2 Responses to Evolution and Religion

  1. Are you saying a spirit is a sort of embodiment of one’s thoughts?“The ultimate scheme of creation and evolution is to create angels from the human race.” Do you believe in reincarnation so that spirits can someday become perfect angels, or do you think imperfect spirits “die” into heaven and new ones are created with each baby born…in which case the perfect spirit is a Darwinian goal. My head hurts now, GodGuy!

  2. thegodguy says:

    The soul uses the mind to create a spiritual body within our physical body. Our mind, which consists of both volition and thought, is our spirit. The soul is created by God and is completely developed at our birth. But our spirit is the outcome of the values we choose in life from free will. It can mature and gain stature throughout our life. The spirit finds its embodiment from the ideas of our understanding because what we love and intend puts on form and structure from our thinking. Love adapts form (information) to its own disposition. The soul complies with the spirit to make this happen.
    The mind does not operate in space nor is it under the constraints of physical law. For instance, you can share half of your knowledge with a friend and still keep ALL of your knowledge. You can’t do this when you share half of a physical apple with a friend. In spite of the fact that the mind operates beyond space it can take on perfect human form (it is who we really are). It chews, ruminates, and digests ideas so that they will enter into the fabric of our being in the same way that our digestive system prepares terrestrial food to become the fabric of our physical bodies.
    The result of spiritual growth is non-physical bio-complexity, which Darwinian theory simply doesn’t address. Religion is God’s strategy to provide a means for humans to choose the best values so that the spiritual body can evolve properly. Heaven is not a place you go to, but is something you become.
    I do not subscribe to reincarnation. Yet, even reincarnation would be ineffective if it did not lead to a complete reconstitution of our inner being. This topic is multifaceted and is discussed in greater detail in my next book entitled “Proving God.”

The First State of Man After Death

The First State of Man After Death

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – November 20, 2011

“Let (the wheat and the tares) grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:30)

While the Old Testament is essentially silent on the subject of the life to come, the Lord Himself taught many parables about heaven. He used simple terms familiar to the farmers, shepherds, and merchants of that time. He taught that life was the time of growth, but that all must eventually face the harvest. Then the good things would be put up in barns to be used, and the bad and useless things would be burned in the ovens. A simple concept for a simple people, but it met their needs. And in its simplicity, it re­minds us that each of us must also face the time of harvest, and find out whether we are the wheat that is put up in barns, or the tares that are to be burned.

            During the years following His life on earth the men of the church took those beautiful, simple ideas that Jesus taught and turned them into complex and confusing doctrines. The doctrines of men took away the peace and the comfort that Jesus had brought to earth, because the men of the church could derive more power and profit from fear than from comfort. But now the Lord has come again in the spiritual sense of the Word to open and reveal the secrets of heaven, to restore the sense of peace and comfort. Our subject for this sermon, and the two which will follow it, is the or­derly process that the Lord has provided for us to make our transition from this world to the next.

            We are all created for heaven, not this world. Just as the human body is prepared for life in the natural world by life in the mother’s womb, so the human soul is pre­pared for life in the spiritual world by a period of gestation in the natural world. Natural birth requires labor and pain, but once born no one wishes to return to the simple but unconscious life of the fetus. Spiritual birth also requires labor and pain, but once we have passed through the pro­cess and see for ourselves what spiritual life is like, we will have no desire to leave the reality of heaven to return to this world of illusion and fantasy.

            Before we go any further in this treat­ment we will take a moment to define sev­eral important terms while recognizing that they are not always used consistently.  One must always pay attention to context. First of all, we find that the most common usage of the term “spiritual world” is to describe the whole spiritual universe which includes heaven, the world of spirits, and hell. Occasionally, “spiritual world” is used to refer to heaven only, but it is usually obvious from the context.

            “The World of Spirits,” however, is a much more specific term. It is always used to refer to that part of the spiritual world which lies between heaven and hell and which is the place where all people go first when their natural bodies die. In character and appearance it is very much like this world.

            The word “spirit” is also a very general term. Its most general meaning is to refer to anyone living anywhere in the spiritual world. It is most frequently used to refer to someone who is still living in the world of spirits and has not yet chosen heaven or hell. A “good spirit” is someone who, if not already an angel in heaven, is nearly there. Similarly, an “evil spirit” is someone who, if not already in hell, has clearly shown his ruling love to be evil.

            Finally, an “angel” is a particular kind of spirit, specifically a spirit who has been through all the states of introduction and has chosen heaven. An angel is a person who, with their conjugial partner, has been completely prepared for and accepted into a heavenly soci­ety which will be their home to eternity.

            With these terms in mind, let us return to the consideration of what happens to a person whose natural body has died, and who is in the process of awakening into eternal, spiritual life. Just as a newborn baby in this world needs special care and attention, the same is true of the heaven-born spirit and so the same kind of angels that are present with infants are the ones who sit with the new spirit as he gently awakens. These angels hold him in a peaceful state and lead him to think about eternal things. Eventually, though, he  becomes aware of them and questions about what’s going on begin to form in his mind.  When they sense that this is happening, the celestial angels know that their work is done so they withdraw and make way for the angels from the spiritual heaven to draw near. They arrive as he awakens enough to open his eyes and begin to looks around.  They are there to answer questions about this new life. Eventually the new spirit becomes curious about his surroundings and wants to go out and explore so the spiritual angels move away to be replaced by angels from the natural heaven who show the new spirit around. Finally, when he is ready, they lead him to the world of spirits.

            Once the new spirit is fully conscious in the spiritual world and comfortable with his new surroundings and the way things work, the Lord then leads him through a process that gradually reveals the true nature of his character and then uses that information to prepare him to enter his eternal home.  This takes place in three stages.  The first is the state of externals.  Then comes the state of internals.  Finally, for those going to heaven, comes a period of instruction and preparation.  Like every good rule, this one too has exceptions.

      “There are some who are immediately after death taken up into heaven or cast into hell. …Those who have been so regenerated and prepared that they need simply to cast off natural impurities with the body are at once taken up by the angels into heaven. …Others are cast immediately into hell. …But all these are few in comparison with those who are retained in the world of spirits, and are there pre­pared in accordance with Divine order for heaven or for hell” (HH 491).

            As far as the new spirit is concerned, and as far as he can tell from the testimony of his senses, the World of Spirits is just like he previous life in the natural world. There are several reasons for this. One is that by creating a sphere so like the natural world, it reduces the shock to the new spirit and allows him to return to his own way of life, to return to his own genuine character. He would not be able to do this if he sensed that he was in an alien or artificial environ­ment. After all, we are all on our best beha­vior when away from home. Another reason is that the Lord wishes everyone to feel welcome, comfortable, and at peace. We all know how pleasant it is to find familiar things when we travel to far away places. The same principle applies in the World of Spirits. However, it is a different world. And, the new spirit does remember what he was told during his states of resuscitation and think about them from time to time. But soon the testimony of his senses distracts him from such thoughts, and he returns to a life according to the belief that he still lives in the natural world.

            His natural life continues into his spir­itual life. The death of the natural body is merely a transition from one mode of life to another. The doctrine testifies that one of the most important features of this state is that of meeting with friends and family that have gone on before. We are told that a new spirit is immediately recognized by his friends, both by his face and by the sphere of his life, and this introduces one of the more unusual aspects of heavenly life to the new spirit. Time and space seem to be as they were in his former life, but yet they are somehow changed. Specifically, whenever he thinks about anyone who is also in the spiritual world, that person be­comes present as if he had been sent for, or called. So, as he thinks in turn about each of his friends from the world that have died, they appear before him! The doctrines tell us that these meetings are joyful for both parties.

            These meetings are especially mean­ingful for husbands and wives. They meet, congratulate each other, and resume their life together. The length of time they re­main together depends on the state of their marriage. If they were friends and partners in the world, they continue so to eternity. If, however, they cannot find delight with each other, they eventually separate, each going to their own place in the spiritual world. Even so, they are not allowed to separate during this first state, for it is only a state of exteriors, and the exteriors are only an ap­pearance. It would be a tragedy if people who were internally suited to each other separated because of merely external prob­lems when those very external character­istics are about to be shed in favor of new externals which correspond to their true in­terior qualities. So, even if there is anger, hatred, or even actual combat, couples re­main together throughout the state of ex­teriors.

            Another characteristic of this state is that new spirits are surprised to find them­selves in a body. For most people in the world, the only source of information about heaven and hell is what they have read from the Word, or what they have been taught in church. A careful study of the Old Testament will reveal that there is virtually no teaching about the nature of the spiritual world (other than that strange passage where the witch of En-Dor raises Samuel’s spirit at Saul’s request). And while there are quite a few parables about heaven in the New Testament, most of them are limited to presenting the idea that there is a life after death where the good are rewarded and the evil punished in unspecified ways. So, as they become aware of the reality of the spiritual world, they become eager to know more about heaven and hell.

            At first they converse with their friends about it, then they are taken from place to place and shown around. Swedenborg reports that many of the people in his time were indignant at how poorly they had been prepared for eternal life through their own ignorance and the lack of instruction from the church.  The big question that soon comes to each of them is whether or not they are worthy to enter heaven.

Most arrive believing that they are worthy of heav­en because they lived a moral life in the world – at least in externals. However, they don’t realize that both the good and the evil can live a civil and moral life. In the first state, where people are still allowed to present themselves as they wish to be seen, it is hard to tell the good spirits from those that are evil because all kinds of people are capable of living a moral life in the world:  All people, no matter how black their hearts, are able to live under governments and subject themselves to the requirements of civil law. The good and the evil can acquire a reputation for honesty and justice, they both can receive favor and be raised to honors, and they can both acquire great wealth, so none of these things can be used to judge between the good and the evil during their first state in the World of Spirits.

There is a way that they can be distin­guished, though.  People who are evil at heart are eager to talk about external things about people and events, but pay little attention at all when the topic turns to internal or spiritual things.  They are willing to listen to conversations about the goods and truths of the church, but it is obvious that they do not enjoy it.

A second way of determining the dif­ference between good and evil spirits is that when left to themselves they turn themselves to face specific directions in the World of Spirits and follow the paths that lead in those directions. By observing their paths it is possible to know the kind of love that leads them. (See HH 496)

This first state of man after death con­tinues with some for days, with some for months, and with some for a year; but seldom with anyone beyond a year; for a shorter or longer time with each one differently in accordance with the agreement or disagreement of his interiors with his exteriors (HH 498).

In conclusion, we can say that the first state of a new spirit in the world of spirits is one of introduction and welcome. It is provided so that each person who enters the spiritual world will have a chance to get their bearings, and become accustomed to the fact that they are no longer in their natural body and that they have awakened into eternal life. They are kept in surroundings that are as familiar as possible, and encouraged to wander around and learn all that they desire for as long as they need. But eventually the spirit is ready to move on, he feels a desire to find his true spiritual home. When this hap­pens, he is ready to enter into the next state, the state of his interiors.

This second state will be the subject of the next sermon in this series, which will be delivered next Sunday.

            AMEN.

First Lesson:  Mat 13:24-30, 36-43

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; {25} “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. {26} “But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. {27} “So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ {28} “He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ {29} “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. {30} ‘Let both grow to­gether until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gath­er together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ “

{36} Then Jesus sent the multi­tude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” {37} He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. {38} “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. {39} “The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. {40} “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. {41} “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, {42} “and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. {43} “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Amen.

Second Lesson: HH 491.

THE FIRST STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH.

There are three states that man passes through after death before he enters either heaven or hell. The first state is the state of his exteriors, the second state the state of his interiors, and the third his state of pre­paration. These states man passes through in the world of spirits. There are some, however, that do not pass through them; but immediately after death are either taken up into heaven or cast into hell. Those that are immediately taken up into heaven are those that have been regenerated in the world and thereby prepared for heaven. Those that have been so regenerated and prepared that they need simply to cast off natural impurities with the body are at once taken up by the angels into heaven. I have seen them so taken up soon after the hour of death. On the other hand, those that have been inwardly wicked while maintaining an outward appearance of goodness, and have thus filled up the measure of their wickedness by artifices, using goodness as a means of deceiving-these are at once cast into hell, I have seen some such cast into hell immediately after death, one of the most deceitful with his head downward and feet upward, and others in other ways. There are some that immediately after death are cast into caverns and are thus separated from those that are in the world of spirits, and are taken out from these and put back again by turns. They are such as have dealt wickedly with the neighbor under civil pretenses. But all these are few in comparison with those that are retained in the world of spirits, and are there prepared in accordance with Divine order for heaven or for hell. Amen.

 

Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

Sermon: Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

I preached this sermon at the Dawson Creek Church of the New Jerusalem in Dawson Creek, BC on August 28, 2011.

Lessons: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 3:1-12Arcana Coelestia 154

EZEKIEL AND THE DRY BONES

“And I prophesied as He commanded me, and the spirit came into them, and they lived, a very great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)

In the children’s talk this morning, we talked about the story of Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones.  We heard some of the context there – the people of Judah were in captivity in Babylon, and they were crying out to the Lord that their bones were dried up, they had been cut off – they were alive but they felt dead.  And so the Lord took Ezekiel to this valley of dry bones.

Before we begin to look at the internal sense it would be useful to look a little more at the concept of spirit, since it plays such an important role in this story.  In Hebrew, as well as Greek and Latin, the word for “spirit” is the same as the word for “breath” and the word for “wind.”  The concept of “the spirit” was more than just the concept of natural wind or natural breath – there was a concept that the entire world was maintained by the breath or spirit of God.  And so when a person breathed that was the spirit breathing in them.

With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into the internal sense of this story.

The story begins with the prophet Ezekiel being taken by the hand of the Lord to a valley – a low place, a dark place.  It’s a valley where a great host of people has been killed, and their bones lie scattered.  They’ve been there for ages – the flesh has gone from off of them, and the bones have been dried out in the sun.  The Lord asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  Ezekiel is humble enough to simply say, “O Lord Jehovih, you know” – but the answer clearly seems to be “no,” they cannot.

We are those bones.  When we begin our spiritual lives, we are dead.  In the children’s talk, we talked about times when we feel dead.  And this story is about those times – but it’s also about times when we are spiritually dead without even realizing it.  Because before we are born again, we are spiritually dead.  The people in the earliest days of the Christian church knew this well.  For example, in his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul wrote, “You who were dead in trespasses and sins He made alive” (Ephesians 2:1).

Those dry bones in particular represent a part of ourselves that is both dead in itself, and that is the source of evil and death.  The Writings for the New Church refer to this as our proprium, which is a Latin word meaning, “what is our own.”  Now, the concept of the proprium is a complex one, and it’s hard to describe briefly even what it is.  One way to think of our “proprium” is as our sense that we live from ourselves.  It’s a sense of ownership, that things within us belong to us.  It’s similar in some ways to the concept of a sense of self

But is this bad?  We need to have a sense of self – we wouldn’t be human without it.  This is true.  Everyone – angels and people and evil spirits alike – have an Own or a proprium, and in fact, it’s this sense that we live from ourselves that allows us to be joined to the Lord in freedom as separate beings from Him.  But there is an enormous difference between the heavenly proprium and the natural proprium that we are born with.  The heavenly proprium is called the “vivified proprium,” or the proprium that has been given life.  And this story of the dry bones is a story about how that happens, how the dead, bony proprium is brought to life.

What is our sense of “own” like in that first, dead state?  In it, we think of everything in our lives as coming from ourselves.  All our good qualities, everything we like about ourselves – that’s US, and we feel a lot of affection for me.  Our thoughts are focused on ourselves – if we’re daydreaming or our minds are wandering, chances are the focus is not on others, but on something we want for ourselves.

It’s hard to believe, but in this state, from the perspective of the angels, we are nothing but scattered bones.  When we believe that life is in us and from us, and that everything in our lives is from ourselves, we are not yet alive in a true sense.

It’s important to note, also, that those dead bodies did not just die naturally – they were killed, probably in battle.  There are evil spirits around us constantly who would love nothing more than to convince us that we live from ourselves, that we are the most important thing in our lives, that we should love ourselves first and foremost.  There is an enemy that killed us and wants us to stay dead.

Is there really any hope for us?  Can we really be so radically changed that we move from the sense that life is from ourselves, to a real acknowledgment that life is something that flows in from heaven?  Because this is what it’s going to take.  It can seem impossible – Ezekiel was not sure that the bones could be brought back to life.  But he did not deny it.  He simply said, “O Lord Jehovih, you know.”

Now, many people think of being born again as something that happens in an instant.  But that’s not the way it happens.  It’s a process.  And it’s a process in this story.

So how does it happen?  How do we start to acknowledge that life is something that flows in, not something that belongs to us?   Some people would say the solution – the way to feel like life is from God – is simply to stop trying to do things on your own and wait for God to flow in.  But if the spirit had blown into those dead bones, nothing would have happened.  They had to first be arranged in such a way that they could receive that spirit flowing in from God.

We’re the same way.  The way to experience the Lord’s life, rather than life that we think of as our own, is not to just sit around and wait for it.  We have to act completely as if from ourselves for God to give us a renewed proprium that acknowledges life as coming from Him.

So Ezekiel prophesies to the bones – and they start to move.  As a prophet, Ezekiel represents the Lord’s Word, since he spoke the Lord’s Word.  The first step in the revival of our proprium is to go to the Lord’s Word.

We go to the Word first with the intellectual side of our minds.  Those bones but they especially represent the “own” in our understanding, our intellect.  This is where we first hear and respond to the Word.   That proprium in the understanding is all our thoughts, and the sense that our thinking is from ourselves – the sense that the things in our mind belong to us.

We do need to have that sense – that our thoughts are our own – for us to learn anything.  And at first, our motivation for learning anything is going to be mixed, and in large part selfish – because we want to feel smart, or for other people to think of us as smart.  But there can still be the beginnings of life there – to the extent that we want to learn truth for the sake of living better.  The bones start to move.  And it’s a focus on how to use truth that brings those bones together, to start to form a skeleton.  We sometimes even talk in these terms about concepts – the framework of an idea we call the skeleton, the most important part of it the backbone, etc.

This can sound abstract, so let’s use an example.  We know lots of scattered truth, things we’ve picked up from talking to other people, from sermons, and especially from the Word.  But when we focus on how to live by them, certain ones start to stand out as being the most important.  The backbone of it all is to love the Lord and to love the neighbour.  The finger bones might be the specific, practical things we’ve learned about how to love the neighbour – for example, that we have to fight against a tendency to snap at our spouse when we’re in a bad mood.  All the different truths we know will play some role just like the different bones in our bodies plays, and even the different parts of the different bones – because there is a direct correspondence or relationship between the spiritual function of truth and the functions of the bones of our bodies.

When we learn truth and think about how it could apply to life, those bones start to join together.  But the body is more than bones.  And as Ezekiel looked on, sinews and flesh and skin came onto the bones, so that they lay there complete human forms – still without life, but whole and new again as they had been when they had been alive.

The Writings say that this flesh that is put onto the bones represents that heavenly proprium – an “own” that is tied to a new will, born in the understanding.  And it’s what happens when we start to put those truths we know into life – it’s what happens when we live truth and it begins to turn into goodness.

Now again, in this story, it can seem like all of this happens without any effort on a person’s part.  But this is not actually the way that new proprium or sense of self-life is formed.  In fact, it is just the opposite – it is self-compulsion that forms that new will.  When we don’t want to do something, and yet we force ourselves to do it, it does not feel like we’re very free.  In fact, it feels like we’re giving up our freedom.  But the reality is that in compelling ourselves, we are coming into more freedom than ever before.  The truth is that before we fight against sin, we are slaves to sin.  Before we make ourselves get up and do something, we are slaves to lethargy and laziness.  It’s only in compelling ourselves that our higher selves begin to have dominance over our lower selves.  It’s that higher self where the new proprium resides.

But even then the process is not complete.  In Ezekiel’s vision the bones had come together and flesh had covered them, but there was still no life in them – no spirit.  And so at the Lord’s command Ezekiel prophecied to the four winds to breathe spirit into these bodies.  And the four winds blew and spirit came into the bodies and they stood up on their feet, a great army.

As we mentioned in the children’s talk, our culture is rife with images of the undead – of living skeletons, of green-skinned zombies.  That is not what we are to picture here – we are to picture an army of healthy, strong, living human beings.  Because this is an image of what happens when our proprium is made new.  We read a passage from Arcana Coelestia this morning describing the immense difference between a person’s “own” and a person’s “own” that has been vivified, or brought to life, by the Lord’s Own, the Lord’s proprium – that is, all the things that really belong to the Lord that He us to feel as our own.  The first proprium, when we believe that life is from ourselves, is so ugly that nothing could be uglier; but the things in the vivified own appear beautiful.

And the key here is that breath, that wind, the spirit that flows into these bodies and brings them to life.  The spirit represents life inflowing from the Lord.  We act as if ourselves to learn truth and to live by it – but it is the Lord who breathes His spirit into that and brings it to life.  It happens in the moment when we realize that we actually want to do good to others – that it isn’t any longer something we have to force ourselves to do.  It happens when we realize that our desires and attitudes have changed – and we realize that we weren’t the ones who brought about those changes.  And it happens when we realize that the good things in us are not our own, but they belong instead to the Lord God Jesus Christ.

The primary characteristic of the heavenly proprium is that even though it continues to feel as if it lives from itself, it perceives and acknowledges that all life is from the Lord.  All angels are in this acknowledgment – the acknowledgment that of themselves they are nothing but evil, that what is their own is hard and bony and dead.  But from the Lord they are granted a new proprium – a perception that they are merely vessels of the Lord’s life, and that they are blessed with the opportunity to serve as expressions of the Lord’s love.

The angels are constantly in this perception that life is the Lord’s.  Even so, though, we read in Arcana Coelestia, “the angels perceive that they live from the Lord, although when not reflecting on the subject they know no other than that they live from themselves.”  They still feel like life is from themselves.  And so we can’t expect to constantly feel the Lord’s life in us.  But when we are reflecting by ourselves, we can acknowledge it, and as we progress, even perceive it – that all of our own efforts toward goodness, all our ability to love, even our life itself, is from the Lord.  This is one of the great secrets of the New Church – that our own efforts are not somehow evil or wrong, but that we know the Lord in those efforts when we realize that they are really His efforts in us.  That’s the vivified, renewed proprium – the sense of ourselves that does not want to live from ourselves, but simply wants to be a vessel.  And yet the Lord grants us to feel life of ourselves so that we can freely choose to join ourselves to Him in sharing His love for humanity.

It’s hard to believe that we’re dead until we come into this acknowledgment.  But the Lord does let us catch glimpses of what it’s like to get out of ourselves and have moments where we aren’t so focused on our selves, or where we actually realize that the good things in us don’t belong to us.  When we compare the life in those moments to the life in our regular, self-centered moments, we can realize that the more we are in our self-life, the more dead we are.  But this story is also a story of hope – if the Lord could revive dead bones, scattered in a valley and left to dry, He also can bring us to life.  This is the new life, this is regeneration, this is the new birth.

“And I shall put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you on your own ground; and you shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken it, and done, says Jehovah.”

Amen.

Coleman’s Blog | The thoughts and reflections of a New Church (Swedenborgian) minister

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THE RESURRECTION

THE RESURRECTION

The Process of Resuscitation

Paul, in his famous but somewhat vague description of the resurrection, given in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (ch. xv) , imagined that the quick and the dead, on the sounding of the judgment trumpet, would all be changed and put on immortality “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” For Paul, in his youth, sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the celebrated Jewish rabbi, and he reflects much of the doctrine of the Pharisees, who believed in a last judgment day common to the living and the dead.28

In the Writings, however, it is revealed that the resurrection of man is individual, and that it occurs not in the twinkling of an eye but as a process, a gradual change of state. Death is indeed sudden, in the sense that there is a moment when the spirit’s departure is unavoidable. But the resurrection is a process—a gradual adjustment of the spirit to conscious, free life in the eternal world.

Death occurs when the two vital motions, the respiration of the lungs and the beating of the heart, cease, and the body, deprived of the life of the spirit, grows cold and begins to decay. But until the heart’s motion is entirely stopped the spirit continues in the body “for a short time.”29 And even after the body is apparently cold, life may with some persist as conscious thinking. The spirit can of course not have any sensation of its natural environment— since respiration has stopped—nor can it move even a particle of the gross matter of the body.30 The spirit, though definitely severed from the body, may still abide in it, by virtue of the “finest substances of nature” which are not affected by death but are retained by the spirit as a “limbus” which eventually “recedes” as a cutis-like covering.31 These substances would not leave the body until the “interior corporeals” grow cold. The thought here described would be tranquil and unaffected by the state of the body.32

Death is, in a manner, like sleep; for in sleep celestial agencies are at work to relax and restore man’s body and mind. But the celestial angels who attend man’s resuscitation are concerned with preserving the sense of the continuity of life. They are drawn to man on the faintest notion of the approach of death, or whenever the proprium of man is awe-struck with fear or paralyzed by uncertainty. Their presence is felt in the spiritual world as an aromatic odor, which causes evil spirits to flee.33 And it is due to their wise ministrations that the spirit of a dying man is held in the last thought which he entertains as he is expiring—a thought which is commonly about eternal life. The celestial angels have the effect of quieting all man’s own affections—all his anxiety, impatience, revenge, lust, and ambition. This the Lord accomplishes by temporarily cutting off any communication with the attendant spirits which man had himself invited while on earth, or with any societies in the world of spirits or in hell. Man thus becomes passive, as if in sleep. Indeed, these spirits then suppose that man is dead. For as the poets have noted, Death is but the somber sister of Sleep.34 And the angels breathe no accusation, no reproach, whatever man’s quality had been. For “they love every one,” seeing not his proprium, but the “remains” of celestial good with which the Lord has endowed every man from childhood.35

Thus man’s mind becomes docile as a babe’s. His thought, guided by angelic affections, is drawn out—vaguely but persistently—while a blissful feeling of security enwraps him. This single thought, sensed as a soothing monotone, is like a narrow bridge whereon the spirit is borne up without sense of time or self-consciousness, and is carried across the abyss which we call Death, into the land of Resurrection.

The Three Stages of Resuscitation

All those who die, whether good or evil, are received in the spiritual world as welcome guests.36 But their introduction is gradual, by orderly stages.

That he might learn something of these successive stages, Swedenborg was reduced into a state resembling that of a dying person.37 This occurred on the morning of March 1, 1748. His spirits then withdrew, thinking that he was dead, because his proprial affection was taken away. His heart beat was normal while his respiration became tacit; he became insensible of the world and yet remained conscious so that he remembered what occurred.

By means of this experience he was instructed how a spirit is prepared for his resurrection—how he is received first by celestial angels, later by spiritual angels, and finally by good spirits more akin to his own life; and how, “on the third day,” he awakens into the world of spirits, to take up his own life where he left it off.38

These three states of resuscitation precede his final awakening in the world of spirits which takes place “on the third day.”39There is need for such an introductory period and for a brief recapitulation of the spiritual history of his life. The Lord needs to reorient the spirit around the celestial and spiritual remains and surviving moral states which evil has not destroyed and which were the Lord’s own creations in his mind. Soon enough the spirit will resume control of his own life, follow the biddings of his proprial affections, and begin the journey towards the goal of his ruling love. But first the Lord needs to revive and integrate what is of the Lord’s own with man, and thus marshal the saving elements in the rising spirit. And this—the gathering and organizing of all “remains” and the removal and quieting of the trivial worries of natural life, must be done for the evil as well as for the good.

It is the Lord who is the Resurrection and the Life. (John 11:25) The resuscitation of man’s spirit is effected by the living and mighty attraction of the Lord’s mercy, who said, “And I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all men unto Me.”40

The inmost “soul” of man is the abode of the Lord and the medium of His unimpeded influx by which He, by Himself, organizes and builds both spirit and body. He needs no angelic assistance in that work, or in the gathering of such “human internals” to Himself.41 Neither angel nor man is aware of His secret labors.

But the “spirit,” or mind, is formed in the sphere of angels and spirits. And in the order of its building, the celestial angels came first to assist. It is through them that the interiors of the minds of every man are furnished in infancy with those celestial “remains” which made a beginning for all that is orderly and rational and human in man. It is these same angels “of the province of the heart”42—who are now the first to assist in the reconstruction of the mind of the spirit from within, from the innocent states of infancy, for its adaptation to a purely spiritual environment.

With every one who dies, two celestial angels also generally appear seated near his head.43 These seem to be in meditation-communicating their thoughts without words or images, and by as it were “inducing their faces” upon the spirit; and when their thoughts are recognized as theirs, and not the spirit’s own, they know that the spirit can be withdrawn from the body.44 They maintain man’s final thought, however, lest man’s identity be lost in the transition. For in all change there must be an inner connective. And for all their own desire to hold the spirit in their sphere the celestials will nothing more than the freedom of man. And after a time the spirit begins to gravitate towards externals-unable to sustain the profound peace of innocence and selfless love.45

The celestial angels do not leave the resuscitating spirit, but act more remotely.46 But the spirit now requires something they cannot give. His first need was one of spiritual warmth, for a revival of that inmost motivation of innocence from which his infant heart had begun to beat. His new need is one for spiritual sight. And even as in each child and youth, the spiritual heavens superintend the storing up of spiritual “remains” of truth and intellectual sight, which intimately correspond to the societies of the second heaven,47 so now these remains must be revived for use in the new spiritual environment.

So far, in the background of the spirit’s thought, there was a dim idea that he was still living in the body.48 But when spiritual angels approach from the province in the Grand Man which answers to the tunics of the eyes, they seek to communicate by visual representations and thereby to give spiritual light—the light which reveals the spiritual world.49 The appearance to the spirit is as if they gently rolled off a tunic from his eyes, until dim light begins to show through — like the light of the newly awakened before the eyelids are opened; or like what took place with the blind man whom the Lord cured and who at first saw only “men, as trees, walking.”50 Various types of imagery present themselves as their vision clears—presaging a new sight which sees in concrete fashion that which man before had perceived only as abstractions. This is effected by a removal or sinking back of corporeal ideas.51Something seems to be unveiled from the spirit’s face — which represents his passing from natural thought into the type of thinking that is common to all in the after-life. And with this a new sense-perception is given by degrees. In some cases the spirit is enveloped by a golden light and he is given a feeling of happiness and gladness—a feeling of the commencement of a new life. And he is then told that he is a spirit!52 He can look about him and see spiritual things in the customary symbolism of his thought — as if they were natural.53 But the spiritual angels delight to inform him about eternal life and, if he had been in faith or at least in some external belief in heaven, they will show him the wonders of the heavenly mansions—as if in a prophetic preview.54

The Arcana Coelestia reveals concerning the dying, that “scarcely a day intervenes after the death of the body before they are in the other life.”55 And on the cross the Lord said to the penitent robber, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”56 Perhaps this refers to the paradises which the spiritual angels show to the rising spirits! In one case Swedenborg may have been present with other angels at this stage of the resurrection process. For he tells that he spoke to Eric Brahe twelve hours after the latter had been executed.57

When a spirit is informed by the spiritual angels that he is a spirit, this does not seem to cause him any surprise. His state seemingly is still passive—as man is in a dream. But with the consciousness of life there usually comes also “self-consciousness”— with a revival of old desires. Even instruction about heaven wearies him eventually, and so he withdraws himself from the spiritual angels.

Next, he finds himself in a society of good spirits—presumably angels of the natural or lowest heaven, where truths are taught by representations. The spirit man seems to himself to be in the flower of his youth and riding a horse which, strangely enough, cannot move a step although he is directing it towards hell!58 He then dismounts and walks—being instructed that his reasonings would lead him astray unless he was guided by knowledge which distinguishes between right and wrong. The good spirits among whom he now is, do not at first know his quality.59 But they delight to show him every kindness—evoking so far as possible the states of moral good and the virtues which he had made his own.60

But actually the spirit is sinking back towards the state of life in which he was when death overtook him. The process of resuscitation is not complete until he has returned into his customary sphere of thought, and “associates himself with those who are in full agreement with his former life in the world, among whom he finds as it were his own life… .” “. .. After sinking back into such a life, he makes a new beginning of life. . . .”61

Resurrection on the Third Day

The Lord’s death and resurrection are often taken as a model of man’s transition. The Lord suffered a violent death on the cross at about three o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and rose from the sepulchre in His glorified Human at dawn on the following Sunday; thus after about thirty-eight hours had elapsed. This period is referred to in the expressions “on the third day” and “after two days.”62 The Hebrews sometimes used the phrase “three days” counting each part of a day as one day; and, in a hyperbole, the Lord once predicted His abode in the tomb as lasting “for three days and three nights”—the significant number “three” being emphasized to indicate completeness.63

It might be observed that the apostle Peter states that the Lord, being put to death in the flesh, was “quickened by the Spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison.”64The implication is that “when He rose again” He descended “into the lower regions” of the world of spirits and liberated these captive souls.65 The Lord may have been present spiritually and indeed visibly with them even during His sojourn in the tomb. No such activity is shown by the spirit of man during the process of his resuscitation. For man is then in a state of passivity.

The consistent doctrine of the Writings is that man rises into the world of spirits on the third day. All that befalls before this is a preparation. And of this preparation, described above, we read in the work Heaven and Hell:

“This opening (exordium) of man’s life after death does not last more than some days. . . .” “I have talked with some on the third day after their death, and then those things which were described above (nos. 449, 450) had been accomplished.” The spirit’s entrance into the world of spirits “takes place shortly after his resuscitation, as described above.”66

The separation of the spirit from the body is said to be completed mostly “on the second (altero) day after the last agony,” and thus most are introduced into the spiritual world “after a period of two days,”67 or “on the third day after he has expired.”68The spirit, on the third day, thus awakes into the state of his corporeal memory, and it appears to him as if he was still in the body and “that the time elapsed since death has been only as a sleep,” with lingering memories of dreams beyond recapture.69

He now begins to attract to himself such spirits, good or evil, as agree with his own affections or cupidities. He has forgotten the premonitory instructions of the angels.70 His corporeal memory of earthly events becomes again active in a brief revival. This is necessary in order that death may be shown to be a continuation of normal life and thus assure the continuity of his personality. He begins his own life de novo by taking up the pattern of his memory as it existed at the moment of his death.71 Thus “every one, in the first days after death, knows no otherwise than that he lives in the same world in which he was before. For the time since passed is as a sleep, from which, when he is awakened, he does not perceive otherwise than that he is where he was.”72

FISHING ON THE RIGHT SIDE

FISHING ON THE RIGHT SIDE

An Easter Sermon by Rev. Frederick M. ChapinApril 16, 1995

 

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. (JN 21:5&6)

The Lord’s resurrection ushered in a new way of worshipping God. We have more freedom to express our love and devotion to the Lord. No longer are we restricted to comply with specific external laws and rituals. There are now a variety of expressions that can show our inmost appreciation towards the Lord. We now have the opportunity to have an internal relationship with the Lord. Our union with the Lord will not be centered exclusively upon performing a certain set of rituals. Now, our association with the Lord is determined by the quality of our love towards Him. The Lord described the genuine worship that He was establishing when He told the Samaritan woman at the well:

 

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (JN 4:23&24)

Worship of the Lord is now established according to our willingness to comply with His instructions regarding what our loves, thoughts, and delights should be.

Just as the Lord’s resurrection introduced a more sincere worship of God for the human race, so too do the events that surrounded the Lord’s resurrection picture a personal renewal that can happen continually in our lives. We can perpetually recognize the Lord’s love and mercy in greater light that will increase throughout eternity. This ever increasing light can give us an elevated sense of freedom and a greater assurance that we can make a significant contribution towards the Lord’s creation. The more we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of Heaven and Earth, and recognize the steps that we must take to have a closer bond with Him, the more fulfilling our lives will be. This is the beauty of the Lord’s resurrection that can be personally experienced within us over and over again.

The teaching of having a greater sense of fulfillment can be especially seen in the incident of the disciples gathering a large number of fish. This wonderful story can illustrate how we can emerge from a period of confusion to one where we can have a clear direction which our lives should take and how we can have a positive influence upon other people. The more we can see this taking place in our lives, the more we are sensing the Lord making a personal resurrection within us. This sense will make our lives more satisfying and effective.

The incident begins with Peter and some other disciples fishing at night and catching nothing. This depicts our striving for a sense of achievement from self. Without the Lord directing our lives, the contentment we want will be illusive. We actually seek fulfillment from self when we do not have a complete and heartfelt recognition of our need for the Lord. We may confess our reliance upon the Lord with our lips, but our innermost attitude could be one of believing that it is possible for us alone to determine, from our own instincts and judgements, what should be applied to our lives. There is an element of believing that we can act somewhat independently of the Lord and still provide good things for ourselves and for others. So long as this is the case, our lives will not be as rewarding.

However, in the morning, when the sun was rising for a new day, the disciples saw the Lord on the shore. This pictures a new perspective of looking at our lives and what we really require. This new acknowledgment enables us to truly recognize that from ourselves, we will not find the fulfillment that can endure for ever. Within this sincere awareness, there is the recognition of our dependency upon the Lord to give us a genuine sense of purpose and satisfaction for what we are able to do.

Yet, the disciples did not know that it was the Lord on the shore. There is still the desire to determine for ourselves how we should live. We may recognize and confess our need for the Lord’s presence in our lives, but deep within us, we would rather it be different. We would still desire that we make the determinations of what we can indulge in. Acting strictly from self is a subtle desire we all must face, regardless of how strong we may believe our devotion towards the Lord is. However, even though this recognition is not entirely pure, it still is the beginning of a new attitude of living. We see the Lord at a distance, but inwardly we do not want to recognize Him. Only when we truly delight in the Lord’s leading will we genuinely find a Christian life stimulating and fulfilling.

But to reach this point, we must be willing to undergo major changes in our lives. To grow there must be a willingness to accept some form of change. If there is no willingness to change, there will be no growth. This is true for both our natural lives and our spiritual lives. We advance towards a closer bond with the Lord only when we are willing to make the necessary changes in our attitudes and in our manner of living. All growth has some element of change. The disciples were told that for them to catch fish, they had to change from fishing on the left side of the boat to the right side. Likewise, we must be willing to make fundamental changes in our lives to be able to receive the Lord’s guidance. The Lord simply will not be recognized so long as we are unwilling to alter our perspectives and delights where necessary. However, it is wonderful that the Word teaches us how we can prepare ourselves to be willing to undergo and endure changes. The more we are conjoined with the Lord, the more we will embrace the necessary changes that leads to an even closer bond with Him.

Furthermore, there was a significant reason why the Lord told His disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat. It was far more pivotal than just catching fish. This change pictures going from an attitude of simply obeying the Lord from compulsion to one of obeying the Lord from love. When we begin to make the necessary adjustments to spiritually grow in the Lord, they will be uncomfortable at first. But the Lord desires that we change so the love we have towards Him will grow. It is only when we find delight in what the Lord requires of us that a conjunction with the Lord will take place. The right side of the boat pictures learning truths from a love towards the Lord. The motivation will not be on self-advantage or to avoid bad things from happening to us, but from a simple desire to learn what the Lord wants us to do, because we want to be closer to Him.

When this perspective in life develops within us, our spiritual degree of life will rule our natural degree. This means that our sensual pleasures will be under the dictate of complying with the Lord’s commandments. When this happens, our moral principles will not wander, like the fish in the open waters. Instead, they will be orderly contained within the doctrine of life we draw from the Word. Our personal doctrine of life is the net with the multitude of fish. The net is our basic and most fundamental philosophy of life. When our doctrine is directed from the Lord, it will have a multitude of knowledge of knowing how good affections and thoughts can be established in our lives. This is the multitude of fish that was in the net when they cast it from the right side of the boat.

It is interesting that despite the great number of fish, the net did not break. This is far different than what happened at an earlier time, when a similar incident took place, which we read of in our lesson from the Gospel of Luke. At that time the net did break. However, this time, the net was stronger. The same was true regarding the disciple’s inward attitudes and thoughts towards the Lord. There was a stronger devotion to follow Him and a stronger understanding of what the Lord wanted them to do. As a result, their doctrine of life could contain a more in-depth understanding about the Lord and the quality of life they were to live. This subtle comparison is displayed by the net not breaking. Our basic principles of life can also contain more wisdom and appreciation of the Lord’s teachings, as we proceed closer to Him. It is interesting to note that when the disciples saw the tremendous number of fish, they were seized with a fear. Peter especially showed this when he plunged into the water because he was naked. We are reminded of Adam, when he hid himself from God, because of his nakedness, after he ate of the forbidden fruit. However, there is a difference between Peter and Adam. Adam hid from the Lord because of a direct disobedience to the Lord’s command. He was afraid of the wrath of God punishing him. Peter’s reaction was more positive. Peter was appalled that the Lord, Who is infinitely good and pure, should see his nakedness. Peter was afraid, not so much from what might happen to him, but from a perceived unworthiness to be in the Lord’s presence in such a condition. Nakedness pictures our inner most secrets and desires becoming exposed. When we are sensing the Lord’s presence, the disorders of our innermost thoughts are plainly seen. This can lead to a fear. Yet, this is a holy fear. It is a fear that our failures and shortcomings will impede our bond with the Lord. It is not a fear primarily based upon avoiding the punishments that can be afflicted upon us. Instead, this fear is that harm will be done to our reception of the Lord. This holy fear provides the basis of removing the hidden impurities from our lives. Only when we want them removed will we be able to come before the Lord.

And when they did come to shore, the Lord already had some fish laid out over coals for them to eat. It is significant to note that in the story, the Lord invited the disciples to place their fish with His. This is a beautiful picture of the Lord inviting our heavenly affections and light, which are appropriated to us, to be conjoined with His Divine love and wisdom. This is the reason for the Lord’s coming to the earth and is the very core for our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. It was at the Lord’s resurrection that such an internal conjunction between the Lord and ourselves was established and made possible.

The Lord’s resurrection brought in a new approach which has allowed our worship to be more genuine. The more we can take advantage of the opportunity that the Lord has provided for us, the more we will value His resurrection. And at the same time, we will find the Lord providing a life before us that is established in His peace and joy. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than to do what the Lord has created us for. The Lord has enabled all of us to sincerely worship Him and to express genuine charity towards others. This is the foundation of the joy we celebrate today. It is by the Lord’s resurrection that He fully accomplished these blessed words, “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” (REF)

Affirmative and Negative States of Mind

Affirmative and Negative States of Mind

There are two principles, one of which leads to all folly and madness, the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in one’s heart that he cannot believe them, until he is convinced by what he can com­prehend or be sensible of this principle is what leads to all folly and madness, and may be called the negative principle.

The other principle is to affirm the things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within one’s self that they are true, because the Lord has said it; this principle is what leads to all intelligence and wisdom, and may be called the affirmative principle. Those who think from the negative principle, the more they take counsel of matters of reason, of knowledge, and of philosophy, the more they plunge themselves into darkness, until at length they come to deny all things. The reason is that from things inferior no one comprehends things superior, that is things spiritual and celestial,—still less things Divine, because they transcend all understanding; and besides, everything is then involved in negatives from the beginning. But on the contrary they who think from the affirmative principle may confirm themselves in things spiritual and celestial by whatever rational considerations, by whatever matters of knowledge, yea, and of philosophy, they are able; for all such things were given them for confirmation, and afford them a fuller idea of a subject. Moreover there are some who are in doubt before they deny; and others who are in doubt before they affirm. They who are in doubt before they deny are those that incline to a life of evil, and in so far as this life carries them away, as often as they think of things spiritual and celestial they deny. But they who are in doubt before they affirm are those that incline to a life of good, and in so far as they suffer them­selves to be turned to this life by the Lord, as often as they think of these things they affirm them. (AC n. 2568)

But let this be illustrated by examples: According to the doctrine of the Word, the first and principal thing of doctrine is love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour. They who are in the affirmative in respect to this, may enter into whatever considerations of reason and knowledge, yea, and of sense they please, every one according to his gift, his knowledge, and his experience; indeed the more they enter the more they are confirmed, for universal nature is full of confirmation. But they who deny this first and chief matter of doctrine, and wish first to be convinced that it is so by matters of knowledge and of reason, never suffer themselves to be convinced, because they deny it in heart, and continually insist on some other principle which they believe essential; at length, by confirmations of their own principle, they so blind themselves that they cannot even know what is love to the Lord and what is love towards the neighbour. And because they confirm themselves in things contrary to them, they at length confirm themselves also in the belief that there is no other love attended with delight but the love of self and of the world; and this to such a degree that, if not in doctrine yet in life, they embrace infernal love instead of heavenly love. Take also another example: it is one of the primary points of the doctrine of faith that all good is from the Lord, and all evil from man or from self. They who are in the affirmative respect­ing this may confirm themselves by many considerations both of reason and knowledge; as that no good can flow into man from any other source than from Good itself, that is from the fountain of good and therefore from the Lord; and that there can be no beginning of good from elsewhere they may illustrate to themselves by what is truly good in themselves, in others, in the community, yea, in the created universe. But those who are in the negative principle confirm themselves in the contrary con­clusion by all things that ever come under their consideration; insomuch that at length they do not know what is good, but dispute with each other as to what is the highest good,—in profound ignorance of the truth that celestial and spiritual good, which is from the Lord, is that good; by which every lower good is vivified, and that from this delight is truly delightful. Some even conceive that good cannot be from any other source than themselves. Again, take for example the truth that they who are in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbour can receive the truths of doctrine, and have faith from the Word, and not those that are in the life of self-love and of the love of the world; or what is the same, that they who are in good can believe, but not those who are in evil. They who are in the affirmative principle can confirm this by innumerable evidences both of reason and of knowledge; of reason by the consideration that truth and good agree together, but not truth and evil; and that as in evil so also from evil everything is false, and that if in some there be yet truth, it is upon the lips and not in the heart; of knowledge, by many things, as that truths shun evils, and that evils spew out truths. But they who are in the negative principle confirm themselves in the belief that every one, of whatever character, even though he live in continual hatred, in the delights of revenge, and in deceits, is capable of believing like others; and this until they entirely reject from doctrine the good of life, which being rejected they believe nothing. To make it still more plain, take another example, re­specting the Word. They who are in the affirmative, that the Word was so written that it has an internal sense, which does not appear in the letter, may confirm themselves by many rational considerations; as that by the Word man has connection with heaven; that there are correspondences of natural things with spiritual, and that these latter do not so much appear; that the ideas of interior thought are entirely different from material ideas which fall into expressions of speech; that during his abode in the world man may also be in heaven (inasmuch as he was born to live in both), by means of the Word which is for both; that with some a certain Divine light flows in into their intellectual operations and into their affections while the Word is being read; that it was necessary that something which de­scended from heaven should be written, and that in its origin it could not be such as it is in the letter; that nothing can be holy but by virtue of a holiness which is within. They may also confirm themselves by things known; as that in old time men were in representatives, and that the writings of the ancient church were of such a character; that therefore the writings of many even among the Gentiles w ere also of a similar character; and that for this reason the style was venerated in the churches as holy, and among the Gentiles as learned; several books may likewise be mentioned (as instances of this kind of writing). But they who are in the negative principle, if they do not deny all this, yet do not believe it; and they persuade themselves that the Word is such as it is in the letter, appearing indeed worldly, but yet that it is spiritual,—but where the spiritual is concealed does not concern them, though for manifold reasons they are willing to assert it,—and this they can confirm by many arguments. In order that this subject may be presented even to the appre­hension of the simple, it may be expedient to illustrate it scientifically by the following example. They who are in the affirmative in respect to the truth that sight is not of the eye but is of the spirit, which by the eye as by an organ of its body sees things that are in the world, may confirm themselves by many things; as from speech, in that when it is heard it reports itself to a cer­tain interior sight and is transmuted into it,—which could not be the case if there did not exist an interior sight or vision; also that whatever is thought of is seen by an interior sight, by some more clearly, by others more obscurely; moreover that things of the imagination present themselves in a manner not unlike the objects of sight; and further, that unless the spirit which is in the body saw that which the eye as an organ takes in, the spirit in the other life could see nothing; when yet it must needs be that it will there see numberless astonishing things which the eye of the body can never see. They may likewise reflect on dreams, especially those of the Prophets, in which many things were equally well seen and yet not by the eyes; lastly, if they have a taste for philosophical contemplations, they may confirm themselves by the consideration that exterior things cannot enter into interior; as things compound cannot enter into things simple, so the things of the body cannot enter into those which are of the spirit, but the reverse;—besides very many other considera­tions; till at length they are persuaded that sight belongs to the spirit, and not to the eye except from the spirit. But they who are in the negative either call these things all natural, or fantasies; and when they are told that a spirit exercises and enjoys a more perfect sight than a man does in the body, they ridicule and make light of it,—believing that they shall live in darkness when they are deprived of the sight of the eye; when exactly the contrary is true, that they will then be in light. From these examples it may be seen what it is to enter from truths into reasonings and knowledges, and what to enter from reasonings and knowledges into truths; namely, that the former is according to order, but the latter contrary to order; and that when it is done according to order man is enlightened, but when contrary to order he is made blind. It is clear then of how much concern it is that truths should be known and believed; for by truths man is enlightened, while by falsities he is blinded. By truths an immense and almost unbounded plain is opened to the rational faculty; but by falsities almost none comparatively, although it appears otherwise. Hence the angels have so great wisdom, because they are in truths; for truth is the very light of heaven…. Those who have blinded themselves by their unwillingness to believe anything that they do not comprehend by the senses, in the other life are readily distinguished from other spirits by this,—that concerning everything that relates to faith they reason whether it be so; and though it be shown them a thousand and a thousand times that it is so, they still raise negative doubts against every confirming proof; and this they would do to eternity, They are consequently blinded to such a degree that they have not common sense; that is, they cannot comprehend what is good and true. And yet every one of them supposes that he is wise beyond all in the universe; placing their wisdom in this,—the conceit that they are able to make null that which is Divine, and deduce it from the natural. Many who have been accounted wise in the world are of this character beyond others; for in proportion as any one excels in the gift of talent and in knowledge, if at the same time he is in the negative principle, he is more insane than others; but in proportion as he excels in the gift of talent and in knowledge, and is in the affirmative principle, he is capable of becoming more wise than others. To cultivate the rational by knowledge is in nowise forbidden; but it is forbidden to fortify one’s self against the truths of faith, which are of the Word. (AC n. 2588)

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

In the same degree that there is wisdom and intelligence among the angels, there is also wickedness and cunning among infernal spirits…. In the life of the body the evil in the spirit of a man was under the restraints which are imposed upon every man by the law, by his love of gain, of honour, and the fear of losing them; and therefore the evil of the spirit could not then break forth and manifest itself, as it was in itself. Besides, the evil in the spirit of a man then also lay wrapped up and veiled in the outward probity, sincerity, justice, and affection for truth and good, which such a man manifested and feigned for the sake of the world. The evil lay so concealed and in such obscurity under these semblances, that he scarcely knew himself that his spirit contained so much wickedness and craft, and that therefore in himself he was such a devil as he becomes after death, when his spirit comes into itself and into his own nature. Such wickedness then manifests itself as exceeds all belief. There are thousands of evils which then burst forth from evil itself; among which are even such as no words of any language can express. It has been given me to know and also to apperceive their nature by much experience for it has been granted me by the Lord to be in the spiritual world as to the spirit, and at the same time in the natural world as to the body. This I can testify, that their wickedness is so great that it is scarcely possible to describe even a thousandth part of it; and also that if the Lord did not protect man he could never be rescued from hell.

The worst of all are those who have been in evils from self-love, and who at the same time, in their interior selves, have acted from deceit; for deceit enters more deeply than any other evil into the thoughts and intentions, and infects them with poison, and so destroys all the spiritual life of a man. Most of these are in the hells behind, and are called genii; and their delight there is to make themselves invisible and flit about others like phantoms, secretly infusing evils into them, which they spread around like the charms of the viper. These are more direfully tormented than others. And those who were not deceitful, and not so eaten up with malignant cunning, and yet were in evils from self-love, are also in the hells behind, but not in so deep hells. But those who have been in evils from the love of the world are in the hells in front, and are called spirits. They are not in such evils, that is not in such hatreds and vindictiveness, as those who are in evils from the love of self; consequently they have not such profound wickedness and cunning. Their hells are therefore more mild. (HH n. 577, 578)

The nature of the wickedness of infernal spirits is evident from their nefarious arts, which are so many that to enumerate them would fill a volume, and to describe them, many volumes. These arts are almost all unknown in the world. One kind relates to the abuse of correspondences; another, to abuses of the ultimates of Divine order; a third, to the communication and influx of thoughts and affections, by conversions, by searching looks, and by other spirits distant from themselves, and by emissaries from themselves; a fourth relate to operations by means of fantasies; a fifth, to a certain casting themselves out beyond themselves, and consequent presence elsewhere than where they are in the body: a sixth, to pretences, persuasions, and lies. Into these arts the spirit of a wicked man comes of itself, when released from the body; for they are inherent in the nature of its evil, in which it then is. By these arts they torment each other in the hells. But as all of these arts, except those that are effected by pretences, persuasions, and lies, are unknown in the world, I will not here describe them specifically, both because they would not be comprehended, and because they are abominable. (ibid. n. 580)