Self-Love and Mutual Love contrasted

Self-Love and Mutual Love contrasted

There is something inflammatory in self-love, and its lusts; and a delight therefrom, which so affects the life, that one scarcely knows but that eternal happiness itself consists in it. And therefore many make eternal happiness to consist in becoming great after the life of the body, and being served by others, even by angels; while they are willing to serve no one except with a secret view to themselves, that they may be served. When they say that they shall then be willing to serve the Lord alone, it is false; for those who cherish self-love would have even the Lord Himself serve them; and so far as He does not, they draw back. Thus the desire of their hearts is that they themselves may be lord, and rule over the universe. Any one may imagine what sort of government this would be, when there are many, nay when all are such. Would it not be an infernal government, where every one loves himself above others? This lies concealed in self-love. From this the nature of self-love may be seen; also from the consideration that there lurks within it hatred against all who do not subject themselves to it as slaves; and because hatred, therefore revenge, cruelty, deceit, and many atrocities. But mutual love, which alone is heavenly, consists in this: that one not only says, but acknowledges and believes, that he is most unworthy, and that [in himself] he is a vile and unclean thing; and that the Lord out of infinite mercy is continually drawing and keeping him out of hell, into which he is continually attempting, nay desiring, to plunge himself. That he acknowledges and believes this is true because it is true. Not that the Lord, nor any angel, desires that he shall acknowledge and believe this for the sake of humbling himself; but lest he should be puffed up, when yet such is his nature. As if refuse should say that it is pure gold! Or a fly of the dunghill that it is a bird of paradise! In so far then as a man acknowledges and believes that his nature is such as it is, he withdraws from self-love and its lusts, and abhors himself; and in the degree that this is done he receives heavenly love, that is mutual love, from the Lord, which is a desire to serve all others. These are they who are understood by the least who become greatest in the kingdom of God (Matt xviii. 1-4, xx. 26-28; Luke ix. 46-48). (AC n. 1594)

They who are in the loves of self and of the world can by no means believe that they are in such filthiness and impurity as they actually are; for there is a certain pleasurableness and delight which soothes, favours, and flatters them, and makes them love that life and prefer it to every other; and so they think there is no evil in it. For whatever favours the love and therefore the life of any one is believed to be good. Hence also the rational consents and suggests falsities which confirm; and which causes such blindness that they see nothing of the nature of heavenly love, or if they see they say in their heart that it is something miserable, or a thing of nought, or something like fantasy, which keeps the mind in a state of disease. But every one may see that the life of the love of self and the world with its pleasures and delights is filthy and impure, if he will but think according to the rational faculty with which he is endowed. It is the love of self from which all evils come that destroy civil society. From this, as from a foul pit, stream forth all kinds of hatred, all kinds of revenge, all cruelties, yea all adulteries. For whoever loves himself either contemns, or disparages, or hates, all others who are not subservient to him, or do not show respect to, or favour him; and as he entertains hatred he breathes out revenge and cruelty, and this in proportion as he loves himself. Thus that love is destructive of society and of the human race. (ibid. n. 2045)

Mutual love in heaven consists in this, that they love the neighbour more than themselves. Hence the whole heaven presents as it were a single man; for they are all thus consociated by mutual love from the Lord. Hence it is that the happinesses of all are communicated to each, and those of each to all. The heavenly form itself is therefore such that every one is as it were a kind of centre; thus a centre of communication and therefore of happiness from all; and this according to all the diversities of that love, which are innumerable. And as they who are in that love perceive the highest happiness in the fact that they can communicate to others what flows into themselves, and this from the heart, the communication is thereby made perpetual and eternal. From this cause, as the Lord’s kingdom increases the happiness of every individual increases. As the angels dwell in distinct societies and mansions, they do not think of this; but the Lord so disposes each and all things. Such is the kingdom of the Lord in the heavens. (ibid. n. 2057)

The Nature of Self-Love

The Nature of Self-Love

I wondered at first why it is that the love of self and the love of the world are so diabolical, and that they who are in those loves are such monsters to look upon; since in the world little thought is given to self-love, but only to that puffed-up state of mind [animus] outwardly manifest which is called pride, and which alone is believed to be self-love, because it appears to the sight. Moreover self-love, when it does not so inflate itself, is believed in the world to be the fire of life, by which a man is incited to seek employment, and to perform uses, in which unless a man saw honour and glory his mind would grow torpid. Who, it is said, has done any worthy, useful, and distinguished action, but for the sake of being celebrated and honoured by others, or in the minds of others? And whence is this but from the ardour of love for glory and honour, consequently for self? It is therefore unknown in the world that self-love in itself regarded is the love that rules in hell, and which produces hell in man.

The love of self consists in a man’s wishing well to himself alone, and to no others except for the sake of himself,—not even to the church, his country, or any human society; as also in doing good to them for the sake of his own reputation, honour, and glory; which unless he sees in the uses he performs to others, he says in his heart, What does it concern me? What does it concern me? Why should I do this? Of what advantage is it to me? And so he lets it pass. Whence it is evident that one who is in the love of self neither loves the church, nor his country, nor society, nor any use, but himself alone. His delight is only the delight of the love of self; and as the delight that comes from his love constitutes the life of a man, his life is a life of self; and a life of self is a life from a man’s proprium, and the proprium of man, in itself regarded, is nothing but evil. He who loves himself loves also his own; who in particular are his children and grandchildren; and in general, all who make one with him, whom he calls his own. To love these is also to love himself; for he looks upon them in himself, as it were, and himself in them. Among those whom he calls his are also all who praise, honour, and reverence him. (HH n. 555, 556)

Such indeed is the nature of the love of self, that in so far as the reins are given to it, that is, in so far as external restraints are removed,—which are the fear of the law and its penalties, and of the loss of reputation, of honour, of gain, of employment, and of life,—in so far it rushes on, until at length it not only desires to rule over the whole terrestrial globe, but also over the whole heaven, and over the Divine [Being] Himself. It has no limit or bound. This propensity lurks within every one who is in self-love, although it is not evident before the world, where the above-mentioned restrains keep it back. That this is so no one can fail to see in potentates and kings, with whom there are no such curbs and restraints; who, so far as they succeed in their purposes, rush on and subjugate provinces and kingdoms, and aspire after unlimited power and glory. That it is so is still more manifest from the Babylon of this day, which has extended its dominion to heaven, and transferred to itself all the Divine power of the Lord, and lusts continually for more. (ibid. n. 559)