“Anyone is the neighbor to the extent that they have the Lord with them.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 86
“Anyone is the neighbor to the extent that they have the Lord with them.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 86
“The Lord is present with you the moment you start to love the neighbor.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 904:3
Wisdom once was a universally admired quality. In the present world this has changed especially in the “developed” Western world where there is an ambivalence about it. In the world of commerce and government where the emphasis is on materialism, knowledge, competitive performance, efficiency and results, wisdom tends to be dismissed. But at the same time amongst the public there is a demand for books of the collected wisdom from different cultures.
For Swedenborg wisdom cannot be found in a book. It is not a collection of ideas but, along with love, it is an essential of a truly human life. He explains that everyone is born with two receptacles to receive life from God, the will and the understanding. The will receives love and the understanding wisdom. They are completely interdependent. Love is dependent on the quality of its wisdom and vice versa. Their relationship is like that of the heat and light of a flame.
It is this association of heat with love and light with wisdom that is the origin of the use of heat and light in many sacred scriptures.
As part of the gift of life we are given free will and an ability to reason. So we have a choice about the kind of love we have and whether or not we become wise.
To be truly wise a person loves God and their neighbour and therefore they love what is good and true because it is good and true. A person who has no such love but only loves the self and world may be theologically knowledgeable and intellectually clever but will never be spiritually wise because he has no desire for genuine wisdom. Neither will a person who dismisses spiritual things and relies solely on worldly and natural ideas because spiritual wisdom is based on spiritual concepts and awareness. People such as these may be “wise” in the eyes of the world but they cannot be truly wise.
In ancient cultures wisdom was often associated with not only spirituality but also old age because people only reach their potential by making a spiritual journey. They move from a self-centred love to a God centred and unselfish love. This takes a lifetime so true wisdom became associated with age.
A wise person develops many qualities, such as, a love for what is good and true, humility, integrity, compassion, empathy, honesty, justice, and innocence. Throughout the history of every culture and religion these are the qualities that have been recognised in people who are wise. This does not mean that they become naïve. As Jesus succinctly put it, “Be as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves”
It is encouraging to read of a few people such as Charles Handy in his book “The Hungry Spirit” stating that such qualities are essential in the modern Western world and no business or political party can continue to function for long if they ignore or dismiss them.
Here are three quotes on wisdom:
It is obvious from actual experience that love generates warmth and wisdom generates light. When we feel love, we become warmer, and when we think from wisdom, it is like seeing things in the light. We can see from this that the first thing that emanates from love is warmth and that the first thing that emanates from wisdom is light. Emanuel Swedenborg in Divine Love and Wisdom 95
Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it Albert Einstein
Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself. Kahlil Gilbran
We don’t choose our neighbours, nor our bosses and work-mates, not even our relatives. Sometimes these people are uncomfortable to live with, difficult to talk to, or they oppose our hopes and aspirations. How do you look after your own needs whilst dealing fairly with these people? How do you deal with the unwelcome challenge of having to respond to what others want that conflicts with your own interests?
Some people might say that to be a loving spirit one must always prioritise the other person’s needs. In an ideal world this may be the best answer. It assumes that others will look after you first and everyone will be happy. Sounds like heaven.
But we live on earth where people are not always caring. You have needs too. And if these are neglected too much, then you will suffer the consequences; hunger, loneliness, frustration, fatigue, failure, unfair blame etc. I rather like the biblical idea of loving one’s neighbour as oneself – in other words caring about the other’s needs as much as caring about one’s own.
And so I would suggest you cannot look after others if you don’t also look after yourself. I was on a plane about to fly on a trip across the Atlantic. As the engines were warming up, the flight attendant showed the passengers how to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency. “Pull it down from above and pull it over your face – but make sure you do your own before helping with your child’s mask.” I would have been no use to the child if I couldn’t breathe.
Usefulness to oneself is also usefulness to others, for to be of use to oneself
is to be in a state to be of use to others. (Swedenborg DLW 318)
Isn’t it the same in most other situations? We may be in a hurry at the supermarket but so might be other customers. Forming a queue at the checkout is what we do to fairly meet everyone’s needs. Members of the queue look themselves as they look after each other by taking turns. We also do this with our friends to pay for a round of drinks in the pub. Restaurant staff often share out tips customers have left. Likewise, they look after themselves as they look after each other. We share the responsibility for paying for public services. When you come to think of it there are innumerable examples of how people practise taking turns and sharing. It is all part of the spirit of ‘give and take’ that helps oil the way we rub shoulders with others.
How each partnership negotiate their relationship will differ but the spiritual principle is that each puts something in and each takes something out. Loving one’s partner as oneself means working on the relationship; striving for fairness; and considering the wide range of duties and responsibilities that go to make up a modern marriage.
And to discover how this works means asking questions. How money for the family is earned. Who does the DIY? The social organizing? The gardening? How are social arrangements made? Who looks after the children and spends time with them? Does each have time to do their own thing? And so on.
Taking turns or sharing aren’t always possible
Taking turns and sharing is all very well but when you want one thing and your work colleague or next-door neighbour wants something completely different, how do you go forward fairly? How do you look after your own needs and look after the the needs of others when these seem so incompatible? Collaboration may be a non-starter – after all it takes two to tango and however willing you are to work on the issue the other person may not be. It is perhaps easier to suggest what not to do in this kind of situation. Not jumping to conclusions about the character of the person. Only judging the behaviour rather than the perpetrator.
Sometimes the most that can be hoped for is a compromise that is second best for each after both sides have negotiated to find a middle ground. But this surely is better than walking away from the person and thus making future communication even more difficult. And certainly better than verbal aggression.
Sometimes you might get involved with someone who turns out to be quite needy. It seems that you are doing all the giving and the other person doing all the taking. How can one love this kind of neighbour without becoming burnt out? One answer is to act on the suggestion that acquiescing to selfish demands of others does not help them in the long run.
To sum up what I am trying to say. You need to turn to the best part of yourself — the spiritual dimension within you – so you can maintain what is fair and good in your dealings with other people for the benefit of both yourself and them.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on25th April 2012
Love to the Lord and Love to the Neighbor distinguished
The Divine abiding with those who have faith in the Lord is. love and charity: and by love is meant love to the Lord; and by charity love towards the neighbour. Love to the Lord cannot be separated from love towards the neighbour; for the Lord’s love is towards the whole human race, which He desires to save eternally, and to adjoin entirely to Himself, so that none of them may perish. Whoever therefore has love to the Lord has the Lord’s love, and so cannot but love his neighbour. But they who are in love towards the neighbour are not all therefore in love to the Lord; as upright Gentiles who are in ignorance concerning the Lord,—with whom yet the Lord is present in charity; and others also within the church. For love to the Lord is love in a higher degree. Those who have love to the Lord are celestial men; and those that have love towards the neighbour or charity are spiritual men. The Most Ancient church, which was before the flood and was celestial, was in love to the Lord; but the Ancient church, which was after the flood and was spiritual, was in love towards the neighbour or in charity. (AC n. 2023)
Love to Enemies
Internal men, such as the angels of heaven are, do not desire retaliation of evil for evil, but from heavenly charity freely forgive; for they know that the Lord defends all who are in good against the evil, and that He defends according to the good in them; and that He would not defend if on account of evil done them they should be inflamed with enmity, hatred, and revenge, for these avert protection. (AC n. 556)
The Presence of the Lord with Man is according to Neighbourly Love or Charity
The presence of the Lord is according to the state of love to the neighbour and of faith in which a man is. The Lord is present in love to the neighbour, because in all good. Not so in faith, as it is called, without love; for faith without love and charity is a thing separate or disjoined. Wherever there is conjunction there must be a conjoining medium, which only is love and charity. This may appear to every one from the consideration that the Lord is merciful to all, and loves every one, and desires to make every one happy to eternity; whoever therefore is not in such love that he is merciful towards others, loves others, and desires to make others happy, cannot be conjoined to the Lord, because of his dissimilitude and his utter destitution of the image of the Lord. For a man to look up to the Lord by faith, as it is said, and hate his neighbour, is not only to stand afar off from Him, but also to have an infernal gulf between himself and the Lord, into which he would fall were he to approach more nearly; for hatred against the neighbour is the infernal gulf which is interposed. The presence of the Lord with man is first vouchsafed when he loves his neighbour; for the Lord is in love, and so far as man is in love the Lord is present; and in the degree in which the Lord is present He speaks with man. (AC n. 904)
The Degrees of the Relationship of Neighbour
Not only is man individually the neighbour, but also man collectively; for indeed a smaller and larger society, our country, the church, the Lord’s kingdom, and above all the Lord Himself, is the neighbour. These are the neighbour to which good is to be done from love. These are also the ascending degrees of neighbour. For a society consisting of many is neighbour in a higher degree than an individual man; in a still higher degree our country; in a degree yet higher the church; and in a degree higher still the Lord’s kingdom; but in the highest degree the Lord is the neighbour. These ascending degrees are as the steps of a ladder, at the top of which is the &rd.
A society is our neighbour more than an individual man, because it consists of many. Charity is to be exercised towards it as towards man individually, that is, according to the quality of good that is in it; and therefore in an entirely different manner towards a society of well-disposed than towards a society of evil-disposed persons. A society is loved when its good is consulted from the love of good.
Our country is our neighbour more than a society, because it is as a parent; for there a man is born, and it fosters him and protects him from injuries. Good is to be done to our country from love according to its necessities, which have regard especially to its sustenance, and the civil life and spiritual life of those that are therein. He who loves his country and does good to it from good will, in the other life loves the Lord’s kingdom; for there the Lord’s kingdom is his country. And he who loves the Lord’s kingdom loves the Lord, for the Lord is all in all in His kingdom.
The church is the neighbour more than our country; for he who cares for the church cares for the souls and eternal life of the men who dwell in his country. And therefore he who from love cares for the church loves his neighbour in a superior degree; for he desires and wills for others heaven and happiness of life to eternity.
The Lord’s kingdom is the neighbour in a still higher degree, because the Lord’s kingdom consists of all who are in good, both those who are on earth as those that are in the heavens. Thus the Lord’s kingdom is good with its every quality in the complex; when this is loved the individuals who are in good are loved.
These are the degrees of the neighbour, and with those who are in love towards their neighbour the love ascends according to these degrees. But these degrees are degrees in successive order, in which what is prior or superior must be preferred to what is posterior or inferior; and as the Lord is in the supreme degree, and He is to be regarded in each degree as the end to which it looks, therefore He is to be loved above all men and above all things. From all this now it may be seen how love to the Lord conjoins itself with love towards the neighbour. (HD n. 91-96)
CHARITY AND GOOD WORKS
Who is the Neighbor
It shall first be shown what the neighbour is; for it is the neighbour who is to be loved, and towards whom charity is to be exercised. For unless it be known what the neighbour is charity may be exercised, without distinction, in the same manner towards the evil as towards the good, whereby charity ceases to be charity; for the evil do evil to the neighbour from the benefactions conferred on them, but the good do good.
It is a common opinion at this day that every man is equally the neighbour, and that benefits are to be conferred on every one who needs assistance: but it concerns Christian prudence to look well to the quality of a man’s life, and to exercise charity towards him accordingly. The man of the internal church exercises his charity with discrimination, and therefore with intelligence; but the man of the external church, because he cannot so well discern things, does it indiscriminately.
The distinctions of neighbour, which the man of the church ought well to know, depend upon the good that is in every one. And because every good proceeds from the Lord, therefore the neighbour in the highest sense and in a supereminent degree is the Lord, from whom is the origin [of the relationship]. Hence it follows that in so far as any one is receptive of the Lord in that degree he is our neighbour; and since no one receives the Lord, that is good from Him, in the same manner as another, therefore no one is our neighbour in the same manner as another. For all who are in the heavens and all the good that are on earth differ in good; no two ever receive good that is exactly one and the same. It must be different that each may subsist by itself. But all these varieties, —that is all the distinctions of neighbour which depend on the reception of the Lord, or, on the reception of good from Him,— can never be known by any man; nor indeed by any angel except in general, or as to their genera and species. And the Lord does not require more of the man of the church than to live according to what he knows.
Since the good with every one is different, it follows that the quality of his good determines in what degree and in what respect any one is our neighbour. That this is so is plain from the Lord’s parable concerning him who fell among thieves, whom half dead the priest passed by, and also the Levite; but the Samaritan, after he had bound up his wounds and poured in oil and wine, took him upon his own beast, and led him to an inn, and ordered that care should be taken of him. Because he exercised the good of charity he is called the neighbour (Luke x. 29-37). It may be known from this that they who are in good are our neighbour. The oil and wine moreover which the Samaritan poured into the wounds signify good and its truth.
It is plain from what has now been said that in the universal sense good is the neighbour; inasmuch as a man is neighbour according to the quality of the good that is in him from the Lord. And as good is the neighbour so is love, for all good is of love; therefore every man is our neighbour according to the quality of the love which he possesses from the Lord. (HD n. 84-88)
Good is the neighbour because good is of the will, and the will is the being of a man’s life. The truth of the understanding is also the neighbour, but in so far as it proceeds from the good of the will; for the good of the will forms itself in the understanding, and there makes itself visible in the light of reason. That good is the neighbour is evident from all experience. Who loves a person except for the quality of his will and understanding, that is for what is good and just in him? For example, who loves a king, a prince, a duke, a governor, a consul, or the person of any magistrate, or any judge, but for the discretion from which they act and speak? Who loves a primate, or any minister or canon of the church, but for his learning, uprightness of life, and zeal for the salvation of souls? Who loves the general of an army, or any officer under him, but for his courage, and at the same time prudence? Who loves a merchant but for his sincerity?. Who loves a workman or a servant but for his fidelity? Nay, who likes a tree but for its fruit? or ground but for its fertility? or a stone but for its preciousness? &c. And what is remarkable, not only does an upright man love what is good and just in another, but a man who is not upright also does; because with him he is in no fear of the loss of fame, honour, or wealth. But with one who is not upright the love of good is not love of the neighbour; for he does not inwardly love the other, except in so far as he is of service to him. But to love the good in another from good in one’s self is genuine love towards the neighbour; for then the goods mutually kiss and are united with each other. (TCR n. 418)