx is.  What is meant by spiritual influx cannot be better seen than by means of the natural influxes which take place and appear in this world – as by the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, with all variety in accordance with the seasons of the year and the climates of the earth; and by the influx of light into the same, with all variety likewise in accordance with the times of the days and also of the years, also in a varied manner according to the climates. From the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, whence comes vegetative life; and from the influx of light into the same, whence comes support to that life, and also colors and displays of beauties; in like manner from the influx of the same heat into the surface of our bodies, and also of light into the eye; likewise from the influx of sound into the ear; and from other instances of a similar kind, it may be comprehended what is the influx of life from the Lord, who is the Sun of heaven, from whom come heavenly heat, which is the good of love, and heavenly light, which is the truth of faith. The influx of these is also plainly felt, for heavenly heat which is love produces the vital heat which is in man, and heavenly light which is faith produces his understanding, because the truth of faith which proceeds from the Lord enlightens his intellectual; but in both cases with much variety, for it is according to the reception on the part of man. [AC 6190]

0094aThat man is governed by the Lord by means of angels and spirits, has been given me to know by experience so manifest as not to leave even the smallest doubt concerning it; for now through a course of many years all my thoughts and all my affections, even to the most minute of all, have flowed in by means of spirits and angels.  This it has been given me to perceive so plainly that nothing could be more plain; for I have perceived, I have seen, and I have heard, who they were, what was their quality, and where they were. And when anything adverse fell into my thought or will, I have spoken with them and chided them.  And I have also observed that the power they had of infusing such things was restrained by the angels; and also in what manner; and likewise often that they were driven away, and that then new spirits were present in their place, from whom again there was influx. It has also been given me to perceive whence those spirits came, or of what societies they were the subjects; and an opportunity of speaking with those societies themselves has likewise frequently been granted.  And notwithstanding that everything, even to the most minute, of the thoughts and affections, flowed in through the spirits and angels, still I thought as before, and willed as before, and conversed with men as before, no difference from my former life being observed by anyone I am aware that scarcely anyone will believe that such is the fact, but still it is an eternal verity. [AC 6191]

It has been shown me to the life in what manner spirits flow in with man.  When they come to him, they put on all things of his memory, thus all things which the man has learned and imbibed from infancy, and the spirits suppose these things to be their own.  Thus they act as it were the part of the man in the man. But they are not allowed to enter further with a man than to his interiors which are of the thought and will, and not to the exteriors which are of the actions and speech; for these latter come into act by means of a general influx from the Lord without the mediation of particular spirits and angels.  But although the spirits act the part of the man with a man in respect to those things which are of his thought and will, they nevertheless do not know that they are with a man, for the reason that they possess all things of his memory, and believe that these are not another’s, but their own; and this for the reason also that they may not injure the man. For unless the spirits from hell who are with a man believed these things to be their own, they would attempt in every way to destroy the man both body and soul, because this is the infernal delight itself. [AC 6192]

How the case is with the influx of each life, namely, of the life of the thought and the life of the will from the Lord, has been given to know by revelation; namely, that the Lord inflows in two ways: through heaven mediately, and from Himself immediately; and that from Himself He flows both into man’s rational things, which are his interior things, and into his natural things, which are his exterior ones.  That which flows in from the Lord is the good of love and the truth of faith, for that which proceeds from the Lord is the Divine truth in which is the Divine good; but these are variously received with man, namely, in accordance with his quality.

[2] The Lord does not compel man to receive what flows in from Himself; but leads in freedom, and so far as man allows, through freedom leads to good.  Thus the Lord leads man according to his delights, and also according to fallacies and the principles received therefrom; but gradually He leads him out from these; and this appears to the man as if it were from himself. Thus the Lord does not break these things, for this would be to do violence to freedom, which however must needs exist, in order that the man may be reformed (n. 1937, 1947, 2875, 2876, 2881, 3145, 3146, 3158, 4031). That the Lord flows in with man in this manner, namely, not only mediately through heaven, but also immediately from Himself, both into the interior and the exterior things in the man, is a secret hitherto unknown. [AC 6472]

That the Lord rules the last things of man equally as his first, can be seen from the fact that the order from the Lord is successive from first things to last, and in the order itself there is nothing but what is Divine; and this being so, the presence of the Lord must needs be in the last things equally as in the first, for the one follows from the other according to the tenor of order. [AC 6473].

Whenever I have been reading the Lord’s prayer, I have plainly perceived an elevation toward the Lord which was like an attraction, and at the same time my ideas were open, and from this there was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I noticed that there was an influx from the Lord into every detail of the prayer, thus into every idea of my thought that was from the meaning of the things in the prayer.  The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, that is, not the same at one time as another; hence also it was made evident how infinite are the things contained in the prayer, and that the Lord is present in everyone of them. [AC 6476]

For many years I have observed the general sphere of the influxes around me.  It consisted on the one hand of a perpetual endeavor by the hells to do evil, and on the other of a continual endeavor by the Lord to do good; by these endeavors opposite to each other I have been constantly kept in equilibrium.  Such endeavors and consequent equilibrium are with everyone; from this all have freedom to turn whithersoever they please; but the equilibrium varies in accordance with the good or evil that reigns with the man. From this also it could be seen that the Lord flows in universally, and therefore also singularly.  And I have been informed that the opposite endeavor, which is from hell, is nothing but the perversion into evil of the good that proceeds from the Lord. [AC 6477]

When an angel does good to anyone, he also communicates to him his own good, good fortune, and bliss, and this with the desire to give the other everything, and to retain nothing.  When he is in such communication, then good flows in unto him together with good fortune and bliss much more than be gives, and this with continual increase. But as soon as the thought occurs that he desires to communicate what he has for the sake of obtaining in himself this influx of good fortune and bliss, the influx is dissipated; and still more so if any thought comes in of recompense from him to whom he communicates his good.  This it has been given me to know from much experience; and from this also it may be seen that the Lord is in every single thing, for the Lord is such that He wills to give Himself to all, and hence good fortune and bliss are increased with those who are images and likenesses of Him. [AC 6478]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)




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