Rational and Moral Wisdom

Rational and Moral Wisdom

      A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. (Genesis 24:64, 65)

The general topic of today’s sermon is marriage. The particular aspect of marriage that we will consider is the conjunction that can take place between a husband and wife when together they look to the Lord, and shun evils as sins. It is important that we take the time to remind ourselves about these things now and again, for without some spiritual refreshment we may find that the idealistic view that we originally had has been eroded by time and the cares of the world. The Writings themselves put it this way:

Take as an example the conjugial, which in the beginning some one regards as heavenly, but afterwards one of the married partners or both of them suffer themselves to be persuaded that it is only for the sake of order in the world, and for the education and individual care of children, and for the sake of inheritance; and further that the bond of marriage is nothing but a matter of compact, which may be dissolved or relaxed by either party, provided that it is done by consent; the result being that after he has received this persuasion the individual has no heavenly idea of marriage. (AC4171:4)

In other words, unless we continually refresh ourselves with the ideals of love truly conjugial, we are in danger of allowing the weight of the cares of everyday life deprive us of the delights that we once felt when we were first married. We may be tempted to no longer think of marriage as a heavenly gift from a loving God, but instead think of it as a form imposed on men and women by society for the sake of order in society, for producing children, and for passing on properties acquired during life. We may become bored, and begin to daydream about how we would change our lives if we were free of these oppressive obligations. We may even have fantasies about ending the marriage. These are states brought on by those particular hells that love to destroy marriage. We need to be aware of them so that we can fight them, and, with the Lord’s help, defeat them. We can be thankful that the Lord has given us a way to conquer these hellish inclinations: rational and moral wisdom.

In order to see how rational and moral wisdom can supply our spiritual needs and protect the spheres of marriage with us, we must first have a clear picture of what rational and spiritual wisdom are. As we all well know, wisdom is not just acquired knowledge and experience. It is knowledge and experience brought into life. Our lesson from the Old Testament today speaks to this very point in the internal sense. Rebekah represents the affection of truth. Her brother Laban, with whom she lived and was therefore distantly conjoined, represents the natural man. The camel on which she was riding represents memory-knowledges, the facts about the natural world and life in it that we learn without discrimination, without reflection. When Rebekah gets down off the camel, it represents a state of separation. When these ideas are all brought together, the internal sense tells us that the affection of truth (Rebekah) is separated from the natural man (Laban) when the natural man no longer guides his life simply from memory-knowledges, but instead he lives according to truths that are a part of his life. This new state is represented by Rebekah’s new husband, Isaac. What this means when applied to life is that when we are first learning a new skill, we find it quite difficult and it requires our full attention, but once we have mastered it, we can do it without thinking. Touch-typing and driving a car are two common examples.

It works in a similar way with the knowledges of spiritual good and truth with people who are being regenerated by the Lord. At first we are like children, and spiritual truths are like memory-knowledges (for example the fact that water corresponds to truth is in itself a spiritual truth, but the phrase can be learned by little children as a memory-knowledge to be later infilled with meaning to become a spiritual truth with them). In order for adults learn deep doctrinal truths, the truths from the Lord through the Word must first enter the mind as memory-knowledges. Once in the mind, however, the Lord uses them, associates them with affections and remains, and eventually, in secret ways, they are implanted by the Lord in a person’s life, that is, in their will.

When this happens, there is a turning point in our lives, for we no longer act only from truth, but instead we now act from the good that is associated with the truth. So, we can see that there is a parallel between the states of regeneration and the states of growth from childhood to old age: We act first from simple facts, then from the delights we have come to associate with living according to the Lord’s truth, and then finally from charity itself. When a person no longer acts from what is doctrinal, but from charity, he is then for the first time in wisdom.

The Heavenly Doctrines further distinguish between kinds of wisdom, in particular, they define Rational and Moral wisdom especially in relation to the conjunction of husband and wife in a heavenly marriage. Rational wisdom belongs to the understanding alone. In general, it is known as science, intelligence, and wisdom. In particular it is known as rationality, judgment, genius, and learning, and its application is familiar according to its use in various offices, such as those of the priesthood, the government, the courts of law, soldiers, farmers, shopkeepers, and so forth. Also included are all those subjects which are studied at universities for the purpose of giving form and structure to the mind, such as Philosophy, Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, History, and so forth. In general, rational wisdom has to do with the application of pure thought to theoretical problems and the discussion of the probable results of possible actions.

On the other hand, moral wisdom belongs to the understanding and at the same time to life. Again, a few examples will serve to illustrate the point. These are some of the virtues which pertain to moral wisdom: Temperance, Benevolence, Friendship, Modesty, Sincerity, Readiness to Serve, Courtesy, Diligence, Industry, Cheerfulness, Generosity, Courage, Prudence, and so forth.

Having briefly described the difference between rational wisdom and moral wisdom, we can now consider the function of rational and moral wisdom in a marriage. We know that the mind is opened in a series of changes that take place from infancy to old age. At first an infant lives totally in the world of the bodily senses, so we say that a person is born corporeal. When the next degree is developed and opened, we say that he becomes rational. As this degree is by stages purified of the falsities and confusion that enter from bodily sense and the delights of the flesh, the rational is opened. This opening of the rational degree is done solely by means of truths lived, that is, by means of wisdom. Then, when the interiors of the rational mind are opened, then the person becomes a form of wisdom – a form which is suitable to receive love truly conjugial. The wisdom which makes this form and receives this love is rational and at the same time moral. Rational wisdom regards the truths and goods which appear interiorly in a person, not as his own but as flowing in from the Lord; and moral wisdom shuns evils and falsities as leprosies, shunning especially things lascivious which contaminate its conjugial love.

As the husband and wife individually and together fight their battles with evil and shun sins they will draw ever closer to the Lord and His kingdom. As they draw closer to the Lord, they must also draw closer to each other as their states of conjunction grow, and there are more and more affections of good and knowledges of truth that they share with each other.

The importance of developing rational and moral wisdom becomes even more clear when we see that the conjugial relationship, the inmost conjunction of a husband and wife, depends on rational and moral wisdom, for a wife is conjoined to the rational wisdom of her husband “from within,” and to his moral wisdom “from without.”

Rational wisdom is what we might call “typically masculine thought,” the kind of exercise where argument is added to argument, seemingly without end or purpose. The Heavenly Doctrines call this a particularly masculine trait, and further state that women seldom take part in such discussions – because they are seen as pointless. Frequently, the wives have already perceived the solution and are wondering what is taking the men so long. And yet we must be very careful not to hold this process in ridicule for it is important that the rational be exercised and truths be examined in detail and in their relationship to each other. This dedication to examining truths and their relationship to each other before they are brought into the life is precisely what attracts a true wife to her husband’s mind. This is what is meant when the Writings say that a wife is a form of love of her husband’s wisdom. While she may not wish to do it herself, she loves and respects her husband to the extent that he searches out new truths to bring into their marriage and life and struggles to see their relationship one to another.

Rational things are what make up the husband’s understanding, while things pertaining to moral wisdom make up his will. It is the things of his will, the love and desire he has for bringing truth into his life, that the wife can share with him, and actually make her own, for they are one with her own life. In fact, they are so close to her own life that it is said that the wife knows these virtues in a man better than the man knows them in himself.

When a wife seeks to have her moral wisdom conjoined with the moral wisdom of her husband, that is, when a wife seeks to be one with her husband in their life’s decisions, she is given a perception of the affections that are present with her husband. The wife is then able to use this intimate, tender knowledge of her husband to gently lead and guide him in the path indicated by his reasonings, at the same time protecting him from wild deviations from their path in life. He is the guardian of the truth, she the guardian of its application to life. In this, they are one, conjoined. In confirmation and illustration of this, we close with this passage from Conjugial Love 137 which is a portion of Swedenborg’s conversation with the married couple that appeared as a little child when seen from a distance:

“We have been married for centuries now,” they said, “and we have remained continually in this bloom of youth in which you see us.

“At first our state was similar to the initial state of a maiden and youth when they first come together in marriage. Moreover, we believed at the time that that state was the most blissful state we could experience in life. But we were told by others in our heaven, and we afterwards perceived for ourselves, that it was a state of heat not yet tempered with light. We found that it is gradually tempered as the husband is perfected in wisdom and as the wife grows to love that wisdom in her husband, which is achieved through and according to the useful services which each of them performs in society with the other’s help. We also found that new delights then follow as heat and light or wisdom and its accompanying love are tempered each with the other.

“A seemingly springlike warmth wafted over you when we approached because in our heaven conjugial love and that warmth go hand in hand. … For men were created to be receivers of light from the Lord, meaning the light of wisdom, and women were created to be receivers of warmth from the Lord, meaning the warmth of love for the wisdom in a man.” (CL 137: port.)

AMEN.


First Lesson: GEN 24:50-67

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. {51} “Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken.” {52} And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth. {53} Then the servant brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother. {54} And he and the men who were with him ate and drank and stayed all night. Then they arose in the morning, and he said, “Send me away to my master.” {55} But her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.” {56} And he said to them, “Do not hinder me, since the LORD has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.” {57} So they said, “We will call the young woman and ask her personally.” {58} Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” {59} So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. {60} And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: “Our sister, may you become The mother of thousands of ten thousands; And may your descendants possess The gates of those who hate them.” {61} Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed. {62} Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. {63} And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. {64} Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; {65} for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. {66} And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. {67} Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Second Lesson: Mat 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ {39} “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. {40} “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. {41} “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. {43} “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ {44} “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Third Lesson: CL 130:1, 4

130. …Wisdom … has to do with both reason and life together. It is on the way to becoming wisdom when it is a matter of reason first and consequently of life; but it is wisdom when it has become a matter of life first and consequently of reason.

The most ancient people in this world did not acknowledge any other wisdom than wisdom of life.

[4] Since wisdom is, as we said above, a matter of life first and consequently of reason, the question arises, what wisdom of life is. In brief summary, it is this: to refrain from evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body.

This is the wisdom that is meant by the wisdom to which conjugial love attaches itself. For it attaches itself through wisdom’s shunning the evil of adultery as a pestilence injurious to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body. And because this wisdom springs from spiritual concerns which have to do with the church, it follows that conjugial love depends on the state of the church in a person, because it depends on the state of his wisdom. This also means, as we have frequently said before, that a person is in a state of truly conjugial love to the degree that he becomes spiritual. For a person becomes spiritual through the spiritual things of the church.

PEACE

PEACE
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida (cataloged 8/11/97)

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

In these beautiful and comforting words the Lord invites all people to enter into and partake of the peace and joy of heavenly life. He also tells us how we may attain this happy and much sought-after state. Two important truths are contained in our text. The first is that the Lord alone can bring us into this state of peace and spiritual rest. This is expressed by the words: “Come to Me,” and “I will give you rest.” The second is that the life that leads to heaven is not as difficult as we are apt to suppose. This is expressed by the words: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (quotations’ emphasis added).

If we believe in an infinite and loving God who created the universe and mankind, a God whose infinite wisdom established the laws which operate on all planes of creation, spiritual and natural, then it follows that He is the only one truly qualified to reveal those laws to us. They are the product of His love as formed and expressed by His wisdom. Since He is the one who created us, He alone can tell us what His purpose was in doing so, and how this purpose may be realized.

If we would understand the great issues of life the purpose and order of creation, the relationship between man and his Maker, and between man and man we must first acknowledge God the Creator, approach Him in His Word, and there come to know Him as He reveals Himself and His will to us. In adopting this course lies our only hope of finding real peace and contentment in a world troubled with selfishness, materialistic ambition, and the feverish pursuit of pleasure.

To all who genuinely desire to experience this state of inner peace, the Lord says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In the Word of the Second Advent, we are told that the purpose of creation is that there may be a heaven from the human race. And we are told that this purpose is fulfilled when we acknowledge the Lord, shun evils as sins against Him, and perform uses for the benefit of our fellow man from the heart, that is, from good will toward him.

But in order that we may shun evils as sins against the Lord, we must learn from the Lord what evils are, and in order to do good we must learn what is good. Simply stated, evil is all that which is contrary to the Divine laws of order. Good is all that which is in accord with these laws, and which promotes the Divine end in creation. It follows from this that spiritual peace is attained through learning the Divine laws of order and living according to them. This is the life of religion.

Many people have a prejudice against religion, believing that being religious involves a withdrawal from the activities of the world, and walking about in pious meditation on ethereal things. We are taught in the Word that this is not living a religious life. In fact, it is said that such a life is not compatible with heavenly joy. By living in this way a person acquires a sorrowful disposition that is not in accord with the happiness and peace of heaven.

We live a twofold life in this world, the life of the spirit and the life of the body. If our life is to be full, the life of the mind or spirit must flow into and express itself in the life of the body. That is, our internal life and our external life should be in harmony and correspondence. The intentions of our will and the thoughts of our understanding should find ultimate expression in bodily actions and deeds. To renounce bodily and worldly life is like living in a house without a foundation. Such a house eventually cracks and falls in ruins.

The life of religion, or spiritual life, is not as opposed to worldly life as is often supposed. Natural life consists in living according to natural laws the laws of nature, physiological laws and the laws of hygiene. Civil life consists in living according to the laws of the country, state or city in which we live. Moral life is living according to the moral laws which exist for the preservation of order on the social plane of life. Spiritual life consists in living a natural, civil and moral life from a sincere desire to be of service to our neighbor.

Willing well to the neighbor pertains to spiritual life, and doing well pertains to moral, civil and natural life. It is clear from this that spiritual life cannot be separated from life in the world, for to separate it would be like removing the soul from the body, or thought from speech. It would become an intangible, abstract something without quality or form. Therefore the Writings state that unless the intentions of the will are expressed by action, they are eventually dissipated and become nothing.

However, this does not necessarily mean that if we are living a civil and moral life we are living a spiritual life as well. We may be doing our civil duty and fulfilling our moral obligations purely for the sake of reward, or to avoid punishment. We may be doing so for the sake of our reputations, or to avoid friction and unpleasantness. If these are the motives which inspire our civil and moral life, we are not living a spiritual life. For if the rewards were absent, or the penalties removed, we would, in all probability, cease to live according to these laws.

In external appearance there may be no difference between living a spiritual life and purely natural life. The difference lies in the will or intention which is within the external acts. To live the life of religion then, all we need do is put a spiritual motive within our civil and moral life, provided, of course, we are living according to civil laws and sound moral principles. Spiritual life, therefore, consists in living a civil and moral life from a spiritual love.

This teaching is clearly expounded in Heaven and Hell. There we read: “It is not so difficult as some believe to live the life that leads to heaven … Who cannot live a civil and moral life? … Everyone from childhood is initiated into that life, and learns what it is by living in the world. Moreover, everyone, whether evil or good, lives that life; for who does not wish to be called honest, and who does not wish to be called just? Almost everyone practices honesty and justice outwardly, so far as to seem to be honest and just at heart … The spiritual person ought to live in like manner, and can do so as easily as the natural person can, with this difference only, that the spiritual person believes in the Divine, and acts honestly and justly not solely because to so act is in accord with civil and moral laws, but also because it is in accord with Divine laws” (HH 530, emphasis added).

As the spiritual person in whatever he is doing looks to spiritual ends, “he has communication with the angels of heaven; and so far as this takes place he is conjoined with them; and thereby his internal man, which regarded in itself is the spiritual man, is opened. When man comes into this state he is adopted and led by the Lord, although … unconscious of it, and then whatever the person does … pertaining to moral and civil life is done from a spiritual motive” (HH 530). And acting according to civil and moral law from a spiritual motive is doing it from the heart, or willing well to the neighbor from the heart.

This passage from the Heavenly Doctrines makes it clear that the life of religion is not as difficult as is commonly believed. Externally, our lives do not need to be changed as radically as some people would have us believe. For do not most of us live according to civil and moral laws? What we need to do is make sure that our reason for so living is spiritual. Instead of acting from the love of self, from fear of punishment or dishonor, from sheer necessity, or for the sake of reputation, let us act in all things from a love of being of service to our fellow men, from a desire to promote their eternal welfare, from a desire to do the Lord’s will. If we do this, we will be living the life that leads to heaven. This is why the Lord says: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If we would have inner peace, then, we must free our minds from the grip of selfish ambitions and purely natural ends. We must lift them up to the Lord the mountain from whence comes our help. We need to realize that everything in the Lord’s sight has a spiritual purpose. When we thus elevate our minds above merely natural considerations, when we have spiritual ends in view and as we seek to promote these ends, then our spirits are elevated into the light and heat of heaven into the sphere of angelic love and wisdom. We come into association with angels, and the sphere of peace, which is theirs, is communicated to us. Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 34, Matt 5:1-12, AC 8480:1,3

Arcana Coelestia 8480:1,3

“And men made a residue of it until the morning.” That this signifies the abuse of good Divine, in that they desired to acquire it from themselves, is evident from the signification of “making a residue of it until the morning” as being to be solicitous about the acquisition of good of themselves (n. 8478), and consequently the abuse of good Divine. It is termed “abuse” when there arises what is alike in ultimates but from a contrary origin. Good arises from contrary origin when it does so from man and not from the Lord; for the Lord is good itself, consequently He is the source of all good. The good which is from Him has in it what is Divine; thus it is good from its inmost and first being; whereas the good which is from man is not good, because from himself man is nothing but evil; consequently the good which is from him is in its first essence evil, although in the outward form it may appear like good. The case herein is like that of flowers painted upon a tablet, as compared with the flowers that grow in a garden. These flowers are beautiful from their inmosts; for the more interiorly they are opened, the more beautiful they are; whereas the flowers painted on a tablet are beautiful only in the outward form, and as to the inward one are nothing but mud and a mixture of earthy particles lying in confusion, as the Lord also teaches when He says of the lilies of the field that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:29).

Good from the Lord is with those who love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as themselves; but good from man is with those who love themselves above all things and despise the neighbor in comparison with themselves. These are they who have care for the morrow, because they trust in themselves; but the former are they who have no care for the morrow, because they trust in the Lord (n. 8478). They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him; for whatsoever happens to them, whether it appears to be prosperous or not prosperous, is still good, because it conduces as a means to their eternal happiness. But they who trust in themselves are continually drawing evil upon themselves; for whatever happens to them, even if it appears to be prosperous and happy, is nevertheless evil, and consequently conduces as a means to their eternal unhappiness. These are the things which are signified by the command that they should make no residue of the manna till the morning, and that what was left bred worms and stank.

REBIRTH

REBIRTH
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, September 27, 1992

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again”‘ (John 3:5-7).

The purpose in creation is a heaven from the human race. We are born into this world in order that we may be prepared for eternal life in heaven. Since the fall of man in the days of the Most Ancient Church, represented in the Word by Adam’s and Eve’s fall from integrity, man is born with a tendency to evils which have been increased in a long line from parents, grandparents, and ancestors. We read: “Everyone who is born is born into all these inherited evils thus increased in succession” and consequently by nature he loves nothing but evil (AC5280:2).

This being the case, how can we be prepared for heavenly life? Heavenly life, by its very nature, can have nothing in common with a life of evil. The Lord, addressing Nicodemus, answered this question directly and simply, saying: “Unless one be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

“‘To be born,”‘ the Writings state, “is to be regenerated, because … spiritual birth is regeneration, which is also called rebirth … It is by one’s being born again, or regenerated, that man becomes man,” that is, truly human (AC 5160). This is the essential teaching of all Divine revelation. It is implied throughout the Old Testament. It is plainly stated in the New Testament, and it is thoroughly explained in the Writings. Our life on earth begins by natural birth. Our spiritual life begins by spiritual birth or regeneration.

It is commonly believed by many that people enter into heaven simply by the Lord’s admitting them. “But,” the Writings say, “he who holds this belief is much mistaken. For no one can be received into heaven who has not received heaven into himself, which is done by means of rebirth, or regeneration” (AC 5342:4). Heaven is not merely a place; it is a state of life. The state is the reality; the place is where those are who are in the state of heaven. Only those enter heaven who are in the state of heaven; these are people who have received heaven into themselves by rebirth, or regeneration.

The Writings declare that a person who is in good is being reborn every moment, from early infancy to the end of life on earth and thereafter to eternity. The processes by which this takes place are said to be both intricate and amazing, and it is these processes which are the subject of the internal, spiritual sense of the Word (see AC 5202:4).

Since the interiors of the Word have now been laid open to the sight of the understanding, we need no longer grope our way through life in obscurity and darkness. If we will regularly and conscientiously read the Word, especially the Writings, and make their light our light, we will be able to cooperate intelligently with the Lord in the process of regeneration. “No one can be regenerated except through the good of life conjoined with the truth of doctrine; from this one has spiritual life.”

Let us consider some of those teachings in the Word which throw light on this subject, so that, by a better understanding of these marvelous processes, we may willingly and intelligently enter into the process of regeneration and progress along the way that leads to heaven.

In infancy and childhood we are, as to our quality, completely sensuous. That is, our ideas and thoughts are formed entirely from impressions entering our minds through the five senses. The innocence of this state is not genuine but external, for true innocence is the product of wisdom. By this innocence, in which infants and children are kept, the Lord disposes into order those impressions which come in through the senses so that they may form a basis, or foundation, upon which the rational mind can be built in later life. The Writings state that without the influx of external innocence in this first age, rationality could never develop (see AC 5126:2).

From childhood to early youth, by instruction from parents and teachers and by individual study, the mind takes on a new quality. Not only are the ideas and thoughts received through the bodily senses, but abstract ideas are also received and partially comprehended. In this state of life, concepts of right and wrong can be appreciated. The obligations placed on us by the civil law are learned and understood. Thus a higher plane of the mind is formed, which is called in the Writings the “natural” to distinguish it from the lower plane, established in infancy and early childhood, called the sensuous (see AC 5126:2).

“From youth to early adulthood communication is opened between the natural and the rational by the learning of truths and goods of civil and moral life, and especially the truths and goods of spiritual life, through the hearing and reading of the Word” (AC 5126:2, emphasis added). When a young person lives according to the civil, moral and spiritual truths which have been learned, he becomes rational, that is, the rational plane is opened and established.

On the other hand, if one does not learn spiritual truths, or if one does not live according to them, the person does not become rational. Such a person merely stands on the threshold of rationality. The knowledges possessed by the person are a matter of memory only, not of insight, perception and life.

If then and in subsequent years the truths and goods of spiritual life are disregarded and denied, and the person lives contrary to them, then the rational is closed and also the natural which had previously been established. The person reverts to the plane of the sensuous. The person’s thoughts proceed from the same plane as that of the infant and child, despite the fact that the person may be of mature age and have a great fund of knowledge. “Nevertheless,” the Writings say, “of the Lord’s Divine providence, so much of communication still remains as to enable the person to understand goods and truths with some degree of understanding, yet not to make them one’s own unless he performs serious repentance and for a long while afterward struggles with falsities and evils” (ibid.).

If, however, a young person learns the truths of life – especially those of spiritual life – by instruction and study, and if the person lives the truths learned, then the rational mind is successively opened in the person. Since the activity of thought then originates in the rational, the person becomes more and more rational. When this state is reached, the natural degree is made subordinate to the rational, and the sensuous subordinate to the natural. “This takes place,” we read, “especially in youth up to adult age, and progressively to the last years of … life, and afterward in heaven to eternity” (AC 5126).

What is maturity, true maturity? Maturity is reached when the sensuous plane is subordinate to and serves the natural, and when the natural is subordinate to the rational and serves it. Maturity is not a matter of age; it is a matter of state. It is not reached until a person begins regeneration, until a person learns truths from the Word and lives them.

A sad note is sounded in the Writings. They say that few in the world progress to this stage. Many indeed learn truth from the Word and begin to be reformed. “But,” it is stated, “as soon as they come to the age of early adulthood they suffer themselves to be carried away by the world, and thus go over to the side of infernal spirits, by whom they are gradually so estranged from heaven that they scarcely believe any longer that there is a heaven” (AC 5280:4, emphasis added).

We are all born with the tendency to love self and the world more than the Lord and our neighbor. In the course of growing up we have all acted in accord with this natural tendency. Since we have confirmed some of these perverse tendencies by giving in to them and acting from them, we cannot be regenerated without combat and struggle. Why is this so?

When a regenerating person begins to live the truths which have been learned from the Word, and doctrine from it, one begins to recede from the evils of one’s former life. When this happens, the evil spirits who perceived their delight in the activity of this evil arouse and excite the evils one has done in previous states, and the false things one formerly thought. In this way they seek to maintain their influence over the person who is beginning to regenerate.

But the Lord never deserts us. The person is defended from within by the Lord through angels. They flow into the truths of doctrine which the person has acquired, and arouse, or bring to consciousness, those truths which can conquer the evils which have been awakened and stirred.

This combat between the angels and evil spirits with the person produces anxiety. The person does not realize one thousandth part of what is actually involved in the struggle, and yet the battle is being waged for the person’s eternal salvation. It is fought by the angels from the person. The weapons which the angels use to defend one against the attacks of evil are the truths of doctrine which the person possesses. We should, therefore, never underestimate the importance of knowing and understanding truth if we are to survive spiritual trials and combats.

When a person has overcome in these spiritual trials by strenuously resisting as of self the evils which seethed within, the person undergoes a gradual transformation. Little by little the interior organic forms of the mind are changed; they are reordered. As a result of this reorganization of the mind the person ceases to be a slave to natural passions and desires, as formerly was the case. One state has ended and a new one begun. We are told: “A new state begins in the one who is being regenerated when the order is changed, as takes place when interior things obtain dominion over exterior things, and the exterior things begin to serve the interior … With those who are being regenerated, this is observed from the fact that something within dissuades them from allowing sensuous delights and bodily or earthly pleasure to rule, and to draw over to their side the things of intellect to confirm them” (AC 5159).

This passage draws a remarkably clear distinction between a regenerating person and one who is not regenerating. A person who is regenerating is distinguished from one who is not regenerating by the fact that something within – a love for Divine truth – dissuades him from allowing bodily and worldly pleasures to rule, and from using one’s intellect and knowledge to justify and excuse selfish indulgence. Eternal things – the things of the spirit -come first with such a person, and the things of the world and of the body serve.

We might well ask ourselves: Is this the case with us? Whatever the answer, let us resolve that it shall be so! That is why we are here – to make choices: to choose to put the things of heaven above those temporal things of the world and the body! If this is our choice, the things of heaven will descend into the natural and impart their delight to the natural. They will no longer be in conflict but will work in harmony. The joys of heaven will be perceived externally. The delights of the body and of the world, because ordered from within, will enter into and penetrate the interiors of the mind, affecting them with joy and gladness. Thus heaven and the world will be conjoined in us, and from this conjunction will come the peace and blessedness that only those can experience who have been born of water and of the spirit. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 8:27-38, John 3:1-15, AC 1555:2,3

Arcana Coelestia 1555:2,3

Few, if any, know how man is brought to true wisdom. Intelligence is not wisdom, but leads to wisdom; for to understand what is true and good is not to be true and good, but to be wise is to be so. Wisdom is predicated only of the life – that the man is such. A man is introduced to wisdom or to life by means of knowing (scire et nosse), that is, by means of knowledges (scientiae et cognitiones). In every man there are two parts, the will and the understanding; the will is the primary part, the understanding is the secondary one. Man’s life after death is according to his will part, not according to his intellectual part. The will is being formed in man by the Lord from infancy to childhood, which is effected by means of the innocence that is insinuated, and by means of charity toward parents, nurses, and little children of a like age, and by means of many other things that man knows nothing of, and which are celestial. Unless these celestial things were first insinuated into a man while an infant and a child, he could by no means become a man. Thus is formed the first plane.

But as a man is not a man unless he is endowed also with understanding, will alone does not make the man, but understanding together with will; and understanding cannot be acquired except by means of knowledges and therefore he must, from his childhood, be gradually imbued with these. Thus is formed the second plane. When the intellectual part has been instructed in knowledges, especially in the knowledges of truth and good, then first can the man be regenerated; and when he is being regenerated, truths and goods are implanted by the Lord by means of knowledges in the celestial things with which he had been endowed by the Lord from infancy, so that his intellectual things make a one with his celestial things; and when the Lord has thus conjoined these, the man is endowed with charity, from which he begins to act, this charity being of conscience. In this way he for the first time receives new life, and this by degrees. The light of this life is called wisdom, which then takes the first place, and is set over the intelligence. Thus is formed the third plane. When a man has become like this during his bodily life, he is then in the other life being continually perfected. These considerations show what is the light of intelligence, and what the light of wisdom.