spiritual questions and answers discovering inner Health
Discovering inner health and transformation
People have random eye movements under closed eyelids (REM) from time to time when they are asleep and if wakened at these times they report dreaming. In this way sleep researchers found that most people dream for about a fifth of their sleeping time. A person of age seventy-five will not only have slept twenty-five years, but will have spent five years dreaming! We need this for, if deprived of REM sleep for a while, we become disturbed and even psychotic. Although occasionally there is speech in dreams, it is mostly composed of dramatic visual representations. There are no proven scientific theories to explain the experience. So why is it important? How can we understand it?
Why your dream is not easy to understand
Clinical psychologist Wilson Van Dusen, wrote that dreams tend to deal with a wide range of present-life concerns of the person. The precise meaning of any one however is unclear, even though it makes use of people, situations and objects familiar to the sleeper.
Because of familiarity with the content, it isn’t immediately apparent that the dream uses things and people in a symbolic manner. In this way whilst getting an inkling of what is going on — we are protected from a blunt expression of those inner concerns and desires we would rather keep from daytime awareness.
Dreaming is thus a personal process that need to be understood in a personal way. And so a book offering a general meaning of dream symbols is probably not valid.
If you haven’t worked with your own dreams, they can easily seem to be a mishmash of elements into which one could read almost anything.
How to understand a dream
- When you next wake up after the dream, jot down a phrase or two about it in order to jog your memory later.
- The next day try to get back into the dream, reliving it. Slowly tell the dream to yourself. What were you feeling at different points. Ask yourself, ‘What did it feel like when …. ?’ ‘How is that like my life?’
- Pretend to be a person you dreamed of, and tell the dream story from this perspective. You may get clues as to what the individual figure represents in you.
- Assume everything in the dream is you. Your most conscious day-time feelings and thoughts are shown by you in the dream. Less conscious aspects are represented by others eg one’s future potential, choice points, what is hoped for. See what you associate with each person, place or thing in the dream.
- Summarise the dream and listen to the summary for its meaning.
- Reflect a little on the rest of the dream’s connections during the day and you may find the remaining meanings.
- The only valid interpretation of a dream is that which you, the dreamer, give to it.
Revelatory nature of dreams
In using images in a symbolic way it is as if the dream is allowing you, the dreamer, to remain in freedom to listen or ignore its message. If your dream simply said you boast too much or waste too much money, it would not only would be a distressing insult but one you could not fail to see. Instead it offers an intriguing drama you can try to remember and work out only if you wish.
Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams come from a level more objective than one’s subjective point of view. Dream images are not from the dreamer’s usual subjective sphere of thought and language. It is as if what the dream is saying goes beyond our daytime conscious understanding to reveal something true about the inner quality of our life. It possesses a higher wisdom and knowledge about all our memories, hopes and fears.
The reality of our inner mind
In his books The Natural Depth In Man and The Presence Of Other Worlds, Van Dusen gives a clear picture of the hidden reality of our inner world. His understanding not only comes from his own experience as a psychotherapist working with his patients dreams but also his study of Eastern and Western philosophy, particularly the extraordinary insights and often frightening experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Dusen concludes that in a wide range of states of consciousness (including that of dreaming) an inner world is revealed as precisely Swedenborg describes.
This is a hidden realm of spirit which will become fully conscious to us all following our bodily death: a spiritual world which permeates all our human minds, whilst we still live on earth, with inflow of high and low desires, pure and corrupt thoughts, as well as beneficial and harmful impulses; an influx of good and bad influences that are perfectly balanced to preserve our inner human freedom.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on18th December 2012
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
17 Angelic Intermediary in Divine Revelation
“And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren the prophets. Worship God.” Revelation 22:8,9
The Need for Divine Revelation
Wherever a true religion has existed among men, its inner goal has been to seek a conjunction, not with spirits or even angels, but with God. But since man cannot of himself know God, the first requisite for such a conjunction had to be a self-revelation by the Creator.
Nature exerts so hypnotic an attraction for us that our attention is largely focussed upon its material objects and objectives. We may admit that other men help to form our opinions and excite our moods and motives through actions and words conveyed to our senses. But we are slow to believe that all our shifting mental states, as well as our deeper loves and convictions, have a spiritual origin. Yet physical sensation, and the words of other men, would cause no feeling and have no meaning unless there inflowed from the spiritual world the light of understanding. And this is mediated by the societies of spirits in whose midst our own mind or spirit unconsciously dwells—spirits closely kindred to our own personality. By their imperceptible influx such spirits actually enable our thinking. They utilize the knowledge in our minds, and in so doing they impart to us a sense of its implication and significance.454
But when mankind invites the presence of evil spirits, the conversion of sensory knowledge into perceptions of truth becomes more difficult. The Lord has therefore provided us with a unique opportunity especially adapted to the needs and peculiar genius of our race: He has given a series of Divine revelations of spiritual truth in the form of a written Word of God—as a means by which we may be led into conjunction with heaven and Himself.
Such written revelation was unnecessary in the primeval age symbolized by “Adam” in paradise—when the race had not as yet become infected with hereditary inclinations to evil, and could even enjoy an open intercourse with angelic spirits.455 Towards the end of the Most Ancient Church open communion with spirits became most dangerous.456 And the Lord then prepared special prophets whom He inspired to write sacred scriptures which revealed the essential truths concerning God, charity, and eternal life.
Man cannot think up a knowledge of God or of heaven from rational thought alone.457 Although there is “an influx into the souls of men” predisposing them to accept the truth that God is and that He is one,458 yet whatever religious knowledge mankind possesses was handed down as traditions stemming from primeval revelations. The reason why many pagan religions show a fundamental similarity is that they preserve, in variously perverted forms, such common traditions. The animistic, idolatrous, and magical features which they present are contorted race memories of the ancient science of the correspondences between natural and spiritual things. For the religious truth of the ancients was conveyed mostly in correspondences, symbolic stories, or ritual forms.
The Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Lord in order to preserve the truth in its purity, stripped of polytheistic imagery yet deeply veiled in symbolic language that would hide its inner message from the worldly-wise and prudent while revealing it “unto babes,” that is, to those who are humble and poor in spirit.459
The Angel of Jehovah
The question arises, whether the Lord in revealing Himself by Scripture would need to employ the agency of spirits and angels. A written Word of God is provided especially to prevent the deceptions that corporeal and evil spirits might impose upon men if spirits were permitted to speak to men openly. But can God reveal Himself without the intermediacy of spirits or angels ?
It is an ancient saying that “no man can see God and live.” Seemingly this would effectively prevent any revelation of the Divine Being as He is in His infinite Esse. But the Being (Esse) of God is revealed in His forthstanding form as Divine Man, and as such He has been worshipped in all ages; even before He descended to become incarnate in an earthly body and by degrees manifested His Divine qualities of love and wisdom. For prior to His advent He had revealed Himself both in the heavens and before appointed prophets. Yet this theophany could not be effected except by means of angels who thus for the occasion entered into the most sublime function which any finite being could serve.
The Word of the Old Testament often relates how patriarchs and prophets in vision saw the glorious form of a man, or “one resembling the son of man,” who proved to be an angel, yet who spoke as if he was the Lord Himself. Such an angel was called “Jehovah” or “the angel of Jehovah.”460 How this angelic mediation took place is described in the Arcana Coelestia:
“… It was an angel who appeared to Moses as a flame in the bush, and he spoke as Jehovah because the Lord or Jehovah spoke through him. For in order that the speech may come to man by words of articulate sound and in ultimate nature, the Lord makes use of the ministry of angels, filling them with the Divine and lulling the things which are their own. . . . “46l “Sometimes an angel does not speak from himself, but from the Lord, and he then does not know but that he is the Lord; but then his externals are quiescent. It is otherwise when his externals are active. The reason is that the internal man of the angels is the Lord’s possession; and so far then as their own things do not impede, it is the Lord’s and even is the Lord.”462
It is also said that in such a case the Lord fills or infills the angel with His Divine aspect so that he does not speak at all from himself but hears the words inspired from the Divine. Yet as soon as such angels are addressed by the man to whom they appear they would become aware of their own distinct individuality and avert any attempt of man to worship them.463
In the ages before the Advent the Lord’s appearance to the prophets through some angel whom He infilled with His Divine Spirit was called His “representative Human.” Each angel portrayed some aspect of the Divine. But such a representative Human borrowed from the heavens could not be fully efficacious for it could not spiritually enlighten the natural minds of men; it could convey no rational idea of the Lord, but only a symbolic picture.464
The “angel of Jehovah” served as a medium in the inspiration of the Word of the Old Testament.
The ancients received the Divine influx into their interiors ; but the prophets of Israel simply felt it as a dictation by a living voice, and sometimes as audible sound which they perceived as coming from an angel appearing before them. “They heard a voice, they saw a vision, and they dreamed a dream; but as they had no perception these were merely verbal or visual revelations, without any perception of what they signified.”465
It is essential to note that although angels served as the instruments by which the Holy Scriptures were dictated, not a single word came from the angels nor was it selected by them. And “as the words came forth immediately from the Lord, each of them was infilled with the Divine” and thus they conceal within them the infinite wisdom of God, as an internal sense of which the biblical writers were unaware.466The angelic intermediacy did not prevent the Old Testament from being Divine as to the very text and syllables. But it did prevent the heavenly truth from appearing except in representative forms and clothed in dark symbols; even as Isaiah suggests when he says, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.”467
Revelations after the Advent
The Divinely inspired books of the New Testament—the four Gospels and the Apocalypse—contain some of the words which “the Lord spoke from the Divine itself” in parables and other types of spiritual teaching. His words were indeed pure correspondences, representative and significative of Divine things, yet they referred openly to the things of heaven and the church.468 The entire biography of the Lord, including His own discourses, was also written down by the evangelists under immediate Divine inspiration. The Lord predicted this when He made the promise that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, would come: “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.”469
No mention is here made of any angel mediating the apostolic inspiration. When in the world the Lord appeared to men’s physical sight in His own assumed human. After this had been glorified and after His ascension into heaven He appeared in person to men only when their spiritual eyes were opened.470 It is related in the Writings that the Lord manifested Himself “in person,” that is, in His glorified Human, before Swedenborg’s spiritual sight and filled him with His Spirit, in order that he might receive the doctrines of the New Church in the understanding and “teach them through the Word from Him.” In the course of this his mission Swedenborg was introduced into the spiritual world and spoke continually with spirits and angels. Yet, he adds, “I have not received anything that pertains to the doctrine of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while reading the Word.”471
Yet the mediation of angels in the giving of Divine revelation had not ceased with the Lord’s ascension into heaven. In the last chapters of the Apocalypse it is plainly shown how John was instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ through an angel filled with the Divine who declared “the true sayings of God.” The angel was not speaking from himself and therefore explained to John that he was only serving as a prophet and was not to be worshipped; but immediately after this he resumes his message: “I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end, the first and the last. … I Jesus send My angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. . . . “472
While the Lord, in His person or as to His Divine Human, is constantly encompassed by the heavenly sun, He often presents Himself “by aspect” in and below heaven and among the angels. This is effected through some angel whom He fills “from afar” with His Divine.473 On a number of occasions the Lord so appeared before Swedenborg. The ancient mode has not been abrogated, but is utilized when the states of the angels so require. Yet there is an important difference. For it is the Lord in His glorified Human—”the Divine Natural”—which is now revealed when it pleases the Lord to appear in a borrowed angelic form.474
Swedenborg and the Angels
The inspired writing of the Heavenly Doctrine and the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word was not accomplished by any dictation by the Lord through angels. To stress this important fact is not to deny that Swedenborg’s mission would have failed unless the Lord had provided for him a constant and open companionship with spirits and angels.
It should be observed that the prophets of old had two specific states which must be well distinguished. While in vision they saw various representations in the other world with the eyes of their spirit, their body being in a passive state of trance. On the other hand, while writing the Scriptures they were “in the body” and enjoyed a Divine inspiration and a dictate by which the words were selected from their memories, in such a way that each writer retained his own peculiar style.475 Their occasional introduction into spiritual vision was necessary to furnish their memory with a field of symbols and correspondences wider than that which their earthly experience and their narrow knowledge of human history could provide.
Swedenborg, for the writing of the Heavenly Doctrine, had to be given a far wider, more prolonged and profound experience of the spiritual world and all its phenomena. Different from any of the prophets, he was to grasp the laws of that world with a rational understanding and, as an official observer, report what he had been “led to perceive.” His memorable narrations of his spiritual experiences therefore occupy a considerable portion of the inspired Writings. He became familiar, in his daily intercourse with spirits, with all manner of spiritual states, those of the angels and also those of the infernals. Even his contact with the most repulsive spirits could add to his knowledge of the truth.
Thus he notes in his journal, “Even those things which I have learned by means of evil spirits, I have learned from the Lord alone, although the spirits spoke.”476 He was forbidden to believe anything that they said, and was held in an inmost reflection on whatever was represented before him, and at the same time given an internal dictate from the Lord as to what was the truth.477 He perceived distinctly what came from angels and spirits and what from the Lord. “What has come from the Lord has been written,” he testified; “what has come from angels has not been written.”478 His spiritual experiences were sometimes recalled to his memory by an angel when he returned into the state of the body and began to write.479 In order to be informed about the way the prophets were inspired, he was brought into certain experimental states when spirits led his pen and dictated the words.480 But he did not write down the doctrine from any verbal dictation by any “angel of Jehovah,” but from an immediate inspiration, or “from the mouth of the Lord alone.” His inspiration came “while reading the Word.”481 Not only was he then given to see the internal sense of the Scriptures which is the doctrine of heaven, but by the same means he was able to recognize and formulate those many principles of “angelic wisdom” which —as an interpretative philosophy—are applied in the Writings to our human situations and problems, such as relate to social uses, government, marriage, education, or to our concepts of creation and the cosmic whole.482
Revelation through the Word
The reason why the written Word was given is that man can no longer profit from immediate or conscious intercourse with the inhabitants of the spiritual world. Since the Old Testament Scriptures, and also the Apocalypse, were clothed in heavy veils of correspondences and sensuous imagery, an ‘angel of Jehovah’ served to convey them to their inspired writers. But in the Gospels and in the Writings, wherein the correspondential and prophetic Word is fulfilled and explained, the Lord speaks directly and more plainly, as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Human, the Spirit of Truth which shall lead men into all truth.
The goal of all religion is a conjunction of man with the Lord. Not with spirits or angels, however necessary these are as associates and guardians of our souls. And to the New Christian Church the Lord is at last openly manifested in His Divine Human as the one God of heaven and earth, visible to men and angels even without the mediation of any borrowed angelic form.483
In the literal sense of the Word, when this is understood from the Heavenly Doctrine which is its internal sense, the Lord is present with men and speaks to them directly, and enlightens their rational minds.484 This enlightenment is brought about only when man’s spirit is environed by angelic spheres which hold him in a love of spiritual truth.485 But it is the Lord, not the angels, who is the source of the light. And it is taught that after the Advent this enlightenment is not, as theretofore, “mediate through the angelic heaven,” but “immediate” from the Lord’s Divine Natural.486 The only “mediation” is now the Word itself. The Lord now manifests Himself to men “only” through the Word in its internal sense, for the Word, which is the Divine truth, is the Lord Himself in heaven and in the church.487
The general teaching points out that representatives ceased when the Lord rose from the sepulchre and entered into the power of His Divine Natural, by which He could become visible and “immediately present” with man. For thus He could illustrate man’s natural mind with heavenly light and operate “perceptively” in man by His Holy Spirit, so that man “can comprehend spiritual truths naturally.”488
To see God means to see the truth concerning Him. “They who are in enlightenment when they read the Word, see the Lord; and this takes place from faith and from love. This is effected in the Word only, and not in any other writing whatsoever.”489 “It has been believed that man might be more enlightened and wise if he should have an immediate revelation through speech with spirits and with angels. But the contrary is the case.” Enlightenment by means of the Word is effected by an interior way—through the will into the understanding; while enlightenment from speech with spirits is effected by an exterior way—through the hearing into the understanding. If spirits were permitted to instruct any man they could in any case only speak according to the man’s own religious ideas and could tell him nothing new. This was the reason why the Scribe of the Second Advent—although informed through daily intercourse with spiritual beings—was “not allowed to take anything from the mouth of any spirit, nor from the mouth of any angel, but from the mouth of the Lord alone.”490 And this was the reason why the Lord in His parable cites Abraham as saying, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”491
It is therefore to the Word in all its forms of Scripture and Doctrine that man must turn for Divine instruction and leading. Through that which the Lord reveals man can be separated from the spheres of evil spirits and introduced as to his affections into a secret yet effective bond with angelic societies. This consociation is brought to pass through the sense of the letter of the Word when this is understood from the doctrine of genuine truth; which is now openly disclosed by the Lord in His second advent—not by any “immediate revelation from spirits or angels” but by an “immediate revelation” “from the mouth of the Lord alone.”492
The new doctrine not only opens the internal depths of Divine wisdom within the inspired Scriptures and displays the arcana of the Lord’s glorification and the provisions for man’s regeneration, but it also discloses the secrets of the afterlife and the relations of spirits and men. It unfolds the mind of God and the ends of His creation. By this doctrine of genuine truth the Lord stands revealed in the very literal sense of His Word. For “the Lord is present with man and enlightens him, and teaches the truths of the church, there and nowhere else.”493
The Word in all its forms, whether given through an “angel of Jehovah” or inspired directly by the Lord in His Divine Human, is the sole means whereby an errant race may find its way back to conjunction with God.
Starting Science From God
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
We have all heard about so-called communications purportedly from a spirit world through mediums. However, less well known are those where no medium is involved. These have been called ‘after death communications’ (ADCs) and might be seen as evidence of life after death. An ADC is defined as a spiritual experience that occurs when someone is contacted directly and spontaneously by a deceased family member or friend.
Is Marian’s ADC evidence of life after death?
For example Marian aged 71 years who lives in Florida was in bed reading one evening. Her father had been dead for 33 years but she suddenly heard his voice urgently telling her to get out of the bed. She walked into the family room and sat down for 3 minutes wondering. She then felt the whole house shuddering with things rattling in cupboards and falling off shelves. Going outside she saw why. A heavy branch from her neighbour’s tree had fallen on her roof; a totally unexpected event as it had been a windless night. In her bedroom she discovered three enormous holes in the ceiling and her bed covered with lumber, plaster, and debris.
Are such reports about what dead loved ones say, just the wish fulfilling fantasies and dreams of grieving people as most professional social care and health workers say, or are they genuine communication from the dead and thus evidence of life after death? It is difficult to argue that Marian was grieving for her late father, given the length of time since her bereavement.
The Guggenheim’s evidence of life after death
According to research by Bill and Judy Guggenheim, ADCs happen surprisingly often and many first-hand accounts are reported in their book Hello from Heaven.
They point out that, since many religions specifically warn against summoning ‘spirits’, all experiences that involved seances, Ouija boards, crystal balls etc., were excluded from their study. They advertised for first-hand accounts of after death communications and spoke with 2,000 people in North America filling more than 10,000 pages of interview transcripts.
Perhaps it is only in reading these that one can make an informed judgment about their credibility as evidence of life after death. Confidence about this is increased when the receiver is not in a state of grief and when unknown information is received.
Is Millinda’s ADC evidence of life after death?
Another example is that of Millinda. She and Tom grew up together as next-door neighbours. She lost contact with him after she moved to Texas. Ten years later she woke up one night and saw him standing at the bottom of her bed in a Navy uniform. She had thought he was intending to become a Catholic priest. He said, “Good-bye, Melinda, I’m leaving now.” And he disappeared. After three days she received a letter from her mother saying Tom had been killed in action serving as a chaplain in the Navy. More evidence of life after death?
Are Swedenborg’s ADCs evidence of life after death?
Most people who have an ADC do so only once. However Emanuel Swedenborg was someone who reported having many ADCs from the spirits of dead people. These were not loved ones for whom he had had any sense of loss or grief.
According to his testimony, he did occasionally experience the after-life in a dream or vision, but nearly always it was in a state of full wakefulness so that he could retain his full freedom and exercise his human judgment. He wrote up these extraordinary experiences in meticulous detail and included reports of these in his theological and philosophical books.
The reason people today who experience an ADC is often specific – to warn them of some danger, to prepare them for the shock of a sudden bereavement, to provide them with needed help, and to reassure them about the well-being of a love one who has died. However in the case of Swedenborg the purpose was to provide a comprehensive description of the after-life.
He describes what he calls ‘the spiritual world’ as similar to the life with which we are familiar. He says, however, it does not follow physical laws but rather reflects human feeling and thought.
For all that, it is just as real as our world and in fact he emphasises the solidity of what is seen there and the individual spirit body of each inhabitant.
“After death, we enjoy every sense, memory, thought, and affection we had in the world: we leave nothing behind except our earthly body. Repeated experience has witnessed to me that when we move from the natural world into the spiritual, which happens when we die, we take with us everything that pertains to our character except our earthly body. In fact, when we enter the spiritual world or our life after death, we are in a body as we were in this world. There seems to be no difference, since we do not feel or see any difference. This body is spiritual, though, so it has been separated or purified from earthly matter. Further, when anything spiritual touches and sees something spiritual, it is just like something natural touching and seeing something natural. So when we have become a spirit, we have no sense that we are not in the body we inhabited in the world, and therefore do not realize that we have died.” (Swedenborg Heaven and Hell section 461)
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on3rd February 2012
Discovering inner health and transformation
Carl Jung practised what he called ‘active imagination’ and reported that in his mind he regular met and consulted an old man called Philemon. Whether one calls this degree of consciousness a psychic, mental or astral plane, it is one where all feelings and thoughts become detectable: just as noticeable as physical objects that are visible to our natural eyes.
You might wonder if Jung was projecting his expectations or hopes onto an imagined guru figure who had no independent existence? Perhaps all so-called experiences of the astral plane consist of mistakenly attributing what is imagined in the mind to an objective reality.
On the other hand, arguably we are distracted by sensations from the day to day physical world and so do not experience the existence of any spiritual reality beyond it.
The Neanderthals 100,000 – 25,000 years ago buried their dead in graves containing food and flint implements that would then be needed. And throughout human history there has been belief in the reality of an afterlife in a non-material plane of existence.
So is the astral plane real or imagined?
Common idea of astral plane
Hindus, Buddhists, Theosophists, and Anthroposophists, amongst others, give accounts of events after death which are basically very similar. After death the soul is said to consist of the astral body – the personal consciousness – that is fully parted from the physical body. The individual then enters into a state in which one’s past life is reviewed in-depth and desires and emotions are re-experienced, the soul perhaps inflicting its own purgatory on itself. This suffering is said to bring purification after which the astral body too is allowed to dissolve away.
Astral plane and Swedenborg’s ‘World of spirits’
There is a fascinating account of the astral plane actually arising from personal experience lasting many years. Eighteenth century visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg, wrote it. He called this astral plane of life ‘the world of spirits’, a transitional level of the ‘spiritual world’. The spiritual world is said to be the inner world of mind of which we usually only have full consciousness after our bodily death.
In his book Window to Eternity, Bruce Henderson has pointed out the reasonable as well as detailed way Swedenborg wrote about the spiritual world. He says this demonstrates that this is not just one man’s fanciful imagination; it is a special vision.
Visual aspects of Astral plane
According to traditional spiritualism, after death the soul eventually wakes up in some land, a realm of consciousness created by the desires of the individual. Likewise Swedenborg reports that the surroundings he experienced in the ‘world of spirits’ reflect the thoughts and feelings of its inhabitants. Whether or not thoughts and feelings are good and rational, or bad and illusory, these inner states of heart and mind are represented by corresponding natural qualities and things. Light or dark: warm or cold: beautiful or ugly.
Afterlife process in Astral plane
Swedenborg wrote that there is nothing that a person has ever sought in him or herself or done in secret that can be concealed after death. All things and each single thing are then laid open as clear as in daylight. However he says all the secret things in one’s life are not suddenly revealed to others. Our inner character only slowly can manifest. But in this way our selfish attitudes can be eventually seen for what they are and, if we will, turned away from. In so far as we do not do so we suffer the consequences as a sort of self-inflicted punishment.
Something similar to this is taught in Tibetan Buddhism. The Bardo is a state between death and rebirth. ‘The Tibetan book of the dead‘ describes the individual being aware of a radiant colour light of pure reality. This is the chance of the self to obtain Nirvana, by abandoning ego existence and becoming one with the light. But most souls are not willing to be reunited with the light of this stage. The self then acquires a karmic body formed by the action of past thoughts and deeds and encounters all the deities that are projected by its own mind both benign and vengeful, loving and judgemental in accordance with its beliefs and conditioning whilst on Earth. Judgement and punishment follow.
“This description of the afterlife process parallels that of other occult traditions where the astral body creates its own reality until the desires and emotions which drive it have been purged.” (Donald Watson)
Ruling love and the astral plane
It is widely thought that the astral body gravitates to a level appropriate to its make up on the astral plane. This is probably the reason that some religions insist that right emotions are more important that actions or beliefs. Similarly, Swedenborg would say that the crucial thing is one’s intentions. However, he fastens on the general intention that rules our heart.
According to this idea underlying all the various interests, desires, goals we have is one pervasive and prevailing love, the love that rules you. It develops through many personal choices made in life. It is what turns up when we reflect on the things that please us most.
“It is not necessarily what comes into your mind… that reveals your true character, but what you do with those thoughts or would like to do if you could.” (Bruce Henderson)
In Swedenborg’s ‘world of spirits’ your ruling love points you in one direction or its opposite. Let’s consider those souls orientated towards a higher plane of spiritual consciousness because they are ruled by good intentions. He claims that right thinking replaces their illusions. Those, however, with an opposite orientation, ruled by selfishness, according to Swedenborg, find what insights they have will be replaced by illusions. As this process takes place he says the person gravitates to the community of like-minded souls.
In other words, we surround ourselves with thought forms in keeping with our astral states: and our desires and emotional attachments rule our existence on the astral plane after death. I would suggest that in this way we form our own heaven or hell.
Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
Posted on 21st June 2016 22nd June 2016
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
14 Influx and Disease
“Is it easier to say to one sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk?” Mark 2:9
Order, Freedom, and the Permission of Evil
“Heaven keeps all things in connection and safety.” But “hell destroys and rends all things asunder.”351 This is the general truth from which the Arcana Coelestia proceeds to its teaching about the origin and nature of disease.
The societies of heaven receive from the Lord an influx of mutual love, which seeks to give happiness to others and allows freedom for the uses of others. Therefore there is a general influx from the Lord through the societies of heaven which maintains the order and health of human society and of the human body. By general influx, the human body is moulded into an organism which corresponds to all the uses of the Grand Man of heaven. Similarly, by general influx, a society is moulded into a replica of the human form. So far as a society is performing the uses of communal life, it is in the order of heaven, and in a noble form. So far as the human body is functioning, it has beauty and grace and nobility, even if man’s mind be perverted. For the Lord spreads the sunshine of health upon the evil and upon the good. Only upon the basis of a sound body can a sound mind be built. Only in states of health and rationality can man’s spiritual reformation proceed. The Lord exerts His providence to provide these ultimates of order for all men, because His primary gift to man—the freedom which makes of man a responsible human soul—can be exercised only where order exists.
But freedom would be but a name, if man could not at all reject or disturb the order which the Lord provides for him. Freedom implies that man can, if he will, disturb that order not only for himself, but for others! Freedom implies that man should be free not only to think and will against the order of God, but that he shall also feel able to carry his purposes into act and set up a plane of disorder in the world. In no other way could his free will be conveyed to the comprehension of others; in no other way could he invoke the cooperation or opposition of others, who, in their turn, are free to respond. Life would not be free if it were confined within the airtight space of one’s own intentions ! Man must be free to commit mistakes, to do actual evil, to spoil the handiwork of the Creator, and abuse His agencies.
When this occurs, and order has been disrupted, the general influx from heaven gives way so far as man insists. Fundamentally, and as to all His final purposes, the Lord alone rules the universe, which cannot be upset by fickle man. It is legitimate to inquire, how far evil can derange the ultimate order of life.
That it can do so in the realm of the mind, is of course plain to see. The two higher degrees of the mind of which we are not cognizant in this life, are indeed in the order of heaven.352 But the natural degree, or the “natural mind” in which man is conscious on earth, becomes perverted as to its thoughts and affections, as to its organic habits, its spontaneous reactions, and its reasonings. Indeed, by birth, or from heredity, the natural mind of present day man is utterly opposed to the gyre and flow of heaven. It is within the various degrees of that natural mind that the hells are formed.353 And for one’s salvation, that mind must be reformed and reconstructed into the order of heaven.
But perversions go further than the mind. The brain and the rest of the body can become disordered, and after death they actually disintegrate in the grave. Not only disease, but “death,” comes from “no other source than sin.”354 But let us here pause a moment to free our minds of several possible misunderstandings.
The Actuality of Evil and the Necessity of Death
Swedenborg did not belong to that school of so-called “idealists” which regards the body and the world of matter as mere projections of the mind. He believed in the reality of the natural world which he describes as existing independently of man or man’s thought. He states that man was created last of all—as the culmination of the organic kingdoms. There is therefore no kinship between the teaching of the Writings and that of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of “Christian Science”). It has recurrently been stated that “Christian Science” was partly derived from Swedenborg. And on the surface, we find a great many phrases and ideas in Science and Health which are obviously borrowed from the Writings. “The three great pioneers of mental-healing, Dr. Quimby, Dr. Evans, and Mrs. Eddy, were readers and students [?] of Swedenborg . . . but they were more influenced by Berkeley. . . . “355 As the late Rev. John Whitehead put it: “Many flowers have been culled from Swedenborg’s garden, but they have been transplanted without roots.” Both Swedenborg and Mrs. Eddy teach that the natural mind (or what she called the “mortal mind”) is the seat of evil and the origin of disease. But Swedenborg shows that the mind is a real organism of finite substances, both spiritual and natural, while Mrs. Eddy regarded her “mortal mind” as an illusion —as “nothing claiming to be something.” The body, to her, was merely an offspring of the delusions of mortal mind!
When the Writings state that death has no other origin than sin, the reference is presumably to death from disease. The language of Scripture alludes to the life of sin as the death of the soul. In the symbolic story of Genesis, death is said to have come upon man because of his eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; which made him feel like a god who could decide for himself what was good and evil. This was the spiritual death which overcame the first race— those signified by “Adam”—who were of a “celestial” genius. And the Arcana Coelestia explains that the “antediluvians” who perished in the “Flood” meant some of their descendants who could not master their evil passions—with the physical result that they died of a species of suffocation.356
Thus the symbolic prediction became literally fulfilled. And the same still holds of death from disease. But in a wider sense, death antedates both disease and sin. Death, so regarded, is but a part of finite life. Our blood dies and is restored with each breath of the lungs. The cycles of finite things all end in a death of passivity. Endless successions of plants and animals lived and propagated and died before man’s advent on earth. And mankind, before its fall into sin, was not immune to bodily death. Eternally to live on earth could be no reward for virtue. The statement that death is from no other source than from sin, is therefore qualified by the explanation that “if man had lived the life of good … he would be without disease, and would only decline to extreme old age, even until he became a child again, but a wise child ; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have. . . . “357 From this we judge that the absence of evil—actual or hereditary— creates a pre-disposition to health. It does not prevent physical death or the wear and tear upon bodily tissues. But it prevents what the Writings call “disease”—a word which we associate with a destructive influx and with states of pain and mental anguish.
A further word might be premised about the reason why evil, which is a mental state, is permitted to extend its influence into the body and the natural world. Evil that is hidden cannot be examined, shunned, and removed. Evil in the mind exists as a desire not only to think and intend, but also to do and speak. It goes out to change the state of others— forcibly to remould the world more nearly to one’s advantage, and to profit despite another’s hurt! Unless it be seen that such indeed is the effect of the evil state of mind, evil could never be recognized. Evil in a man harms uses—his own and those of others—harms his body and the bodies of others.
In an orderly life we see a balance of good uses—such as we observe in a healthy organism. But when evil and its bodily effects came into existence, one evil is used to counterbalance another. We see this in the constant warfare of insect-pests, in the neutralization of extremes, in the balanced germ-life of our own bodies. It is even suggested that evil men do not defeat the Divine government since “one is the remedy of the other, for evil is cured by evil.”358
On earth there is much grumbling against the Divine Providence because evils and bodily sufferings are permitted. Yet in the view of the angels, bodily sufferings are as nothing when the eternal welfare of a man is at stake. The use of pain—as a signal to man that his body is in disorder—is indispensable. Without pain, man could not be warned of his mistakes or recognize his dangers. Pain and disease are thus necessary as long as man governs himself by his fallible prudence. If one still led a spontaneous life in the order of his creation, and were governed by general influx, and thus lived a life of wise instincts, he would no doubt be less liable to mistakes and abuses, less liable to pain and disease; and the fulfilment of his goals might be far easier than today.
The general effect of the teachings of the Writings seems to be that the real origin of disease was evil and self-will. The insistence on breaking the rules of rational moderation, the indulgence to excess, the refusal to curb the appetites, have caused men to turn aside from the “tree of life” and to eat gluttonously of the fruit of knowledge which would make men as gods who determined for themselves what was good or evil for them.
We rightly call disease and its consequent pains evil, because they imply a partial defeat of the ends of life, for they disturb the uses of society. They pull the mind down and make one conscious of his body, which should serve—as it did in most ancient times—merely as an instrument whereby the soul may perform uses for the minds of others.
Evil spirits love material things and attach material values, material meanings, even to spiritual things. Therefore they seek to immerse man’s mind into his bodily life. They rejoice and are in their delights when they can induce man to reflect on his sensual pleasures or pains. Some spirits would indeed obsess man, if they could, and return into the body through men. Such, however, are now confined in their hells, i.e., they are not permitted near men. To cure them of their desire, certain punishing spirits are permitted to induce upon them the feeling that they, too, actually have a material body. And to spirits it is an inconceivable torture to feel themselves bound within an earthly body, for thus they can be subjected to all manner of tormenting fantasies.359
* * *
To assert that “every one draws disease upon himself from the evil of life” may seem a hard saying.360 We may readily admit that many diseases are obviously traceable to overindulgences, passions, or a useless, self-centered life. But there is some comfort in the further teaching of the Writings which shows that the real cause of disease lies in the other world— thus not necessarily in man’s own evils, but in the influx of the hells. “All the infernals induce diseases. … If infernals apply themselves, they induce diseases, and at last death.”361
The idea that illnesses come from the influence of evil spirits is regarded in the world as a superstition. And yet it must be admitted that all man’s passions and lusts are nothing but effects of the spirits whose invisible presence feeds our contrary moods. If disease comes from such a source, it can readily be understood why the miracles which the Lord performed on earth were chiefly works of healing. His mission was to restore order in the spiritual world. What He did on earth corresponded to His work of redeeming mankind from the dominion of evil spirits.362 He did not come to take away all sickness; but each of His miraculous cures marked a step in the battle against the hells—representing on earth what He was doing in the spiritual world. There were many sick and blind in those days, but only a relatively few were healed.363
Many of the early Christians believed that the Lord came to establish a kingdom of God on earth, in which evil would have no place, nor disease or death. Yet after nearly two thousand years have passed, illness and evil persist. But what the Lord came to do was done. This was the ordering of the spiritual world so that men might be free to choose between good and evil, and progress into heaven if they willed. A spiritual judgment was performed, and certain restraints were imposed on the hells. One of the results was, that the obsessing of man’s body by evil spirits was henceforth made impossible.364 Yet disease, and the consequences of disease, were not removed.
The spiritual law now operating is, that selected good spirits and evil spirits are allowed to inflow into men’s minds. The evil spirits thus stir up lusts and falsities, by particular influx, and man feels these changing states as his own. But, as was shown in chapter XIII, the body is governed by a general influx through the societies of the Grand Man of heaven. So far as spirits are performing uses in the Grand Man, so far their societies are assigned as media for the general influx of life into the various corresponding organs and parts of the human body. The influx takes place “into the use of the organ” and so into the organ itself.365 So far as man’s body is in functional order, so far it mirrors and receives the flux of corresponding spiritual uses which make up the Grand Man; and then evil spirits are entirely unable to cause any disorders in the body. “They are not permitted to inflow as far as into the solid things of the body,” thus not into tissues or organs. But if for any reason the order of the body is disturbed, then evil spirits—who are not within the Grand Man, but together compose an opposite spiritual form which might rather be called “the Grand Monstrosity”—are permitted to inflow into the disorder, or “into the unclean things which belong to disease.”366
(The precise meaning of these teachings may be somewhat debatable. In discussing the subject of disease, we are conscious of the imprudence of trespassing on alien ground; for it belongs to the medical profession to form a philosophy of disease and cure. Yet the doctrinal statements that will provide the principles for such a philosophy must be cited, since we set out to treat of the influence of spirits upon human states. Admittedly, in drawing out these statements, a certain personal perspective cannot be avoided).
Causes and Cures, Natural and Spiritual
“Only when a man falls into disease” can spirits inflow into his body, and then only “into those things in the man where the disease is” or “into such unclean things as belong to the disease.”366 What are these unclean things ? And how does a man “fall into disease” ?
That illnesses exist which flow directly from lusts and passions of the mind has already been mentioned.367 But we are also assured that “diseases do indeed exist from natural causes among men . . . but as soon as they exist, spirits flow thither which correspond to that disease.” Swedenborg continues : “For spirits who are in evil and falsity, produce precisely such things as are sensibly perceived in sicknesses, as I have plainly experienced . . . beyond all mistake. . . . Hence it is, since such spirits apply themselves there and aggravate the disease by their presence, that if they should be removed by the Lord, man would at once be restored; for there are evil and false spirits to whom correspond diseases and ailments of every kind.”368We presume that such a sudden restoral is possible only where no member is actually cut off.
Swedenborg himself seems to have been immune to any diseases which came from natural causes. For he adds: “But such a one who is as to the spirit in the other life, is immune so long as the Lord permits him to live in the world.”369 Certainly, his biographers agree that his health in later days was remarkable.
Why was this? Perhaps because natural causes do not appear as natural to one who is sensible of the spiritual realm ! At any rate, he continues: “But, because we do not believe spirits to be about us, all these things are ascribed to natural causes. Medicines help! But still more the Lord’s Providence—as people do confess. And, strange to say, sufferers pray to God that they may be restored, and declare that God has restored them; but still, when they are out of that state, every one of them ascribes [his cure] to nature !”370
If we analyze natural causes, they are bound to resolve into spiritual causes. Even an earthquake could not affect anyone unless a spiritual cause—a mental state—has led him to abide in the zone of danger. And in the spiritual world those causes which on earth seem utterly disconnected and beyond any visible law, may be seen to be marvelously dependent on spiritual laws of Divine foresight and permission.
Yet man on earth, not knowing these spiritual connections and interior causes, must act according to his own judgment and prudence. For Providence, in His leading of man, uses also man’s prudence. Disasters that appear to have natural causes, can be ameliorated—at least for the time—by natural remedies. “Medicines help!” “Diseases”—we read—”can be, and also ought to be cured by natural means, for the Providence of the Lord concurs with such means; and thus also man is the longer kept from faith in a Divine Providence in most particular things: for if man should believe this, and then deny it, he would profane a most sacred truth, which profanation is itself a most dreadful hell.”371
The fact that there are spiritual causes operating within disease, “does not prevent man’s being healed naturally, for the Divine Providence concurs with such means.”372 Even the Lord Himself, in one instance, used an external means of cure, when He made clay of His spittle and laid it on the blind man’s eyes. There is power in ultimates. For influx is according to the vessel that receives. A disorderly plane attracts evil influx. If the disorder is corrected, the forces of the general influx through heaven—which operate in unison with the soul’s healing power and creative, formative influx into the body—will again take charge and restore the broken tissues so far as is possible.
It is important to distinguish between a disorder in the body and the disease which may follow it. A small wound, accidentally incurred, will heal without difficulty if it be kept clean. It is only a wear in the tissues—such as occurs, in different fashion, again and again in normal life; and the formative powers of the soul immediately begin to weave new fibres, new cell-structures, to repair the damage. For the soul is as it were omniscient as to all that happens in its body, and continually creates new cells, and redistributes the functions of the body most wisely while healing is going on. The soul also unifies the action of all the cells and fibres and organs into a single whole. There is no break in what we have called “general influx.” But when decay and infection set in, then the “unclean things of the disease” also attract a corresponding influx from the spiritual world. For life is constantly present—it is never absent, knows no limitations of time or space. “The expanse of life … is not an extense, but is yet within the extense of the natural sun, and is with living subjects there according to reception, and reception is according to forms and states.”373According to the quality of the natural vessel, such is the quality of the influx. Heaven cannot inflow into the unclean things of disease. But the life-spheres of hell can and do, and they act therein negatively— to oppose the human form, which is in the order of heaven, and to shatter the harmony of its uses.
What occurs in man’s body in illness resembles what takes place in a man’s mind, which is subject to spiritual diseases. “The sins retained in an impenitent man may be compared to various diseases in him: unless medicines are brought to bear on them, and the malignities are thereby removed, the man dies.”374
This is more than a comparison. For the mind also is in the human form, and has its ailments, each of which corresponds to some bodily disease. The mind—we must remember—is a spiritual organism. And while we live on earth, our mind is enclosed within the tissues of our material body, so intimately that every state of the mind has an effect on the interiors of the body; and in turn the mind accommodates itself so closely to the state of the body, that it appears as if the body had an effect upon the mind.
Spiritual states—mental states—are actuated from the presence of spirits. These spirits do not see or know the man. They only see the knowledges of man’s memory, and think by their means just as if they were man. And when we say that evil spirits inflow or act upon the diseased things of the body, this is said according to the appearance. Spirits cannot “enter” man’s body, nor do they seem to themselves to do so. But when they act spiritually into evil ideas, fantasies, and emotions, and follow the “ways” of spiritual decay which correspond to opposites of the human body, then the sphere of these spirits causes a maladjustment of the currents regulating growth in the body.373 Swedenborg notes that with one like himself whose interiors were open to sense the spiritual environment, spirits who corresponded to various diseases actually produced—in different parts of his body—the symptoms and sensations of these diseases, and this on their first approach.376 He felt their operation within him in that way,377 yet his organic body was apparently not affected, for he was protected by the Lord.378 Until he became accustomed to it, the pain was often almost unbearable.379 At the same time the spiritual character and function of the spirits were manifested, and Swedenborg spoke to them and felt how they affected his thought and emotion.
It belongs to the various departments of medicine to determine what the influx of spirits effects in the bodies of men during disease. Some of these effects are well known. There may be a sudden multiplication of bacterial colonies. There may be the engendering of poisons that infect the fluids and retard or disturb the tissue processes. There may be misdirected or cancerous growths of certain tissues. There may be upsets of the body-tone and of the harmonious vibratory motions by which life in the body is sustained. There may be deficiencies of some of the simple elements or of the complex organic chemicals which food must contain to supply the cells and tissues with the means of growth and renewal. In many cases there occurs an abnormal rise or fall of the vital heat upon which the chemistry of the body depends for its balance.
Diseases are sometimes attended by the presence of bacteria—germs which multiply with incredible speed to generate poisons and to clog the tissues. The nature of such disease germs was not known in Swedenborg’s day and is therefore not directly discussed in the Writings. But it is clear that these invading micro-organisms are to be included with the “unclean things” of disease.380 For evil spirits can inflow only into organic receptacles which, while in the body, are in some way isolated from the soul’s control. It is important to note the teaching that medicines wisely administered can serve in the Divine providence as an effective means by which the ultimates of evil influx can be weakened, counteracted, or removed, so that the influx is diverted from the body. In extreme cases the surgeon’s scalpel must remove the disordered tissue to prevent the spread of the malignity. But such external remedies do not reach the inner causes of disease which will be further considered in our next chapter.
That the inmost soul has at its disposal many marvelous agencies in the body is obvious in all stages of the formation of the embryo and the growth of the body. The strange appearance of “anti-bodies” to counter disease germs in the blood stream is an example of how the balance of organic life is maintained as if by an omniscient government; as is also the dominant role played by the secretions of the endocrine glands. That this government is mediated by the spiritual world has been the theme of this book. But man’s mind is his own special spiritual world. And health and disease may both depend on his psychical states. The philosophy of disease and cure which will eventually take form among the people of the New Church must account first of all for the relation of the body to the mind, and thus to the spiritual world.
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
“So He giveth His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127:2
The Blessing of Sleep
The stream of man’s conscious life is intermittent, broken by recurring lapses into the unconscious state of sleep, from which he wakens with a new vigor of mind and body, in a new state and with a new start. The state of yesterday is still with us in the morning, as a memory that calls to us for a resumption of our duties or our routine; but it does not bind us entirely. Much is happily forgotten, and the thought of the burden and the heat of yesterday is not so oppressively present. Gradually we pick up the threads of former thoughts, discarding much that is unimportant.
It might seem as if our life was cut up into disjointed segments by these periods of sleep. But nothing is lost from our mind. The stream of consciousness has simply found rest in a limpid pool where its waters are clarified for its further progress. It is the conscious mind—the self-directed thought —that is affected by the apparent death of sleep. “Love does not sleep,” we read in the Arcana Coelestia.283The affections, the subconscious yearnings, instincts, and delights of the will provide a continuity of the whole personality. Man wakes the same man. And through the miracle of memory he has still at his disposal all his past experience and knowledge.
The function of sleep is so important that even the angels, in their evening states, find comfort and refreshment in slumher. For their bodies and their minds—though both spiritual —are yet finite, and all finite things have limits of endurance.
Man’s body, during the day, is largely governed by the caprice of his own will, by his voluntary decisions, which are not always rational. If man could know the exact degree of strain which each part of his body could bear without injury, he might avoid some of the abuses to which he actually exposes his organism. But even so there would be need for relaxation of body and brain and for a restoral of equilibrium after every sustained exertion.
In his philosophical works, Swedenborg offers an explanation of the physiology of sleep. He states that man’s conscious will (or voluntary) resides in the cerebrum or anterior part of the brain, and that deliberate action is initiated from the “cortical glands” there. These brain-cells, by extending fibres, govern all the muscles of the limbs and of the skeletal frame, and force the body into motion and position. The cerebellum or hind-brain, on the other hand, has control of all the viscera and their internal workings, quite independently of man’s will and unbeknown to his consciousness. The cerebellum also causes “antagonistic” muscles to counterpoise, makes smooth the workings of the muscles controlled by the cerebrum, and restores the natural equilibrium of forces which the conscious will has disturbed. In wakefulness, the cerebellum is relatively overruled and not active to its fullest extent. But in sleep, which comes over a man when the abused fibres of body and brain are no longer responsive to his will, the little cells of the cerebrum become relaxed. They are then isolated from the continual stream of subtle nourishment which is offered them through the arteries; so that they no longer receive the “purer blood” which they otherwise renovate and propel into the fibres. They continue indeed to receive, for their own future need, constant supplies of what Swedenborg calls “etherial chyle” through the “corporeal fibres”; and the inmost circulation of the “spirituous fluid”— the soul’s own vice-regent—continues as before. But the connections between the various glands and between the cortex and the body, are temporarily broken. And thus there are but slight muscular motions and no voluntary action. Sensations cannot reach the seat of consciousness, and the sceptre of the body is handed over to the cerebellum.284
In sleep, therefore, the soul, acting through the cerebellum, restores the order of nature. Acting by involuntary fibres it mends the broken or strained tissues, reestablishes a balance in the metabolism of the cells of the whole body, and improves the spontaneity of the various organs.285
The Arcana states that “the cerebellum is awake in time of sleep when the cerebrum slumbers.”286 “The Lord guards man with most especial care during his sleep,” for without sleep “the human race would perish.” In sleep, the Lord Himself watches even over His enemies and does them good.287 He loves all, and “He giveth His beloved in sleep.”288
Sleep bears a certain likeness to death. In sleep man retires from the world and its anxieties and departs from all his fellowmen. His senses being inactive, he not only becomes oblivious to the fixed world about him, but his memory of it also sinks into quiescence. Up to a certain point, physical pain and states of emotion which stir up his blood may prevent such a retirement. But when he finally gives way to sleep, he enters a world without sense of time and indifferent to space.
Even as the angels of the resurrection are celestial in type, so also are the angels whom the Lord appoints to guard man in sleep. They are in fact angelic spirits of the province of the cerebellum; for the cerebellum perceives the states of the body by an “involuntary sense.” It is their duty to prevent evil spirits from infesting man during his slumbers—a duty which they perform with the greatest delight, so that there is a rivalry among them as to who should be present. Only persons who have “delighted, and loved in every way and with the utmost effort, to make the life of others delightful,” are eligible to serve such offices after death.289
The World of Dreams
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. Yet there are certain factors—conditions which we cannot catalogue—which cause the return of consciousness in a strange and partial way. “To sleep—perchance to dream.” The natural memory may be aroused in a new manner, and man comes into that state on the borderland of the unconscious which we call the world of dreams: a strange world of fancy, built up from the broken fragments of experience into sequences which defy the logic by which we discipline our conscious thinking.
The fact of this dream-world has ever fascinated men. Primitive peoples saw in it a sign that there existed another world—a world of “doubles”—which they mostly confused with the spiritual world itself, but in which they saw themselves as actors. For in dreams the spirit of man seems to be released from the body to wander abroad in wider fields. The ancients also attached special meanings to their dreams, seeing obscure warnings and predictions in the jumbled recollections of their nocturnal experiences. Plato believed that our dreams gave us intimations of the various appetites and instincts which lay hidden in our nature; including bestial desires which the self-rebuke of reason kept out of our consciously directed thoughts, but which were given free rein during sleep.290 And in these modern days the Platonic view has again become the vogue. Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna founded upon it a new school of psycho-therapy, by analyzing the repressed longings and forgotten fears of the “subconscious mind” from the dreams in which these secret emotions reveal themselves in symbolic forms. The fact that Dr. Freud cynically traced all such emotions to a sexual origin does not take away all truth from Plato’s sage observations, nor does it lessen the value of further studies along this line.
Indeed, behind all these traditional views of dreams there lies a substratum of truth. Dreams do touch the fringe of the spiritual world. Dreams do at times have a prophetic burden or some special significance. Dreams occasionally reveal to man some of the longings and delights that are submerged and repressed in the depths of his being. Robsahm writes in his memoirs: “I asked Swedenborg whether, in our times, it was worth while to pay attention to dreams; upon which he answered that the Lord no longer at the present day makes revelations by dreams, but that nevertheless it may happen that one who understands correspondences may derive advantage from his dreams; just as a person who is awake may examine his own state by comparing his own will with God’s commandments.”291
This account by Robsahm cannot be taken as entirely correct, but is none the less interesting when we consider that in the period when Swedenborg’s spiritual faculties were first being opened he kept a private record of his dreams and of the interpretations that he put upon them. He instinctively felt that his dreams were—like his commencing visions—significative and symbolic. In his humility he did not spare himself in these interpretations. Yet it may be questioned whether he as yet knew the science of correspondences sufficiently to make those dreams more than the background for his own perceptions about his state while he was grasping for some indications of the work into which the Lord was leading him. (See his Journal of 1744).
That dreams, whether they are orderly or incoherent, are significant is as true as that the whole world is a theater representative of uses. Everything in both worlds, and in both body and mind, is symbolic of the forces at work—could we but know what these are. In the Writings these forces are described. And it appears from the teachings that no blame is attached to man for things occurring during sleep. For then man relinquishes his command. His will, or proprium, is taken away, and his natural understanding is laid asleep.292 In dreams, his “spiritual sight” is helpless and irresponsible and therefore usually quite impersonal, while the contents of his memory are being reconstructed into vivid imagery and into situations which symbolize states that are not his own, but which belong to spirits, and perhaps to angels, who are with him.
“Such stuff as dreams are made on” comes from the man. Nothing actually new—never before seen or felt—comes through dreams. But because man’s internal sight then is only a beholder,292 and man not really a responsible actor, the most strange and impossible situations usually cause him no surprise, the most ridiculous happenings cause no amusement, terrors may cause no fear. His memory may retain the dream in part, or he may—like Nebuchadnezzar—be unable to remember it. When an emotion, such as fear or shame, is felt in a dream, the man on waking need not take any responsibility for it. The thing is a matter of record, but not a part of his nature. In other words, if his external memory retains an impress of the dream, yet his internal memory, his interior thought and affection, has felt no influx and received no stain.
We have been treating of dreams in general. But the Writings tell us that there are at least three distinct kinds of dreams, or dreams from three sources.293
The first type is a dream which comes from the Lord Himself, either immediately or mediately through heaven.294 Such were the prophetic dreams mentioned in the Word. This is a form of Divine revelation. Thus an angel was filled with the Divine to the exclusion of his own proprium and consciousness, and appeared in a dream to a prophet on earth, clothing himself in the mental imagery of the man’s external memory and, thus seen, impressed the man with a series of representations which were adopted as the direct symbols of the Lord’s Divine truth. Such dream-visions sometimes conveyed to the prophet’s mind an external significance, as for instance a prediction of some future event. But the spiritual meaning of dreams was seen only by internal men such as the people of the most ancient church.295
One class of dreams stands by itself, although it somewhat resembles the prophetical. We refer to a dream in which the Lord was seen by Swedenborg. The actual call to his mission had occurred in a state of vision.296 But in the Diary he jotted down the following remarkable memorandum: “The Lord was seen by me in a dream with the face and form in which He was in the world. It was such that it was interiorly full and thus so that He could rule the whole heaven within. . . . And He often as it were slept with His eyes when He was inwardly within Himself. . . . And it was said that such had been His appearance. In a word, He was full of heaven and the Divine. (The night between Nov. 18 and 19, 1751).”297
The second kind of dream comes through angelic spirits who from an ardor for the happiness of others serve as guardians over those who sleep. These angels are at the entrance of those heavenly “paradises” which to the angels represent only celestial and spiritual things, but which spirits delight in for their own sake. These paradises appear in the externals of heaven, or are created there when angels of a superior heaven converse together intellectually about truths of wisdom and faith. The angelic spirits in question love to affect a man who is asleep and thus receptive, with the enjoyable and delightful things which they see in his affection and genius. They arouse from the dreamer’s mind beautiful and pleasant representations which refresh him with tranquil charm. But Swedenborg observed that they did not themselves know whence such beautiful presentations came to them “all in a moment,” except that they came “from heaven.” Nor is it orderly that they should know the man whom they are watching over.298
Presumably all men, when asleep, have such heavenly guardians, more or less distantly present. Yet the statement is that these are “entrusted with the duty of watching over certain men”—as if all were not equally favored. And this suggests that the Lord may have a particular concern about those in this world who perform more eminent or responsible uses; whose reliance on the spiritual reserves of the other world and of the subconscious processes of the mind must be greater. Such men, by day, enjoy the illustration of their use, which comes from their being spiritually present in the societies of such use in the other world. But at night their reserve powers must be filled up, and this by the angels of sleep.
Dreams such as are induced by these angelic spirits actually originate in angelic discourse—in conversations between angels on spiritual subjects. The order of the angelic ideas is at once presented in the world of spirits in representatives of great variety, differently in every group of spirits that is affected. Thus with Swedenborg and the spirits associated with him as a man—spirits who were using his memory —the forms of the dream which resulted were shaped according to his memory and his general affection. From the same spiritual origin can thus arise dreams totally different, yea, opposite. For what may cause joy to one man, may to others call up tedium and nausea, shame or horror.299 The reason for this lies in the universal spiritual law that no influx from spirits or angels can introduce new persuasions or alter the faith or memory of spirit or man.
On some occasions, Swedenborg related his dreams to the angelic spirits who caused them, and they recognized in his mental pictures and states the correspondential representations of their own conversation.300 Yet he also saw the diversified dreams caused in various spirits from the same origin, and confessed that it could never be known from the natural imagery of their dreams what the spiritual influx involved or contained; and he suggests that the influx was not always strictly “an influx by correspondences.” The imagery was not purely correspondential. Yet it was representative. Strictly speaking, “correspondences” are true creative relations of cause and effect, the same everywhere. So for instance, light corresponds to truth and heat to love—always. But the objects of the dreams represented different things to different spirits; for every man clothes familiar objects with a sphere of ideas and a meaning all his own. The things of man’s affection as well as his memory invite dreams of varying type. But in his dreams the objects are arranged with reference to the angelic ideas which inflow—thus as symbols of their corresponding states, symbols which indeed represent, but do not correspond; and which mean one thing to the angels, and quite another to the man. Only the angels could recognize the relation of the dream to their own ideas.301 We may doubt, therefore, whether New Church men will ever attempt to become interpreters of dreams; although—strange to say—one of the very first volumes in the vast collateral literature of the New Church was entitled “Oneiromancy !”302 But its anonymous author merely used the science of correspondences as a guide for interpreting the bewildering phenomena of the world of dreams.
The dreams introduced by angelic spirits contain within them the order of heaven, even if man cannot discern it. Normally the dreams they induce are pleasant, sweet, and peaceful ; but with the man they may also be turned into warnings, as is often done on some other planets when men fall into evil. Such dreams can be induced not only upon men, but even upon spirits. Swedenborg relates a strange thing—that while he was among the cerebellar spirits as a spirit, he also was able, repeatedly, to introduce dreams into a sleeper.303 He checked the experiment with the man upon whom he had acted—which spirits can, of course, not do. Yet men also can impose dreams upon their fellow-men, by using hypnotic methods.
Dreams Induced by Spirits
The third type of dreams spoken of in the Writings is not produced through angels, but through the spirits who are near man while he sleeps.304 Such dreams are also significative, for the influx calls forth from man’s memory such things as have a special significance, but a significance to the spirits, not to the man.
Angels produce dreams that please, because they take care that what they draw forth should be associated with delight in the man’s mind. They look for such ultimates in man because they always consider first the freedom of man, and lead him only so far as his own affections respond. But spirits in the world of spirits are not so considerate. Fortunately they have no power to harm man while he sleeps, although they use his mind as their own. But if they could, they would exclude everything from a man’s waking life which is not in line with their own delights. They would impose their own will upon him and sometimes desire to obsess him utterly—and if he should then resist them they would seek to destroy him. For this reason spirits who are with men are kept quite ignorant of the fact. They know not the man, but believe that they think quite independently of men. Yet they think and converse among themselves by using the ideas of the men with whom they are associated; and—as has been pointed out repeatedly—the spirits most closely adjoined to a man assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man. They become so immersed in man’s attitudes and memory that they may even impersonate him in the other world—look like him in dress and demeanor. Each man has at least one such “consociate spirit.”305
When a spirit is asleep, good spirits can act through him. It is therefore provided that when a man falls asleep, his closer attendant spirits will also fall asleep, since the memory of the man then becomes inactive. If the spirits are evil they are indeed compelled to sleep, for as long as they are awake, man’s affections are being stimulated.306 The state of a man’s ruling love would not be disturbed, but he would no longer be receptive of the influx from the society closest to his inner delights, but would remain conscious of the irritations and anxieties of his external mind so that sleep would be impossible.
But while the attendant spirits dwelling in his superficial spheres of thought fall asleep along with the man, other spirits, more distant from the ordinary states of his life, may still exert their influence upon him. They have indeed no power to stir up his interior thought or affection; for if they did the man would awake in a moment.307 But they can use the memory of man quite freely, although it is the Lord Himself who gives the final permission and prevents abuses.
And now there commences in man—and somewhat similarly in his consociate spirits—the strange fantasmagoria of dreams. Each spirit takes on from man’s memory whatever objects or sensory stimuli that agree with his own life. It is a characteristic of such dreams that, if persons should figure in the scene, each spirit assumes all that a man knows about a certain individual, and actually impersonates him and acts his part in the mental drama. And some may also impersonate the sleeper himself, and speak to other spirits in his tone of voice; but the contents of the speech may not at all be what the man would normally say, but the most stupid nonsense or the grossest falsehood.308
At times, actual spirits may themselves, by the Lord’s leave, be seen in a dream under an appearance that is familiar to the sleeping man. It is told of Louis XIV that he gave warnings to one of his descendants in a dream; and Swedenborg once saw Peter the Great and spoke to him during a dream.309
And Spirits who sleep simultaneously with man sometimes oversleep! Swedenborg found them sleeping, yes, and dreaming, after he himself had awakened. He compared experiences with them and found that they sometimes dreamt when man was not dreaming—which no doubt allows man to change his state.310 Yet the rule is that their dreams are mostly garbed in the ideas of man’s memory. The dreams of spirits are generally caused by spirits who are in a more interior state than they are themselves. But sometimes evil spirits can induce bad dreams upon spirits that are to be vastated.311
Apart from these three types of dreams—those caused by the Lord, those induced through angels, and those which spirits inject—the Arcana Coelestia speaks of “fantastic dreams.”312 This class is dismissed with a bare mention. But with us mortals here below, such fantastic dreams may be quite disturbing. They seem as disordered processions of fragmentary thoughts, unconnected pictures, ludicrous figments of a fevered imagination, meaningless, isolated; or perhaps as images and situations that rise up to strike us with horror, as in nightmares or in some delirium that attends an illness. That their origin is from the other world is of course necessarily true. No emotion or consciousness is possible with man except from the presence of spirits. Yet these fantastic dreams are, we surmise, not characteristic of the true sleeping state in which the natural memory is closed from below and is moved only from within. Our nocturnal fancies may at times be symptomatic of disturbing desires or secret fears which gnaw the mind in our wakeful state but are not released in our imagination except in the symbolism of dreams. But grave injury might be done if man made himself responsible for the disorders of his dream-life which after all occur after he has relinquished his control.
In states of disease or discomfort such as may result from overstrain or from too rich food or from the use of various drugs, the senses are sometimes still pounding from below upon our consciousness even after we have fallen asleep. And while the state of the blood and the senses is such that the brain cannot find continual repose, there are countless opportunities on the part of hordes of wandering spirits—such as the curious spirits belonging to the “province of the chyle-duct”—to seek a temporary lodgment in the mind of a man. But this kind of influx touches closely upon another phase of our general subject, namely, the connection of spirits with disease.
The teachings concerning dreams may not appear to be, by themselves, an important part of the doctrine of the church. Yet they present another aspect of the marvelous economy of human life, which is ordered by infinite protective agencies and is ruled in every detail by the Lord of creation.
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11 “Cuticular Spirits” and “Sirens”
“Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world . . . For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father . . . And the world passeth away and the lust thereof.” John’s First Epistle 2: 15-17
It is impossible even to classify the various spirits who inject evil enticements of different kinds. But two types are described in the Writings and these may serve as examples.263
Swedenborg once became aware of the predominance of certain spirits from the province in the Grand Man which answers to the cuticle or the surface of the skin. And it was then shown him what the state is of a person “who takes an excessive care of his skin, which is the same as to have his mind ruled by such spirits.” “When a man is in this state, he is withheld from all useful endeavors (studio), and at the same time there is insinuated into him a distaste for doing anything real, so that there is a certain reaction and consequent repugnance against any project, whether in civil or moral life or in matters of faith and charity, and whether in deed or in thought. For he is held back from these, while at the same time certain blasphemies against them are insinuated into him. …” There is then a distaste for anything interior or spiritual.264
“Cuticular spirits” flock cajolingly around those who place their delight in the appearance or in the sensations and delights of the skin, and draw them away from any good or essential work. Such people are called “delicate” and “fastidious,” placing life in daintiness, culture, refinement, and judging all things by aesthetic standards rather than by their moral, civil, and spiritual values. And so naturally their tendency is also to “place their wisdom … in being able elegantly to vituperate or refute the doctrine of an internal man. . . . “265
It is difficult for a man to guess the tremendous forces of evil that are sometimes present around him, laboring to establish their power by what appears as relatively innocent habits. Evil spirits can hide themselves behind apparent goods, turning these goods gradually to a sinful or shameful end; with a view to exclude spiritual and celestial spheres from the mind and to fill it with worldliness or with externals. All of us find a number of good things to do just to make life pleasant and safe for ourselves and our families—enough to fill our day without taking time out to read the Word or to enjoy a while of worship and meditation before the family shrine. It is a question of Martha versus Mary.
The superficial uses of life, which regard the introduction of grace and beauty and soft comforts into the home and the society, are in themselves good. But they represent only the cuticle, the scarf-skin, of that eternal body of human uses which doctrine calls “the Grand Man.” Their proper function is to introduce, to contain, and to defend interior things. And when there is an equilibrium with other obligations, and they are pliably disposed to serve interior uses, then only are they genuine and in their place.266 Tremendous groups of good and salvable spirits therefore belong to the province of the skin. And their character varies widely.
In relation to heaven as a whole, the spirits who come from our planet mostly serve the function that is described by that of the skin, the membranes and external senses of the Grand Man. Thus their uses have to do with the sciences which are based on sensual observation.267 Yet this does not mean that the spirits of our earth cannot “easily come into the interior and inmost heaven after their exteriors have been devastated.” And some can serve as “ministries for the instruction of others who have no knowledges from revelation” such as our Word provides.268 Among those who come to constitute the skins, cartilages and bones of the Grand Man are also many gentiles who while on earth could not be reached by the Gospel. The modest uses which these perform after death still give them the highest joy of which they are capable.269
All spirits of the province of the skin are comparatively external in type. Since they have no extension of mind, they are mostly easily deceived. Some are devoid of perception and only want to argue about everything, and always from the appearances of the senses.270 Being in relatively little of spiritual life, such spirits dwell in the entrances or forecourts of heaven.271
The “Sirens,” and Interior Obsessions
Depraved skin-spirits are all in the desire to possess man’s whole life. If it were possible, such spirits would fain cast out man’s own spirit, and enter instead. But this can, of course, be done only in fantasy, for man’s spirit is his interior organism which cannot be changed for another.272
The only type of obsession possible at this day is called “interior obsession.” Bodily obsession of healthy individuals by spirits, such as occurred in the time of the Lord, has not been permitted since; although something similar apparently takes place in insanity (which is a physical disorder) and with “mediums” who invite a control by spirits. The things of the body have been exempted from the particular influx of spirits and angels and are instead ruled by a general influx.273 There are indeed spirits (or societies) allotted to the office of ruling the body, but these—like the man—are unaware that they do so. But if spirits should inflow to rule man’s members without such an appointment, and so “that they are quite aware that they are there,” this would constitute a bodily obsession.274 The spirit would then take possession of all man’s senses, speak through his mouth and act through his limbs. In ancient times there were spirits abroad in the world of spirits who could in that way actually possess men’s bodies, which took place by an influx which caused not only endeavors, but acts. Such spirits are now all confined to their hells. Yet the desire to obsess men is still present with many kinds of evil spirits, especially the adulterous, the cruel, and the “corporeal” type.275
Among these are the “sirens,” so called because they allure the unwary. They obsess man’s interiors through his exteriors.276 Such sirens are both male and female, but are mostly women who on earth were distinguished and esteemed, having lived in fair externals and in elegance—in which alone they delighted.277 They are bound by a regard for decorum and apparent propriety which had influenced them more than others; but when acting among themselves, their external bonds are relaxed. Their influx is especially destructive of conjugial love and tends to loosen the bonds of marriage and insinuate what is obscene and voluptuous. The main delight of the sirens is to obsess man and thus as it were return into the world.278With remarkable obstinacy they attempt to insinuate their fantasies even while man sleeps—fantasies which Swedenborg describes. They present themselves in a beauty almost angelic, naked (in order to suggest innocence), and contort themselves like snakes, with the view of breaking down any internal bonds of conscience.279 They labor to come into the very senses of man, especially into the sense of taste (which is however forbidden), and cause an itch in the skin.280 They try to put on the external memory and imagination of man, to obsess and hold it for themselves, clothing their designs by whatever of knowledge and cognition they find. And their power is such that they can identify themselves with good affections and inflow approvingly into the ideas of what is holy and innocent and even doctrinal. In that way they stimulate what is good and true and retain the pretext of what is honorable, while all the time they strive to obsess man’s interiors. They do not so much disturb the exteriors of man’s mind, as his interiors. They enter the thought of some one, follow it for a while, and then they begin to lead it.
We cannot refrain from suggesting that it is the hells of the sirens that are the real source of much of the literature and drama of today which flood the mind with prurient and profane imagery under the pretense of “realism” or “art”; hovering on the brink of the forbidden, making mock of innocence and marriage and the sanctities of human life, or insinuating contempt for the Lord and the Word under the guise of learning. This is the modern form of sorcery and obsession.
Man is of course ignorant of the interior obsession which results from such spheres of thought. But Swedenborg testifies, “This is the obsession which exists at this day.” There is an “incredible multitude” of obsessing spirits, “mostly from the church.” Their power over other spirits was such, he writes, that “unless the Lord should deliver the world of spirits from such, scarcely any good spirits could be in that world without being led captive by them.” He compares them to modern Nephilim, because of the terrible sphere of persuasion which they emit. They could only with difficulty be dislodged from the world of spirits. For they are present with men through simple spirits who relate to man’s external thought; and through these they enter into man’s thoughts and wholly lead them, “so that, being internal, they are the worst who take possession of men; and men cannot be defended from them at all, except by the Lord.”281
At the last judgment the sirens were confined in their hells. But continually new spirits of the same type enter the other life from the earth, and especially from the “civilized” world. And for our admonition the seer was prompted to write:
“Whether many persons are at this day thus obsessed may … be inferred from this: Let a man examine himself as to whether he is in any internal bond so that his thoughts abhor and turn away with loathing [from evil], and he suffers himself—inwardly or as to the thoughts—to abstain in some way from the most wicked, unmentionable, and obscene things; or whether it is merely external bonds which detain him.” Man may then find out whether he is struck with shame and fear and recoils in horror from the thought of such evil, or whether, if fear of the law and public opinion were removed, he would desire to do it. For if the latter is the case, “then he is inwardly obsessed by such sirens.” “Let a man thoroughly ponder whether he is of such a quality, for he is now able to know !”282
This is the purpose of these revelations of the Second Advent. “Man is now able to know.” He is able to know that when his thought is led into evil, this is the direct result of spirits who belong in hell and who must not be entertained in the human mind. But such thoughts—entering as they do even through innocent channels—are not imputed to man nor appropriated by him if he acknowledges their source and prays to the Lord for deliverance.
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10 Spiritual Causes of Fortune
“The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30
There is No Blind Chance
As was pointed out in another chapter, man is not responsible for all his general states. A child is not responsible for his childishness, and no adult can be blamed for having passed into maturity or old age. Neither can any arguments or any deliberate effort bring a woman into the state of a man or a wife into the state of her girlhood. Whenever our bodies grow tired after a day of activity, our minds inevitably come into new states, less strenuous; until we sink into oblivion of all cares, and spirits of a celestial type environ us.
How little we are (at least consciously) responsible for certain of our general states, seems to be clear from that which is called “fortune” or “luck.” Men commonly blame many of their disappointments on “bad luck,” or ascribe their windfalls to a lucky chance. But the Writings declare to us that there is no such thing as blind chance. For the Divine providence operates even in the least and most detailed circumstances of our lives, and thus “in the most singular things of man’s thoughts and actions.”250
It is easy to see that the real causes behind man’s general states lie in the presence with him of spirits of different types, and thus in the different spiritual mediations which modify the influx of the Lord’s life into men. We can also see that evil spirits could lead men into many kinds of accidents and misfortunes. Swedenborg records that such spirits at times caused his feet to stumble, and that they were responsible for certain slips and errors in his manuscript. Not that they actually willed such particular results—a thing which they entirely denied—but that they held him in a state of ignorance and obscurity which led to the errors. The common evil which flowed from the self-love of these spirits naturally produced such effects! Certain spirits, by their arts, have a special skill to produce a sphere from which unfortunate circumstances naturally flowed in a way which wholly resembled pure chance. Such spirits do not foresee the misfortunes they cause with a man, but they are nevertheless punished for producing such spheres from an effort to be destructive.251 “Unforeseen misfortunes are nothing else than the perpetual endeavors of evil spirits . . . and unforeseen goods come forth from the Lord. This appears incredible; but still it is so.”252
“They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him.” For whatever happens, whether it appears as prosperous or not, is still good for them, conducing to their eternal happiness. But with the wicked the unforeseen goods which come from the Lord are turned into an evil effect.253
Swedenborg comments that it seems incredible that spirits should be the cause of misfortunes. Yet it may seem still more incredible that even the course of what is called “a streak of luck” in cards, dice-games, etc., is intermediated through the spiritual world. “Hardly any one” knows this. But spirits convinced Swedenborg that the turns of fortune in a game of dice could be predicted by them from the unfailing appearance of certain signs—a dark cloud about him if he was to lose, a white one if he was to win!254 The “dark cloud” was of course not the cause of the misfortune; but it was a spiritual manifestation or representation of the state in which he was—a state which because of his own needs permitted him to immerse himself into a natural series of events which in their very nature would lead to “bad luck.”
Seemingly there is nothing less determined beforehand than the outcome of a lottery or the fall of a pair of dice. The only predictable factor in the fall of the dice seems to be a definite ratio of probabilities which in the long run is almost fixed, but which leaves the outcome of each single throw in uncertainty. There appear to be certain natural laws which limit the uncertainties and operate to balance the probabilities. And the more we analyze a situation, the clearer it becomes that to an all-seeing eye there is no “chance”; but that for the sake of man’s freedom it is not given him to see all the contributing contingencies or all the operations even of the natural laws involved. Swedenborg learned things about this which he was forbidden to make known.255
Providence in the Ultimate of Order
“Chance” is defined in the Writings as the operation or influx of the Divine providence into “the ultimate of order, in which all things are comparatively inconstant.”256
The Lord rules, and has always ruled, human minds, and thus the heavens and the hells, from primes through ultimates. In the ultimates of the world we may observe a fixed and constant order founded on space and time. We find orderly changes and progressions over which man has no power, and inevitable chains of cause and effect which will and thought cannot budge. Untold subatomic units moving ceaselessly at random without any purpose are gathered into great mass-actions which apparently have both order and use and which fall under the inexorable cycles of changes and of seasons. Countless data of knowledge without seeming order or connection are gathered into man’s mind. Yet in the view of man’s rational mind they may be arranged into categories and classifications which reveal a purpose or a law. One can examine the scattered details by themselves, and see only blind chance and chaos in their “comparative inconstancies.” Or one can behold the ordered movements and groupings as a whole in their constant recurrence and static presentation, and see therein an evidence of Divine government and providence which “by things constant and things inconstant deals wonderfully with human prudence and yet conceals itself.”257 So far as we can see, the constant and regular effects of natural law by which Providence operates in the ultimates of its complex order, are not disturbed in favor of man. Despite the varied states of the human mind the seasons of summer and winter come and go in their independent and fixed routine. The sun shines on the evil and on the good. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. It is as if the life of man has been fitted into a set of disciplinary circumstances of external law or into a general fixed mould of natural routine in time and space.
If the Lord rules our minds from ultimates, it would seemingly be a contradiction to say that fortune and chance depended on the kind of spirits which are with man. But, actually, spirits need certain kinds of ultimates, depending on their states. And in various ways, hidden to man, they lead him through his own affections to seek such correspondent ultimates. In the apparent inconstancies and details of nature there is a profusion of correspondent foci. According as man places undue value on selected external objects or objectives, he becomes a source of delight for either good or evil spirits. Their sphere affects him. He steps into an unknown and uncontrollable stream of events. Evil spirits would then distract his attention from truthful circumstances and would find a way of avoiding the order and purpose of the whole by taking the parts and constructing out of them a series or order of their own—an order conducive to “ill luck” or apparent misfortune.
What we know as the laws of nature are formulations of the series of physical causes and effects from the cumulative experience of human observers ; although actually natural laws should be regarded as the effects of spiritual laws. Men are apt to think of the government of Providence from the picture which they have of nature, in which one thing occasions another in a chain of fixed “necessities.” To counter this viewpoint, the Writings record some conversations which Swedenborg had with angels and spirits.253 He tells of certain spirits who, knowing that the Lord leads men through apparent necessities,259 had the idea of a preordained fate or absolute necessity by which the entire life is necessity, so that even the Lord was bound by necessity. But since this idea of the Divine was colored by our concepts of human necessities, attention was called to the fact that man has freedom, and he who acts from freedom of choice is not under necessity; the very idea of choice implies this. There converge many circumstances—”contingencies” or happenings—which can carry man in opposite directions. The moments of a man’s life are like pebbles which a man scatters at pleasure, from freedom rather than from any necessity. Yet the Lord foresees the form in which man will eventually arrange his life, and His providence is in every single detail, “but not according to such an order as man proposes to himself.” From the Divine foresight the Lord sees the relationships between the “pebbles”— as an architect sees the design behind a heap of building materials—and fills in what is lacking, to provide for consequences a thousand years later. “All the things which are from the Lord are most essential, but they do not follow in order from necessity, but in application to the freedom of man.”260
Thus the Lord “foresees with an unceasing accommodation” how man as it were leads himself.261 Every change and variation in the human mind produces a change in the series of things that follow, and this progressively to eternity. But the drift of all the sequences of human states which man determines, would go far wide of the goal of creation “if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment”—and this through spirits and angels. This leading is secret and does not interfere with human prudence or choice, but is “accommodated” to man’s free agency. For each single thing which man does, sees, or thinks, the Lord does and sees infinite things. On the surface, the history of the race and the life of each man and each church seems to be determined by human decisions. If it were not so, man might just as well not exist, for he would have no sense of accomplishment, no incentive either to will or to think, still less to work or take responsibility. But the Lord acts to correct human mistakes, through unforeseeable things. He acts through heaven, mediately, and also immediately from Himself, not only into the will and thought of man, with or without man’s consent, “but also at the same time into the many things which befall him.”262 These “contingent” things, or providential circumstances, are the means by which the Lord, from His infinite resources, supplies the links between the moments of human decision, and by which He fills in the interstices which man has not thought of !
Yet man speaks of “chance.” We do not believe that spirits have any power over nature or nature’s laws. They did not even know beforehand how the dice would fall at Swedenborg’s backgammon table. But such is the inscrutable intricacy and detail of the Providence of God, that the “white cloud” of good fortune or the “dusky cloud” of warning are tokens before spirits of His foreknowledge of the chances which shall befall; unpredictable events into which He permits a man to be led for eternal reasons which look to the needs of spirits and also to the needs of the man—lest he should become the prey of morose disappointment, or lest he should come to rely on his “luck” rather than on his reason and his labor.
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9 Enthusiastic Spirits
“Believe not every spirit . . .” John’s First Epistle 4: 1
Emotional Good without Truth
It is a matter of common observation that even good men are often misled. If we stop to reflect, we find that the impulse which is thus misdirected is usually “good without truth”; and especially natural good, such as pity or generosity or “sentimentality.”
All men are endowed by nature (or heredity) with inclinations toward certain “goods” or virtues. Some are by nature brave, others seem to be born cautious and meek. Some are naturally generous or affectionate, loyal or trusting, apt to be guided by family feeling, friendship, love of ease, social praise or pleasure. Various circumstances may also encourage the development of certain good natural traits. Yet the Writings teach us to distrust our “natural good.” Not only does it hide the evils of selfishness under a pleasant exterior, but it makes self-examination difficult. Man is apt to take a good deal of credit for his “natural good”; when yet he is no more responsible for it than an animal is for its instinctive nature. We are also warned that natural good is like a reed, on which it is dangerous to lean. It is fickle, deceptive, easily bent. It lays a man open to all sorts of influences. It can turn us to defend evil, it weakens the judgment. It is easily swayed and persuaded. It receives the influx of evil spirits, and thus works harm which we may not intend.
Good, when undisciplined by truth and antagonistic to instruction, is not really good, but is a mere emotionalism. It must therefore be tutored, guided, held under control, made to serve under rational principles. The doctrine is, that “those who are not as yet in truths, are not in safety.”225
True faith, faith in true doctrine, gives protection. The general doctrines of the New Church are compared to the four walls of the New Jerusalem, into which there shall not enter anything that defileth or maketh a lie. Doctrine protects against evil spirits and their false persuasions. It is doctrine which leads to salvation, with gentiles and babes as well as with adult members of the Church.
In the world of spirits, those who are not in any doctrine but are led hither and thither by their emotions and fantasies cannot dwell in cities. Cities there impose a certain restrictive order. Evil spirits untutored by the self-restraining influence of doctrines or common principles cannot enter the cities, or, if they do, can only traverse the public streets. But in the less inhabited regions around the towns they feel more free to carry out their impulses. Cities represent doctrines. Yet cities in the other life may represent doctrines that are vitiated by falsities. If so, the protection which they give is only temporary. There is no permanent safety against infesting spirits, no permanent salvation except in true doctrine.225
The statement is made that “non-truths communicate with evil spirits.” This seems to mean that falsities and fallacies are planes into which evil spirits can operate effectively and conveniently. When a man has fallen into a belief in some false principle, he opens himself to be led from this error into a series of other fallacies, and into doubts about truths, and thus into a negative attitude. Fortunately, if a man is well disposed, he will—with the aid of good spirits—resist following the logic of his position if he perceives that it is leading him into absurdities or into evils. The Writings cite instances of such a blessed inconsistency. Many who accept the Lutheran dogma of salvation by faith alone apart from charity, would be horror-stricken at the idea of Predestination and “infant damnation”—which yet flows directly from the premises of their own creed! Luther himself, being a good man at heart, did not confirm the dogma of faith alone in his life, although he preached it and confirmed it intellectually. He had been fascinated by the principle of “Faith Alone,” because he saw in it a weapon against some of the abuses of the Catholic Church. And when it was received with acclaim by his followers, spirits infused a pride of self-intelligence— flattering him on his originality and keenness—and induced him to confirm it. He suffered for centuries in the other life for this weakness, and not until after the last judgment did he see his error, and resume his search for the true doctrine of salvation.226
Misconceptions about the Holy Spirit
Swedenborg himself confesses that he had formerly entertained—from the universal doctrine of Christendom—the false persuasion that the Holy Spirit was the third person of the Divine Trinity. This laid a plane in his external mind for infestations by spirits who supposed themselves to be the Holy Spirit and who terrified him. “But afterwards”—he writes— “I became persuaded that the Lord alone is holy, and that all, both angels and spirits, are profane in themselves, and are called ‘holy’ only from those true and good things which are from the Lord; so I am no longer infested. …” For spirits are obliged to assume the persuasions of the men with whom they are.227
It is of interest to note that clergymen, on their entrance into the other life, are straightway instructed that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person or separate spirit.228 For if a spirit should hold that idea, he is set upon by so-called “enthusiastic spirits” who are in the insane fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit, and who terrify others if they do not obey them; since many, in the world, were taught that a sin against the Holy Spirit was unpardonable. “Enthusiastic spirits are distinguished from other spirits by this, that they believe themselves to be the Holy Spirit and believe that the things which they say are Divine.”229 The word “enthuse” literally means to “fill with God.” Clergymen are especially vulnerable to these infestations, and also to these fantasies. It is believed by many ministers that while they are preaching from zeal, they are “inspired”; so that some even affirm that they have felt the influx of the Holy Ghost. The fact is—as the True Christian Religion points out—that they have confused the zeal they exhibit while preaching, with the Divine operation in their hearts; when yet zeal is only a violent heating up of the natural man! And this is just as easily excited with preachers who are in extreme falsities, and even more so with enthusiasts, or those who are in the effort to stir up emotions and external affections and play on the feelings of their hearers. Revivalists—under the influence of enthusiastic spirits, the Writings point out—often produce louder shouts and deeper sighs than is usual with those who are in zeal from heavenly love !230
Let us not decry zeal! “If there is within it the love of truth, then it is like the sacred fire which flowed into the apostles”—when, on Pentecost, tongues of fire appeared over their heads.230 But emotional appeals which are not from a love of truth, nor directed to stimulate love of truth, are dangerous. For when a person is under the influence of strong natural emotions, his rational balance can easily be upset, and he may be carried in any direction.
There is that in human nature which makes one love to be stirred by emotion. We enjoy being carried along in mass-emotions—which is an explanation of certain phases of the behavior of a mob, or of a people during war, or at election-time, or at football games. We enjoy being carried off our feet by thrills of various kinds. There is a delight—a sensual pleasure—in casting prudence and responsibility aside, at times, and simply surrendering to the whirl of an emotion.
Some types of people are more than others susceptible to being led by impulse or to being sphered by eloquence and persuasion. Hence religion takes an emotional and fanatical form with such people. It is not as if the emotions were necessarily evil: the main difficulty being, that in states of high-strung natural emotion, the good and the evil cannot be distinguished. Hope and the assurance of faith, high resolve and deep contrition, mingle with guilt and fear and a lust for power or repute. It is a common fact, that at every “camp-meeting” of revivalist sects, there are not only cases of “conversions” but cases of “reversions”—in that some are so moved by the general hysteria that all their moral inhibitions become loosened. If the desire for an emotional outlet does not find a sincere religious form, it may seek a satisfaction in various sensual and sexual excesses.
The pervading idea among the “enthusiastic” sects, is to find salvation by a personal surrender to the Holy Spirit, until its leading is felt, sensibly felt, as a bodily reaction. The “converted soul” is moved by the “Holy Spirit.” The Quakers and the Shakers were so called, because they actually began to tremble, twitch and jerk, or rhythmically dance, under the hypnotic influence of their emotion. The paroxysms, obsessive convulsions, marchings and shoutings which often occur at revival meetings, are reminiscent of the corresponding features of other religions, as that of the whirling dervishes, and of the ritual abandon which marks primitive peoples. In some cases, the religious zealot is apparently acting in a convulsive trance. The Jewish prophets—and Saul was also among them—were thus possessed.
It is obvious that when emotion is given such free range, the spirits who are with the man are afforded an unusually delightful opportunity to take control. And the spirits who inflow are those who rejoice in the flattery offered by the deluded human who gives them credit for being “the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, these spirits then come solemnly to believe —unless challenged—that they are “the Holy Spirit,” and even that they were from eternity !231
The history of such a type of spirits is interesting. The hells of the Noahtic or Ancient Church consist for the most part—we are informed—of “magicians”; spirits who still practice their arts by the abuse of correspondences, by inducing illusions and fantasies and by persuasive assurances and prophesying. It is from the influx of these hells that the various “enthusiastic” movements have arisen in the Christian world.232
As a matter of record, the early Christian Church was very hardly beset by the contagion of old customs and beliefs from the corrupted religions of the ancient East. The most developed philosophies of antiquity contained the central concept that the real, inmost self of man, was a spark of God’s life. This had sprung from the persuasion of the antediluvians that God had transfused His Divine into men so that they were inwardly gods.233 In time, the Orientals—as for instance the Hindoos—began to feel that the God they must seek, was an “inner God.” Brahm (God) and Atman (the soul) were identical. If they could turn their thoughts inwardly, and know their own souls, they would know God. If they listened to their souls, they would come to hear the voice of God ! The real source of wisdom was not—they felt—outside of them, or from experienced knowledge, but within them, in an inner light Divine. All the Christian gnostics, mystics and “Quietists” also sought for illumination from within themselves ; and when they felt a profound perception, or a vague “elevation,” they were assured that this was the light of “the Holy Ghost.”
The Quaker Movement
The Writings speak of this in connection with the Quakers. But there were many enthusiastic spirits in the other life even before the Quaker movement arose about 1650. Swedenborg wrote, a century later: “Almost the whole world of spirits is wicked and enthusiastic, and is sedulously desirous to obsess man.”234 The belief in the falsity that the Holy Spirit was a separate Divine person laid men particularly open to such infestations. In the spiritual world, such enthusiastic spirits as believe themselves the Holy Spirit are held separated from others, and wander about. When Quakerism commenced, however, there came a powerful call for such spirits, who then came out of the forest districts around the world of spirits and obsessed many men. They infused the persuasion that men were moved by the Holy Spirit. With some men their influx was sensible, and resulted in a convulsive trembling.235 For a time, the Quaker movement went from bad to worse, and the usual effects of religious hysteria were manifested by secret and hushed up excesses, into which their “Holy Spirit” led those who gave no moral resistance.
We know the Quakers as a very peaceful, thrifty people, who suffered much unjust persecution in the early periods. But the Writings give a different side of the picture, a side which was observable in the other life, where the logic of human attitudes is finally displayed. George Fox, the founder of the movement, and William Penn, who settled Pennsylvania, both spoke to Swedenborg in the other world, disavowing such abuses as later occurred.236 But it is inevitable that where a conscious leading by spirits is sought by men as the perfection of life, terrible profanations can arise, in both worlds, among those who are evil. The description of Swedenborg’s encounter — in the other life — with these excesses which destroy the sanctity of marriage and abolish the sacraments and profane them, is such that we cannot even cite it. What can be stressed, however, is this, that because the Quakers have no fixed doctrinals of faith, except what they have confirmed in themselves when the spirits move them, they have no protection against alien falsities. They read the Word, and thus accept the Lord about the same as other Christians. But the Word is subordinated to the interpretation which is given in their “quiet time” by the private revelation of the “Holy Spirit” within them.237
Thus they are bound to no doctrine — for what they rely on finally is “the Inner Light.” This is clear from their history : for by degrees the denial of the full Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ took a hold on many in the sect, and the movement called Hicksite Quakers was organized, in 1827; where the emphasis is laid on Christ only as the chief member — or head — of the spiritual body of the church.
In the spiritual world, no society is formed from Quakers. They are spiritual nomads. Other spirits cannot explore them, for they are secretive, reserved in opinion and actions. They are unwilling to speak of their own doctrinal things, yet desire to hear the doctrines of others, but as it were surreptitiously, and without either being impressed by them or rejecting them. Those not confirmed strongly are brought together in desert places; but those who are confirmed in the reliance upon their “Holy Spirits” habitually wander about in forests in the world of spirits, until judged.
It is the most gross among them who become “enthusiastic spirits” and are persuaded in the fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit. These—having no fixed spiritual locality, because no fixed doctrine—inflow with spirits or with men wherever there is the awaiting of influx from the Spirit—or wherever there is a reliance on an “Inner Light.” For adoption of this chief principle of the enthusiasts connects man with enthusiastic spirits, without violating the law that spirits are attached to man according to his faith.
“Those who are taught by influx what to believe or what to do, are not taught by the Lord or by any angel of heaven.” “All influx from the Lord takes place by an enlightenment of the understanding and by an affection of truth, and through this affection into the understanding.”238 The “Light Within,” about which the Quakers are wont to preach, is not intellectual light, but a mere obscure luminous something which does not enlighten at all.
In illustration of the influence of the Quaker principle of an inner guidance, we may refer to the wide and sudden spread some decades ago of a non-sectarian movement whose devotees sit silent, pencil in hand and minds in a blank, waiting for the Holy Spirit to dictate a Divine message as to what they should do or speak.
Mysticism versus Enlightenment
The New Church man knows that there is Divine guidance, or government, in all things of life; and Swedenborg perceived in a spiritual idea that man “can never be led better than he is led; so that there are necessities every moment of his life, and that it was foreseen from eternity and provided that each and all things tend to our ultimate end, which is to be parts in the Grand Man, that is, in the Lord’s kingdom.”239
In internals the Lord operates without man’s cooperation —as is plain from the secret processes of bodily growth and digestion and from the operations of spirits and angels upon us and the subconscious effects of these in our minds. But “in externals man is led and taught by the Lord, in all appearance as if by himself.” Man is given the rational responsibility of using his best thought and effort to act as of himself, in all the circumstances of his life. If he seeks Divine guidance and Divine light, it is possible for him to find it in the Word of God, and receive it rationally as enlightenment in the understanding. Man “is led and taught immediately by the Lord alone when this is done from the Word.”240
Enthusiastic spirits operate very differently with different men. While clergymen sometimes feel the zeal of their preaching as Divine inspiration, other men often take a general emotional hysteria to be a sign of the stir of the Holy Spirit. Some again—mostly simple recluses—believe that any spirit which may address them in the course of their religious brooding, is the Lord, or the Holy Spirit. To “quietists,” like the Quakers, a bodily trembling and the fancy of an inner lumen, betokens the presence of the Holy Spirit. And this is sometimes varied, as in Buchmanism, into the belief that God indicates to them what to do.
In all these cases, the fact is that spirits operate into man and persuade him that what is human is Divine. In men who —by education—are intellectually mature, indoctrinated and self-disciplined, spirits cannot act so crudely. But if man believes it possible, spirits are given the power to infuse the feeling that what he does is from the Holy Spirit or that some perceptions of his mind are Divine. And Swedenborg records a meeting—in the other life—with some learned English priests, who held that faith alone produces good works, man being devoid of any freedom to do good, except what is meritorious.241 Faith, they held, produces works through the Holy Spirit. They believed that “when man feels that operation, and from a perception of the operation of the Holy Spirit, does good, then it is good.” But if he does not perceive it, and does good, then, they thought, it is only meritorious, because man’s will is in it.242 Such was their claim.
If this were true, the Lord could not do good through man’s cooperating will, unless man were conscious of the Holy Spirit acting through him! Nor could the Lord cause man to think what is true, except while man felt the Holy Spirit thinking in his understanding!
The error of the English priests was disturbing to Swedenborg, who again and again confutes it. He shows that there is no reception of good and truth except when man acts and thinks as of himself; yet “the good which is imparted by the Lord is wrought within him while he does not reflect from himself upon it; that is, while man remains ignorant of it.”243 This does not mean that man acts from himself or meritoriously whenever he acts from the Word. When he obeys the Lord’s commandments he does good from the Lord. And if all that proceeds from man were to be condemned as meritorious, how could the Lord have said that we would be judged according to our works?244
Through reliance on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many mystically inclined persons have claimed that their words are holy and infallible Divine truths, or that their perceptions constitute a private Divine revelation apart from the Word. The German mystic, Jacob Boehme, defined this state of an inner light which he felt in himself, as “the self-knowledge of God in man.” He called the Divine wisdom perceived in such a state, “theosophy.” It is the Divinity in man, not the mortal intellect, he taught, which is in possession of Divine knowledge.245
But man cannot rely on any inner light, cannot by any self-conscious process reach for illustration. Light from the Lord does not come by making the mind blank or by placing our God-given faculties at the disposal of nomadic spirits who are on the look-out for an empty mind. Light comes from truths —from the Divine truth revealed in the Word.
Therefore we read: “Illustration is from the Lord. Perception is with man according to the state of his mind, formed by doctrinals; if these are true, the perception becomes clear from the light which illustrates; but if they are false, the perception becomes obscure, which, however, may appear as if clear, from confirmations; but this is from the light of infatuation, which to merely natural sight is like clearness.”246
Illustration is from the Lord alone. Yet it is still effected by the mediation of spirits and angels, and by the introduction of man’s mind—although he is not sensibly aware of it—into association with such spiritual societies as arc in light.247 For spiritual light, which in its essence is the Divine wisdom, enters man’s understanding as far as, from knowledges, he has the faculty of perceiving it. It “does not pass through spaces, like the light of the world, but through the affections and perceptions of truth, thus in an instant to the last limit of the heavens. . . . “248 And we are now assured that “the time is coming when there will be enlightenment.”249
The Source of Anxiety, Worry, and Depression
Quoting from the Writings Sacred Scripture:
- AC 759. That the “rain” here is temptation is evident from what has been said and shown above, concerning a “flood” and an “inundation;” and also from the signification of the “fountains of the deep were broken up” and the “cataracts of heaven were opened” as being temptations. (AC 759)
- AC 760. That the “forty days and forty nights” signify its duration, was shown above, at verse 4. By “forty” as before said, is signified every duration of temptation, whether greater or less, and indeed severe temptation, which is of the things of the will.
- For by continual pleasures, and by the loves of self and of the world [ = the inherited character of our natural mind before it is reformed and regenerated ], consequently by the cupidities that are the connected activities of these loves, man has acquired a life for himself of such a kind that it is nothing but a life of such things. This life cannot possibly accord with heavenly life [ = the spiritual order in which our spiritual mind is through influx from the Spiritual Sun ]; for no one can love worldly [ = what is not yet regenerate, hence remains attached to our enjoyments of evil traits ] and heavenly things at the same time [ = the order of mental states in our natural mind when it is reformed and being regenerated ], seeing that to love worldly things is to look downward [ = towards the lower layer of the natural mind, which is corporeal or animal, and not rational or human ] , and to love heavenly things is to look upward [ = our study and knowledge of the correspondently sense of Sacred Scripture, i.e., theistic psychology ] .
Much less can anyone love himself and at the same time the neighbor, and still less the Lord.
- He who loves himself, hates all who do not render him service; so that the man who loves himself is very far from heavenly love and charity, which is to love the neighbor more than one’s self, and the Lord above all things. [ = for instance, to lower the volume on your radio or TV for the sake of the neighbors, and similar things that we do for the comfort of others rather than insisting on our comfort, etc. ]
- From this it is evident how far removed the life of man [ = unregenerated natural mind ] is from heavenly life [ = regenerated natural mind ] , and therefore he is regenerated by the Lord through temptations [ = once the person undergoes reformation as of self ], and is bent so as to bring him into agreement [ = when we use our knowledge of doctrine to resist spiritual temptations ].
- This is why such temptation is severe [ = experienced with strong emotional conflict, being pulled by the the love of enjoying evil traits and the love of becoming a heavenly person ], for it touches a man’s very life, assailing, destroying, and transforming it, and is therefore described by the words: “the fountains of the deep were broken up, and the cataracts of heaven were opened.” (AC 760)
- AC 761.That spiritual temptation in man [ = our conscious natural mind in daily life ] is a combat of the evil spirits with the angels who are with him [ = combats going on in our unconscious spiritual mind. The results of these unconscious combats determine by correspondence the emotional conflict we experience in our conscious natural mind ], and that this combat is commonly felt in his conscience, has been stated before, and concerning this combat it should also be known that angels continually protect man and avert the evils which evil spirits endeavor to do to him.
- They even protect what is false and evil in a man, for they know very well whence his falsities and evils come [ = those who have been regenerated and who are already present and conscious in the spiritual mind of the afterlife, can see and empirically observe how our unregenerate natural mind while we are still here on earth, is tied and influenced by those who are in the spiritual mind and in evil enjoyments ], namely, from evil spirits and genii. [ = these psychological, moral, and spiritual battles during temptations in our mind occur without us being consciously aware of the confrontations taking place in our spiritual mind ].
- Man does not produce anything false and evil from himself, but it is the evil spirits with him who produce it, and at the same time make the man believe that he does it of himself. Such is their malignity. [ = we are born with the enjoyments of evil traits that we inherit. It seems to us that those are our own traits and that we enjoy them. But they are not our own traits. We actually enjoy the traits of those with whom we are spiritually connected in our spiritual mind by mental inheritance. ]
- And what is more, at the moment when they are infusing and compelling this belief, they accuse and condemn him, as I can confirm from many experiences. [ = Swedenborg being conscious in his spiritual mind was able to observe the actions of the evil spirits who were connected to the individual by inheritance ].
- The man who has not faith in the Lord cannot be enlightened so as not to believe that he does evil of himself, and he therefore appropriates the evil to himself, and becomes like the evil spirits that are with him. Such is the case with man. As the angels know this, in the temptations of regeneration they protect also the falsities and evils of a man, for otherwise he would succumb. [ = there is a useful purpose prior to regeneration for having intermediate beliefs and doctrines, that are not yet genuine spiritual rational ].
- For there is nothing in a man [ = the inherited character of our natural mind before it is reformed and regenerated ] but evil and the falsity thence derived, so that he is a mere assemblage and compound of evils and their falsities. (AC
- AC 762. But spiritual temptations are little known at this day [ = prior to our reformation and regeneration ]. Nor are they permitted to such a degree as formerly, because man is not in the truth of faith, and would therefore succumb [ = to be in temptation without having the rational truths of doctrine to be able to resist ].
- In place of these temptations there are others, such as misfortunes, griefs, and anxieties, arising from natural and bodily causes, and also sicknesses and diseases of the body, which in a measure subdue and break up the life of a man’s pleasures and cupidities, and determine and uplift his thoughts to interior and religious subjects.
- But these are not spiritual temptations, which are experienced by those only who have received from the Lord [ = our doctrine of truth extracted from the correspondential sense of Sacred Scripture ] a conscience of truth and good. Conscience is itself the plane of temptations, wherein they operate. [ = people who do not have the opportunity or ability to study the correspondential sense of Sacred Scripture, nevertheless can accept influx into their conscience from the spiritual mind, and if they honor and obey their conscience, they are being regenerated and prepared for heavenly experiences in the afterlife of eternity ].
- Here is a passage from the Writings Sacred Scripture that discuss the role of the vertical community in experiencing anxiety:
- I have also been permitted to know the source of human anxiety, grief of mind (animus), and interior sadness, which is called melancholy. There are spirits not as yet in conjunction with hell, because they are in their first state; these will be described in the following pages where the world of spirits is dealt with. These spirits love things undigested and unprofitable, such as pertain to food becoming foul in the stomach. Consequently, they are present where such things are with man, because they find delight in them; and they talk there with one another from their own evil affection. The affection that is in their speech inflows from this source with man; and when this affection is the opposite of man’s affection it becomes in him sadness and melancholy anxiety; but when it is in agreement it becomes in him gladness and cheerfulness.
- These spirits appear near to the stomach, some to the left and some to the right of it, and some beneath and some above, also nearer and more remote, thus variously in accordance with the affections in which they are. That this is the source of anxiety of mind has been shown and proved to me by much experience. I have seen these spirits, I have heard them, I have felt the anxieties arising from them, I have talked with them; when they have been driven away the anxiety ceased; when they returned the anxiety returned; and I have noted the increase and decrease of it according to their approach and removal. From this, it has been made clear to me why some who do not know what conscience is, because they have no conscience, ascribe its pain to the stomach. (AC 299)
- Here you see Swedenborg’s empirical attitude and his attempt to use experimental manipulation as a way of confirming hypotheses. Note also that this was written some 200 years before the role of the stomach in anxiety was understood by modern medicine. Anxiety is frequently felt in the stomach due to the correspondential action between the stomach and the sensorimotor mind into which the spirits inflow who are delighted by the breakdown products in the stomach. In fact Swedenborg mapped out the relationship between every body part and the spirit societies that specialize in relating to each part of the body. The physiology and biochemistry of the physical body are so many detailed ways in which spirit societies communicate with the sensorimotor mind. The physiological operations are effects whose causes are the inflow of the various spirit societies.
- In the 1960s when I was teaching at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), one of my colleagues was the well known behaviorist Hobart Mower. He had been suffering from debilitating depression and anxiety for several years despite drug treatments. He then had an insight that reversed the Freudian idea that people feel anxiety in response to an overactive super-ego or conscience. Freud’s classic treatment consisted of trying to weaken the demands of the super-ego or of conscience to offer relief from guilt and anxiety leading to depression. But Mower discovered that the opposite was the case, namely, that instead of having an overactive conscience most people disregard their conscience in many situations and go ahead and do what they feel like at the moment. At the same time many people are oriented towards reducing guilt by weakening the power of one’s conscience. Mower started arguing that instead what we need to do is to strengthen our conscience so that we keep ourselves from violating its injunctions. He developed a new form of group therapy called “integrity groups” which I attended for two years. It is there that I learned that if I strengthen the voice of my conscience I can keep myself from acting against my principles and thus not run into guilt, anxiety, shame, or depression. I was greatly relieved.
- Here is a further description about the function of anxiety:
- With every man there are two spirits from hell, and two angels from heaven; for man being born in sins cannot possibly live unless on one side he communicates with hell, and on the other with heaven; all his life is thence. When man is grown up and begins to rule himself from himself, that is, when he seems to himself to will and to act from his own judgment, and to think and to conclude concerning the things of faith from his own understanding, if he then betakes himself to evils, the two spirits from hell draw near, and the two angels from heaven withdraw a little; but if he betakes himself to good, the two angels from heaven draw near, and the two spirits from hell are removed.
-  If therefore when a man betakes himself to evils, as is the case with many in youth, he feels any anxiety when he reflects upon his having done what is evil, it is a sign that he will still receive influx through the angels from heaven, and it is also a sign that he will afterward suffer himself to be reformed; but if when he reflects upon his having done what is evil, he has no anxious feeling, it is a sign that he is no longer willing to receive influx through the angels from heaven, and it is also a sign that he will not afterward suffer himself to be reformed. (AC 5470)
- You can see that anxiety is produced by conscience for the purpose of maintaining us in freedom of choice and reminding us of spiritual responsibility. We have the power to disregard or inhibit this built in effect. However it is clear that we will suffer negative consequences when we weaken the motivational force of conscience. If we kill or weaken our anxiety Freudian style, we lose the ability to benefit from positive spiritual influences and we fall into mental states that are negative, injurious, and self-defeating.
- Here is a similar paragraph discussing the source of anxiety:
- Since worrying about the future produces feelings of anxiety in a person, and since such spirits appear in the region of the stomach, feelings of anxiety therefore have a greater effect on the stomach than on all other internal organs. I have also been allowed to recognize how those anxious feelings have increased or diminished as those spirits have become present or been removed. I have noticed that some anxious feelings exist more internally, others more externally, some higher up, others lower down, depending on the differences in origin, derivation, and direction taken by such kinds of worry. Here also lies the reason why, when such feelings of anxiety take hold of the mind, the area around the stomach is tense and sometimes pain is felt there, and also why feelings of anxiety seem to surge up from there. The same also explains why, when a person ceases to worry about the future or when everything is turning out right for him so that he no longer fears any misfortune, the area around the stomach is free and relaxed, and he has the feeling of delight. (AC 5178)
- Anxiety is therefore “a natural effect in the body from a spiritual cause in the mind” (AC 7217). Anxiety is the resultant effect when an individual is deprived of spiritual heat (love) and spiritual light (truth). Such deprivation is self-initiated by ignoring conscience or principles of right living. When we obey conscience and our principles of doctrine for life we gain a new freedom and a new power which we have by virtue of the influx of good (spiritual heat) and truth (spiritual light) from the Spiritual Sun.
- Anxiety is a built in spiritual operation in our natural mind. There are hierarchies of anxiety caused by falsifying truths that flow in from the spiritual mind. All falsification or distortion of truth has consequences for the mind’s health and functioning. In non-theistic psychology we do not discuss “truth” in this way. Instead there is a tendency to avoid the concept of ‘absolute truth’ in favor of ‘relative truth.’ People associate the idea of absolute truth with dogma, not science. non-theistic science hates the idea of absolute truth while theistic science considers all Divine scientific revelations as absolute truth. The expression “absolute truth” is often invoked within the context of religious fundamentalism. Dogma however is not absolute truth because it comes not from sacred scripture but the incomplete wisdom and rationality of human beings who formulate dogma from sacred scripture. The dogma and the sacred scripture are as different as the number 1 is far apart from infinity.
- Because of dogma the concept of absolute truth has a bad reputation, but what people mean to reject is not absolute truth revealed by God but dogma invented by human beings misguided by their religious fervor. The fact is that everything God communicates to the human race in terms of revelation is absolute truth since it is Divine and God is absolutely perfect and infinite — omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, as defined by most dictionaries.
- Here is further evidence Swedenborg presents about types of anxiety:
- I have also noticed another kind of influx which does not take place through the spirits present with a person but through others who are sent out from some community in hell to the sphere emanating from that person’s life. They talk among themselves about the kinds of things that are unacceptable to the person, which results generally in a flowing into him of what is in many different ways troublesome, unpleasant, dejecting, and worrying. Such spirits have often been present with me, when I have experienced in the province of my stomach those who poured in feelings of anxiety – not that I knew where the feelings came from. Yet on every occasion I found out who they were, and then I heard them talking to one another about the kinds of things that were unacceptable to my affections. Avaricious spirits in the same region have sometimes been visible, though in a slightly higher position; they have poured in the kind of anxiety that results from concern for the future. I have also been allowed to rebuke those spirits and to tell them that they correlate with undigested food in the stomach which produces bad breath and so is nauseating. I have also seen them being driven away; and once they were driven away, anxiety completely disappeared. I have had this experience a number of times so that I could be quite certain that those spirits were the source of the trouble.
-  This is the kind of influx that takes place among those who for no good reason are anxious and depressed, and also among those who are undergoing spiritual temptation. During temptation however there is not only a general influx of such spirits but also a particular stirring up by spirits from hell of the evils the person has put into practice. ‘Those spirits also pervert and put a wrong interpretation on the forms of good that the angels use to fight with in temptation. A state such as this is what the person who is being regenerated enters by being let down into what is wholly his own. And this happens when he immerses himself too much in worldly and bodily interests and needs to be raised towards spiritual ones. (AC 6202)
- In otter words when spirits are in a situation to inflow into our spiritual body they do so and the resultant effect is felt as negative emotions. Note also that spirits who communicate with our spiritual body are able to perceive the content of our memories and affective inclinations. This is a common way spirits interact with each other. Swedenborg’s dual consciousness put him in the position of observing two interconnected events simultaneously, one spiritual and the other natural. The spiritual event was observing the spirits approaching his spiritual body and hearing what they were talking about. The natural event was the reaction he felt in his physical body, in this case the stomach. In this way he proved the effect of the spiritual mind over the physical body, an effect produced by correspondence. Furthermore, when they withdrew, the sensation of nausea from the stomach ceased instantly, but when they approached again, the sensation was back.
- From the next paragraph we can see that anxiety and worry are resultant emotions when the mind is “deprived of the affection of good and the thought of truth”: The more internal the love and truth, that is the more spiritual-rational they are, the greater the fear, anxiety, and worry at the thought of losing them:
- Those who cannot be reformed do not at all know what it is to grieve on account of being deprived of truths; for they suppose that no one can feel in the least anxious about such a thing. The only anxiety they believe to be possible is on account of being deprived of the goods of the body and the world; such as health, honors, reputation, wealth, and life. But they who can be reformed believe altogether differently: these are kept by the Divine-Human in the affection of good and in the thought of truth; and therefore they come into anxiety when deprived of this thought and affection.
-  It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love. They who are affected only with corporeal and worldly things, or who love such things only, grieve when they are deprived of them; but they who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them. Everyone’s life is nothing but affection or love. Hence it is evident what is the state of those who are desolated as to the goods and truths with which they are affected, or which they love, namely, that their state of grief is more severe, because more internal; and in the deprivation of good and truth they do not regard the death of the body, for which they do not care, but eternal death. (AC 2689)
A Sermon by the Rev. Erik J. Buss
What is anxiety? Many of us feel anxious about our jobs, or our marriages, or our friendships, or our children, quite regularly. We have all probably felt that tightening of our stomach that comes with feelings of anxiety. Maybe we can’t fall asleep at night, because we just can’t stop worrying about our latest problem. Yet how many of us could give a good definition of anxiety, one that would tell us where the true causes of it lie? When is anxiety good, spurring us to act, and when is it destructive, paralyzing us with doubt? Here are some of the teachings of the New Church on the subject.
First, we need to ask ourselves what exactly anxiety is. We often say “I’m a bit tense today” or speak of feeling anxious about something. But aren’t we normally describing the symptoms? We say we are anxious or tense when we feel tension in our shoulders or stomach, or when we get a certain kind of headache, or when we get irritable for no reason, or when we feel unaccountably tired. Even Webster’s Dictionary defines anxiety as a “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind, usually over an impending or anticipated ill.” It goes on to describe how it can show itself as sweating, tension, increased pulse. This definition is describing symptoms.
The definition that Swedenborg’s Writings give goes to the root of the problem of anxiety. This definition is that anxiety arises “from being deprived of what … which we love. Those who are affected only with bodily and worldly pleasures, or who love only such concerns, grieve when they are deprived of them; but those who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them” (AC 2689:2). Isn’t that so simple and clear, encompassing all kinds of anxiety? If we feel anxious about getting up in front of a crowd or talking to a stranger, isn’t it from fear of losing that person’s good opinion of us by coming across as stupid or wrong? When we feel anxious about whether we are good enough to get to heaven, aren’t we fearing that we will lose the good in heaven which we love? When we feel anxious about making a long-term commitment in a relationship, don’t we fear losing our self-respect if that person dumps us because we opened up to them and they rejected what they saw, or if we make a big mistake and blow it ourselves?
The teachings for the New Church tell us even more about the source of anxiety. Anxiety is caused by the presence of spirits with us. The spiritual world is very real, and influences us all the time. Some spirits delight in stirring up our minds and making us feel anxious. Why is this significant to us? Well, isn’t it easier to fight someone else than to fight against ourselves? When we see anxiety as coming from a source outside of ourselves, we don’t have to chastise ourselves for feeling anxious, afraid or depressed. We can chastise the spirits with us. And instead of asking the Lord to, as it were, carve out the evil part of us, we can ask Him to cut off the influence of these spirits. In other words, by recognizing that anxiety comes from spirits with us, we objectify our problem and make it easier to deal with.
We can be helped by recognizing that anxiety is a fear of losing something we love, and comes from spirits with us. However, we need to distinguish what kind of anxiety it is. Some kinds of anxiety are useful for us to feel, and some are destructive. For instance, the Swedenborg says that we always feel anxiety when we are tempted. When we are tempted some good love we have is threatened and we come to doubt that it can survive this onslaught of evil it is facing. A person can have his commitment to a spouse tempted by a strong desire to commit adultery. This desire threatens the marriage, and because the person loves the marriage he feels anxiety about the conflict. If he didn’t love marriage, the thought of cheating would cause no anxiety and there would be no temptation. He wouldn’t even stop to think about not doing it.
Another reason the Lord allows us to feel anxiety for a good reason is to spur us to action. For instance, if we have done something wrong, the pangs of conscience we feel immediately afterward cause anxiety. That is good, because the feeling makes us resolved not to do it again. The Lord also allows us to feel anxiety when we learn a new truth and realize that it is telling us we need to change our lives. In this instance we are probably feeling anxiety at having to give up an evil way of living that we don’t want to. For example, a businessperson who realizes that not telling the whole truth about his product is actually lying and stealing might feel anxiety that he will lose business or his position in his company if he changes to a more honest approach and doesn’t make as many sales.
Anxiety does not have to focus on a loss we personally will feel. A person can feel anxiety at being unable to help other people she loves.
For instance, parents often have to let children make choices that they know are damaging to them. They won’t stop the child because they respect the child’s right to make choices. Parents can feel lots of anxiety and fear for the child because they know he is damaging good loves from the Lord. Worry for others probably feels worse than any other kind of anxiety because there is nothing we can do to make the problem go away. All we can do is trust that the Lord is taking care of that person as well as anyone possibly could.
Misfortune and grief we experience also can make us feel anxiety. This is good because it can cause us to elevate our thoughts to spiritual issues. It gives us a chance to think about the Lord’s governance of the world and our own lives. For instance, the pain and suffering of many in the world has caused anxiety for many. It has led them to wonder why God allows these events, and what it says about the nature of God, of His respect for our free will, of the nature of evil, and how we respond to it. Because a value is threatened – in this instance our love for peace, we can feel anxiety even though nothing threatens us directly.
These kinds of anxiety are good because they all arise from a good love. They are a sign that we are spiritually healthy. If we didn’t have good loves, we wouldn’t feel these kinds of anxiety. The challenge we face is that a good feeling can turn into something destructive if we focus too much on it. One of the leading causes of destructive anxiety comes from focusing too much on something that once was positive. For instance, the anxiety we feel in temptation, which makes us feel that we will never get to heaven, is good because it makes us realize how much we need the Lord’s help. However, when we dwell on it and lament about our evil and wonder whether it is worth the effort to try being good since we are on our way to hell anyway, then the anxiety becomes destructive. Similarly, a parent can feel a healthy worry for a child who is choosing a harmful path, but when they can’t stop thinking about it, can’t sleep because of it, and decide they are a worthless parent, that anxiety becomes destructive. Anxiety is like an adrenaline rush. It can be useful to push us through a hard time because it gives us that extra bit of energy we need. However, just as adrenaline is harmful to the body when it stays for too long, so anxiety becomes destructive when we dwell on it.
Another major cause of anxiety that is destructive is fear of losing something in the future that is not essential to our long-term happiness. It is so easy to get caught up in our worldly possessions that we lose track of their importance. Money can easily become the foremost issue in our lives, even when we have enough and to spare. The Lord teaches that good people are not anxious, and that they define care for the morrow, or unnecessary anxiety as “suffering about losing or not receiving things that are not necessary to life’s useful employments” (HH 278:2). In other words, they worry about money only when it impacts on their ability to be useful people.
I should mention one other cause for anxiety that the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church give. That is mental disorder of some sort. If our minds are disturbed, we are wide open to the influence of our destructive tendencies, to hell within ourselves. We can find ourselves anxious over every little problem without any cause. Although everyone needs the Lord’s help in their lives, these people need to get their bodies and minds fixed before the Lord can work with their spirits. This is an important factor to be aware of.
Isn’t it interesting that the Lord gives us many good reasons why we might feel anxious, but only a few that are destructive? Maybe this fact can lead us to look at anxiety in a different light. Maybe we can see that much of the time we feel it, it is productive, some sadness the Lord is allowing us to feel now so we can feel greater happiness later. As with anything good the Lord gives us, the hells affecting us will try to turn it into something destructive. But in itself, anxiety is a useful tool.
With this idea in mind, we can approach anxiety with a far more calm attitude. We can ask ourselves, “Is this anxiety now serving any useful purpose? Am I motivated to do what is useful? Am I acting in a loving way because of it?” If yes, we can say a quiet thank you to the Lord for it. If not, we can reject it as an influence of hell, something we want to have nothing to do with. Either way, we are in control of our anxiety, instead of having it control us.
One final teaching about anxiety offers us a hope for what our lives can become like. It is that anxiety becomes less and less an issue in our lives as we progress spiritually. Most of us are probably at the point where the Lord’s words about worrying apply to us: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” As we become more advanced, we become more content in the Lord and become more willing to accept the Lord’s guidance in our lives. Listen to the description of how angelic people think about the events that occur in their lives: “Very different is the case with those who trust in the Divine. These people, despite the fact that they are concerned about future events, still are not, because they do not think of the morrow with worry, still less with anxiety. Their spirit is unruffled whether they obtain the objects of their desire, or not; and they do not grieve over the loss of them, being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts on riches; if they are raised to honors, they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others; if they become poor, they are not made sad; if their circumstances are meager, they are not dejected. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time still leads towards it.” (AC 8478:3). We can all eventually come to feel this in our hearts. For now, we can be content that the Lord is slowly guiding us to that time when anxiety will no longer be an issue in our lives. We can use the anxiety we feel to become happier, more productive people.
Lessons: Matt 6:25-34, AC 2689:2, AC 8478:3
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
8 Influx and Cupidity
“So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Matthew 8:31
The Awakening of Hereditary Evils
It is a general doctrine that the life of man’s understanding and thought is constantly stimulated and enriched from the sensations of his body, or from without, while the life of the will, or that of his emotions, seems to well up from the depths of his being, or from within. In other words, truth comes from without, good comes from within. That which affects his understanding can be traced to other men and to various other agencies and sources; while that which is of his will seems to originate in himself.
Yet the doctrine shows that even the life of man’s emotions or affections comes to him through media, namely, through the spiritual world and its many societies. The influx of life from the Lord is both immediate, into man’s soul and essential human faculties, and mediate. And the mediate influx from the Lord is through heaven. The Lord rules men mediately through angelic societies which are in subordination and mutual dependence. He rules also by lower types of spirits, good and evil, who are present in endless chains connected with all the particulars of man’s memory, on which his conscious life is founded.
The infinite operation, or the ordering influx of the Lord, is not made any the less infinite or less Divine, although it works through these finite mediations. Yet there are also things which come to man from the media themselves, that is, from angels and spirits: and it is true of this influx that it takes color and character from the qualities of the life of those angels and spirits. The life which the evil spirits voluntarily transmit is evil and is felt by man as perverse and harmful cupidities. It is even true that “the things that come from the angels themselves” and “accommodate themselves to the affection of man,” “are not in themselves goods, yet still serve for introducing the goods and truths which are from the Lord.”199
“There is no good without influx through societies.”200 Nor is there any evil which does not have extension into infernal societies according to the quality and extent of their evil. All man’s affections arise from the influx of spirits. It is therefore stated that evil spirits induce in man cupidities, but no persuasions; and that they operate into man through his affections, and that they excite his evils.201 But it is specified that spirits are not allowed to operate into those evils which are hereditary—as long as such evils are merely latent, as in infancy. Evil spirits do not venture to introduce any evil so long as the apparent goods of ignorance hold sway. Evil spirits are then held in subjection, and merely serve. But the case is quite different when man has procured evil to himself by sinful acts, and has acquired a sphere of cupidities and falsities. Then the evil spirits as it were rebel, and stir up his evils, and seek to dominate. This is represented by the rebellion of Sodom against Chedorlaomer.202
If evil spirits could operate directly into the hereditary tendencies to evil before these come to man’s consciousness, there could be no salvation for man. For they would then excite his whole native will, and set loose such an influx of cupidity that man would perish as with a flood. This actually took place with the antediluvian race—the decadent offspring of the celestial church—which lived at the time of Noah. Their whole mental life became inundated with passions which turned their unresisting thought into terrible fantasies.
But the Lord, whenever possible, acted to save the human race by separating man’s understanding from the primal emotions and thus preventing the evil will from swamping man’s conscious life. This He did by confining to hell all those evil genii in the spiritual world who operated into man’s hereditary will; and by placing man’s conscious development in the realm of his understanding. He thus absolved men from responsibility for their inherited evil will. He permitted no spirits to dominate any man unless that man had invited them through actual evils and thereby had taken over conscious responsibility for their presence.
What is this ‘actual evil,’ into which spirits are permitted to inflow? It is evil which is recognized as such by the understanding, and yet condoned, excused and defended. If a man sees an evil as evil, and yet approves it by the understanding, he confirms it and appropriates it to himself, and becomes responsible for it.203
It becomes clear, therefore, that the evil will is not suddenly loosed in man. In childhood, when angels and good spirits rule, man’s first life, with its slumbering cupidities and unanalyzed delights, is however nursed by an influx from evil spirits; and this in order that he may be sustained and not perish.144 At first this is wholly unrecognized by the child and man. Evil is hidden or only latent, because the evil spirits serve and do not rule.204 But as the child emerges from the state of innocence and becomes selfconscious, affections of evil from the will gradually extend themselves into the understanding, and there they appear before man’s judgment, one by one, as his understanding grows: at first external evils, many of them from maternal inheritance; and later more interior evils, derived from the father. If man then should turn away from these evil affections as they seek to clothe themselves with knowledges and persuasive reasonings and symbolic forms in his imagination, evil spirits would have to stop infesting him—although still remaining to serve in various ways.205
In this connection we may understand the statement that in the temptations of a man of the spiritual church “evil spirits are associated who excite nothing but his scientifics and rational things,” while “spirits who excite cupidities are entirely warded off from man.”206 For the evils or cupidities of the native will are not excited, except so far as these are confirmed in the understanding, or have taken on the form of perverted knowledge, sordid imaginations, and false principles.
It is the man himself who thus confirms by thought the cupidity or evil which the spirits infuse, or else refuses to think from that evil and instead decides to think from the purer motives that emanate from good spirits.
Imputation and Control of Cupidities
Hereditary evils which have not been made actual are not imputed as guilt in a man. Neither is a man blamed for evils which spirits infuse without his knowledge—evils which man has not recognized as evils, nor confirmed by his understanding. Such evils or cupidities are only of the will, and not of the understanding.207 Gentiles and children are not rightly held responsible for all their behavior—on the principle, “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin.” This does not mean that such evils do not carry their weight of consequences, but that these miserable consequences are external rather than internal. With those who are in periodic self-examination and are in repentance in the matter of certain sins which they have found in themselves, the law of eternal imputation therefore contains the saving clause, that “if they sin from ignorance, or from some very powerful lust, it is not imputed to them, because they did not propose it to themselves, nor do they (afterwards) confirm it in themselves” by self-justifications.208
Certain acts of sudden passion may thus be caused by an influx of cupidity from spirits in the other life, before a man finds time to consider rationally how insane they are. Even in courts of law, such lack of premeditation is considered a mitigating circumstance, although the crime still remains. If such crimes were not punished at all, society would dissolve. If we were simply to condone our own momentary lapses, we would soon be a prey to evil spirits, a tool in their hands. For we would then relax the effort to use our God-given faculty of reason for disciplining our will: and we would revert to the level of beasts, and go back to the state of the antediluvians, whose own will was their only law. And all hell would rejoice.
Still it is told that good spirits, when angry, have been known to burst forth into effusions which one would expect only from the worst. The cause of their anger—Swedenborg observed—was that they were not admitted to do good.209 An upright man, when angry, is acting from the external man, from the proprium. Yet interiorly he feels that his good intention is foiled, or that a good love is assaulted. His anger, inwardly viewed, is only a zeal to remove obstacles; and to do this by the brute force of his natural affections, without consulting the understanding, is often fatal. With the good, this impure zeal does not last for long. It fights, perhaps, only to “remove those who are in what is false and evil lest they should injure those who are in what is good and true.” A good soldier exercises mercy after the battle is over. But a wicked man continues to persecute his foe from hatred and revenge, and wills evil to all with whom he fights; and his anger persists and accumulates within and is not extinguished.210
It was intimated above that no spirit is allowed to teach or lead man “except from cupidity.”211 Spirits do not infuse new thoughts, whether false or true, into any man. But it is also true, that “the life of cupidities tends to induce persuasion” ; although man must lend his consent to this.212 When a man has confirmed some lust, spirits can inflame him to a high pitch of rage from which his imagination is filled with fantasies of revenge and murder—insane persuasions about how ill-treated or persecuted he is, thoughts of self-importance and of envy which distort the perspective of his whole mind. Evil spirits are then in their delight, for such thoughts exalt their own fantasies with a sense of power and fulfilment. They cause the man to take delight in these thoughts, and—unknown to both—the spirits then rule the man, and hold him so bound that only the Lord can disentangle him.213
The more a man confirms an evil and takes delight in it and persuades himself that it is allowable,214 the more intimate becomes his conjunction with the society in hell which is in that special evil and in its many fantasies and falsities. Indeed, he is preparing himself for that society in which he will be a slave after death. A succession of emissaries from that infernal society are always with him—spirits who for a time are lifted out of that hell into the world of spirits to rule him. Or else he is attended by unjudged spirits who are like him.215
Yet the whole leading of the Divine Providence seeks to prevent a man from confirming his favorite vices except so far as he insists. The pressures of daily necessity, the rush of natural routine, the fact of man’s limitations and lack of opportunity to enter very deeply into his particular evils, are all means that tend to mitigate his state, and preserve him from rushing headlong into his hell. By his everyday life, his work and his social contacts, he is kept in a state of freedom—a state in which other spirits can operate upon him. Even if he lacks an interior plane of conscience through which angels can be near him, still good spirits can associate themselves with him externally whenever he is not in open evils.216 For even a wicked man may have a hereditary good nature and possess many lovable traits and apparent goods; and he may have many truths in his understanding. Heaven can inflow through spirits into his externals, into his regard for others and into his fear of the law, even though this proceeds from a dread of losing reputation or life. Thus they hold him in an external honorable conduct as far as they can. “This is the plane into which heaven inflows at this day”; but this plane is not retained in the other life.217
The Lord thus rules the thoughts and speech of man through good spirits, who hold him as it were bound while he is engaged in thinking about his uses. And in this state the evil spirits with the man are also held in servitude. It is related of a preacher who lived a bad life, that while he was preaching and commending the life of good, the angels excited the evil spirits present to think and speak in a similar vein. But when the preacher returned to the state of his interiors, and his ordinary life, the evil spirits immediately began to control him.218
By a life of use to society, even an evil man is therefore a partaker in the benefits of heaven in that he is temporarily removed from the control of evil spirits, and can therefore be in external order. Indeed, all men come by uses into the stream of Providence. Swedenborg cites the Swedish proverb, “Idleness is the devil’s pillow,” as an indication that when we are no longer in the sphere of the love of uses we become the prey of disorderly spirits who roam through all sorts of by-places in the world of spirits seeking rest.219
It is remarkable that the Writings refer to the corrupt states of the Christian world, yet refer to each of the nations as noble, e.g., “the noble French nation,” “the noble German nation.” This is because a nation is an organization of uses, uses so ordered that heaven can be present in them. A country is therefore a higher form of the neighbor, inferior only to the church. When we depart from the spirit of cooperating in the uses of state, society, or church; or when, in the execution of our duties, we withdraw into ourselves and turn away from the common illustration of others who are in the same use, the protection of ultimate order is no longer over us. We become like a house, empty, swept, and garnished— inviting the influx of strange spirits.220 We become unable to see things in their true proportions or to see the true relative significance of things. Our mind comes into various moods, solicitudes, and fancies; comes to brood over imagined slights, to worry about unimportant details or obstacles, or feel frustrated because of certain conditions which are quite outside of our power or office to alter; to become despondent about the state of the people about us; in short, to come either into melancholy, pessimism, or sadness, or else into some fanatical zeal or into religious scruples. And in some cases, where bodily conditions and temperamental tendencies concur, this may even develop into delirium, self-delusions, and insanities. Indeed, bodily diseases which intercept the life of use, may themselves be sufficient to invite such states.
The Causes of Morbid Moods
Swedenborg had experience with a great many of the different groups of spirits who caused these moods to which we are all so liable. Most of these spirits operate by holding man in reflection upon a certain object of thought, until the idea becomes almost an obsession, a “fixed idea” against which no argument or conscious effort avails. Thus Swedenborg found that as often as he was anxious about his garden and its care, about the probable reception of his Writings, or about money-matters and other like things, spirits would immediately throw in inconvenient, troublesome and evil suggestions, with confirmations and cupidities. He thus learnt that the longer a man is held in such thoughts, the more difficult do spirits make it for man to free himself of them.221
In the same way, when anyone comes to brood overly much upon spiritual or abstract things without finding relief in varieties and social contacts; or when his thought dwells on the fear of hell-fire or ruminates some misfortune; the spirits with him stir up his proprium and draw out from his memory many related things which thus continually haunt him so that the subject becomes—sometimes—a form of monomania.222 Those who live a solitary life are especially prone to melancholy and delirium. But there is particular danger when a solicitude of self-love, or a love of gain, prompts a man to be anxious about the future.
Modern psychiatrists indeed recognize the setting of these symptoms. They particularly mention the existence—deeply hidden among the forgotten things of the memory—of thwarted longings, repressed desires, and fears of various sort, forming “complexes” of subconscious ideas or states which have their disguised emissaries in the conscious thought. Mental patients sometimes have unreasonable antipathies or inhibitions, or fears of some ordinary object, such as a chair or a street or a certain room or a person, or a dread of heights or of crowds. Others have an inordinate and irrational delight in some color or some thing—which may recur in their dreams or their day-dreams.
But New Church psychologists know in addition that such phobias and fixations are organized by the influx of spirits and must therefore correspond to the lusts of a group of spirits in the other world. And just as each society sends out emissary spirits or employs some one spirit as a subject-spirit through which they can act with man, so these hidden knots of passion which are called “complexes” have symbolic representatives in the conscious mind—objects of thyught, which the spirits love to arouse. When man’s attention is held fixed on these objects, which are usually harmless in themselves, he comes into a certain mood because an influx from these spirits then takes place. These things occur with perfectly normal people. A man may be unable to account for his anxiety, his unreasonable fear or melancholy, or for his excitement and enthusiasm. His friends may wonder at his depression or elation—wonder why he is getting so excited or irritated over some triviality. Often he could not possibly explain. He does not know. But the spirits with him, they know; although they are not aware that they are with the man.
All human minds are subject to some of these irrational moods. Ordinarily their coming and passing is quite normal —part of the life of the mind. But—we read in the Diary— “some persons are led by spirits to such an extent that they cannot return into truths. Their fantasies have become so deeply rooted that whenever they fall into those thoughts, they are so altogether immersed in them, that they cannot be dislodged even through varieties. They remain persuaded that the matter is such or that the persons are such.” When these obsessions appear before the world, they are called monomania; for on all other subjects the man is sane.223
It is obvious that if evil held sway in man’s mind, his reason would soon totter. Passions such as envy distort man’s thought about others. Hatred or revenge fill his imagination with fantasies. The fear that springs from a sensitive self-love gives birth to hideous suspicions, utterly unfounded. And in the other world the lust for gain and wealth turns evil spirits periodically into gloating idiots. Indeed, hell is insane from no other source. And the Scribe of the Second Advent consequently writes :
“Therefore the Lord alone makes provision that man may not come into such insanities, and thence into innumerable fantasies : in order to prevent this, He commands that we shall have no care for the morrow; for this is what is meant by having solicitude for the morrow. Those, therefore, who are in such conceits, and strongly incline to them, can by no means be drawn out of them, except by faith in the Lord. Those who are in faith are liberated by the Lord, however infested by spirits, and this by innumerable methods, both external and internal.”224
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE
The truth of the matter is this. From the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world there is a general influx and also a particular influx–a general influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those things which are not in order. Animals of every kind are in the order of their nature, and therefore into them there is general influx. That they are in the order of their nature is evident from the fact that they are born into all their faculties, and have no need to be introduced into them by any information. But men are not in their order, nor in any law of order, and therefore they receive particular influx; that is, there are with them angels and spirits through whom the influx comes. And unless these were with men, they would rush into every wickedness and would plunge in a moment into the deepest hell. Through these spirits and angels man is kept under the auspices and guidance of the Lord. The order into which man was created would be that he should love the neighbor as himself, and even more than himself. Thus do the angels. But man loves only himself and the world, and hates the neighbor, except in so far as he favors his commanding and possessing the world. Therefore as the life of man is altogether contrary to heavenly order, he is ruled by the Lord through separate spirits and angels. [AC 5850]
The same spirits do not remain constantly with a man, but are changed according to the man’s states, that is, the states of his affection, or of his loves and ends, the former being removed and others succeeding. In general there are with man spirits of such a quality as is the man himself. If he is avaricious, there are spirits who are avaricious; if he is haughty, there are haughty spirits; if he is desirous of revenge, there are spirits of this character; if he is deceitful, there are the like spirits. Man summons to himself spirits from hell in accordance with his life. The hells are most exactly distinguished according to evils of cupidities, and according to all the differences of evil. Thus there is never any lack of spirits like himself to be called out and adjoined to a man who is in evil. [AC 5851]
But influx is of such a nature that there is an influx from the Divine of the Lord into every angel, into every spirit, and into every man, and that in this way the Lord rules everyone, not only in the universal, but also in the veriest singulars, and this immediately from Himself, and also mediately through the spiritual world. In order to make known the existence of this influx, much has already been said about the correspondence of man’s parts with the Grand Man, that is, with heaven; and at the same time about the representation of spiritual things in natural; at the close of chapters 23 to 43, and afterward about the angels and spirits with man, at the close of chapters 44 and 45; and this is now to be followed with a specific exposition of the subject of influx and the intercourse of the soul and the body. But this subject must be illustrated by experiences, for otherwise things so much unknown and rendered so obscure by hypotheses cannot be brought forth into the light. The illustrative experiences shall be presented at the close of some of the following chapters. Let what has been said thus far, serve as an introduction. [AC 6058]
As the subject here treated of is Influx, and this is mentioned so frequently, it is necessary to say in advance what influx is. What is meant by spiritual influx cannot be better seen than by means of the natural influxes which take place and appear in this world – as by the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, with all variety in accordance with the seasons of the year and the climates of the earth; and by the influx of light into the same, with all variety likewise in accordance with the times of the days and also of the years, also in a varied manner according to the climates. From the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, whence comes vegetative life; and from the influx of light into the same, whence comes support to that life, and also colors and displays of beauties; in like manner from the influx of the same heat into the surface of our bodies, and also of light into the eye; likewise from the influx of sound into the ear; and from other instances of a similar kind, it may be comprehended what is the influx of life from the Lord, who is the Sun of heaven, from whom come heavenly heat, which is the good of love, and heavenly light, which is the truth of faith. The influx of these is also plainly felt, for heavenly heat which is love produces the vital heat which is in man, and heavenly light which is faith produces his understanding, because the truth of faith which proceeds from the Lord enlightens his intellectual; but in both cases with much variety, for it is according to the reception on the part of man. [AC 6190]
That man is governed by the Lord by means of angels and spirits, has been given me to know by experience so manifest as not to leave even the smallest doubt concerning it; for now through a course of many years all my thoughts and all my affections, even to the most minute of all, have flowed in by means of spirits and angels. This it has been given me to perceive so plainly that nothing could be more plain; for I have perceived, I have seen, and I have heard, who they were, what was their quality, and where they were. And when anything adverse fell into my thought or will, I have spoken with them and chided them. And I have also observed that the power they had of infusing such things was restrained by the angels; and also in what manner; and likewise often that they were driven away, and that then new spirits were present in their place, from whom again there was influx. It has also been given me to perceive whence those spirits came, or of what societies they were the subjects; and an opportunity of speaking with those societies themselves has likewise frequently been granted. And notwithstanding that everything, even to the most minute, of the thoughts and affections, flowed in through the spirits and angels, still I thought as before, and willed as before, and conversed with men as before, no difference from my former life being observed by anyone I am aware that scarcely anyone will believe that such is the fact, but still it is an eternal verity. [AC 6191]
It has been shown me to the life in what manner spirits flow in with man. When they come to him, they put on all things of his memory, thus all things which the man has learned and imbibed from infancy, and the spirits suppose these things to be their own. Thus they act as it were the part of the man in the man. But they are not allowed to enter further with a man than to his interiors which are of the thought and will, and not to the exteriors which are of the actions and speech; for these latter come into act by means of a general influx from the Lord without the mediation of particular spirits and angels. But although the spirits act the part of the man with a man in respect to those things which are of his thought and will, they nevertheless do not know that they are with a man, for the reason that they possess all things of his memory, and believe that these are not another’s, but their own; and this for the reason also that they may not injure the man. For unless the spirits from hell who are with a man believed these things to be their own, they would attempt in every way to destroy the man both body and soul, because this is the infernal delight itself. [AC 6192]
How the case is with the influx of each life, namely, of the life of the thought and the life of the will from the Lord, has been given to know by revelation; namely, that the Lord inflows in two ways: through heaven mediately, and from Himself immediately; and that from Himself He flows both into man’s rational things, which are his interior things, and into his natural things, which are his exterior ones. That which flows in from the Lord is the good of love and the truth of faith, for that which proceeds from the Lord is the Divine truth in which is the Divine good; but these are variously received with man, namely, in accordance with his quality.
 The Lord does not compel man to receive what flows in from Himself; but leads in freedom, and so far as man allows, through freedom leads to good. Thus the Lord leads man according to his delights, and also according to fallacies and the principles received therefrom; but gradually He leads him out from these; and this appears to the man as if it were from himself. Thus the Lord does not break these things, for this would be to do violence to freedom, which however must needs exist, in order that the man may be reformed (n. 1937, 1947, 2875, 2876, 2881, 3145, 3146, 3158, 4031). That the Lord flows in with man in this manner, namely, not only mediately through heaven, but also immediately from Himself, both into the interior and the exterior things in the man, is a secret hitherto unknown. [AC 6472]
That the Lord rules the last things of man equally as his first, can be seen from the fact that the order from the Lord is successive from first things to last, and in the order itself there is nothing but what is Divine; and this being so, the presence of the Lord must needs be in the last things equally as in the first, for the one follows from the other according to the tenor of order. [AC 6473].
Whenever I have been reading the Lord’s prayer, I have plainly perceived an elevation toward the Lord which was like an attraction, and at the same time my ideas were open, and from this there was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I noticed that there was an influx from the Lord into every detail of the prayer, thus into every idea of my thought that was from the meaning of the things in the prayer. The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, that is, not the same at one time as another; hence also it was made evident how infinite are the things contained in the prayer, and that the Lord is present in everyone of them. [AC 6476]
For many years I have observed the general sphere of the influxes around me. It consisted on the one hand of a perpetual endeavor by the hells to do evil, and on the other of a continual endeavor by the Lord to do good; by these endeavors opposite to each other I have been constantly kept in equilibrium. Such endeavors and consequent equilibrium are with everyone; from this all have freedom to turn whithersoever they please; but the equilibrium varies in accordance with the good or evil that reigns with the man. From this also it could be seen that the Lord flows in universally, and therefore also singularly. And I have been informed that the opposite endeavor, which is from hell, is nothing but the perversion into evil of the good that proceeds from the Lord. [AC 6477]
When an angel does good to anyone, he also communicates to him his own good, good fortune, and bliss, and this with the desire to give the other everything, and to retain nothing. When he is in such communication, then good flows in unto him together with good fortune and bliss much more than be gives, and this with continual increase. But as soon as the thought occurs that he desires to communicate what he has for the sake of obtaining in himself this influx of good fortune and bliss, the influx is dissipated; and still more so if any thought comes in of recompense from him to whom he communicates his good. This it has been given me to know from much experience; and from this also it may be seen that the Lord is in every single thing, for the Lord is such that He wills to give Himself to all, and hence good fortune and bliss are increased with those who are images and likenesses of Him. [AC 6478]
Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)
|Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.|
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
7 Influx and Persuasion
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest . . .” Matthew 12:43
The Spiritual State of Christendom
It is revealed in the Writings that the first Christian Church, founded on the Gospels, has reached its consummation, judgment, and end.163 This pronouncement is not a judgment on individuals nor on specific societies in this world. But it is a Divine warning that religion has now reached the stage of decline predicted by the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew—a state when, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”; a state when spiritual enlightenment and progress are generally impossible. This situation came about by degrees, because in the course of centuries the evils of men allowed false doctrines to creep in and be enthroned in Christendom: doctrines about three Divine persons which are but three gods, and about a vicarious atonement by Christ’s blood; doctrines about the Pope’s vicar-ship and of priestly powers to dispense salvation; doctrines about a salvation by faith without charity or change of life; doctrines which all pose as sacred mysteries into which the human understanding was forbidden to enter.
From early Christian times such falsities came to usurp the place of the Word through which communion with heaven can alone be effected. The serene light of Divine revelation was not allowed to shine in the minds of men. Its message of spiritual faith and charity was covered over with a contorting shroud of perversions. Human interpretations and pagan superstitions ruled in the church—falsities which became powerful tools for confirming ambition and cruelty and for attracting the presence and influx of evil spirits; until at last there were “no other than false churches”163b and communication with the heavens was cut off. In the spiritual world evil spirits came to dominate over the simple good among Christian souls, and the “last judgment” could no longer be delayed.
In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg a new Divine revelation was provided which exposes and discredits the falsities which, like a leaven, had soured all the teachings of the New Testament. The modern world, since the last judgment, has little courage left to defend these false dogmas. Yet they are still accepted by untold millions and are officially taught in schools and seminaries of Christian sects. And where they are no longer insisted on, many new falsities and denials, worse than the old, have sprung up—and these tend to divert men’s minds from any acknowledgment of the Deity of Christ and the holiness of the Word of God.
Even while the Christian denominations grow in the number of their nominal adherents, the Christian Church has lost its living office to serve as a medium of conjunction with heaven; “remaining in its external worship, as the Jews do in theirs, in whose worship it is well known that there is nothing of charity and faith, that is, nothing of the church.”164 Like the unclean spirit of the parable, a falsity may return under the guise of seven others worse than itself; even as the theological dogma of predestination has come back to haunt us in the more formidable aspect of materialistic determinism. Whether still vindicating the age-worn creeds or whether preaching the social gospels of the humanists and vaguely advancing various opposing political cure-alls, the Christian Church has lost its central place in the spiritual world. Spirits come into the other life from Christendom as into a strange world for the life of which their doctrines have not prepared them.
So far as any one is still persuaded in the teachings of the old church, he will attract to himself the spirits who are in the same falsities or who can for the time adopt his beliefs and ideas. And there are multitudes of such spirits in the world of spirits even at this day. It is true that they are no longer permitted to establish powerful societies there, nor is any one spirit able to maintain himself in the “world of spirits” for more than about thirty years.165 Still, there have to be spirits of every religion and every general faith there, to minister to their like on earth. And this will be possible as long as men adhere to such beliefs on earth.166 If uncongenial spirits were associated with a man, he would fall into a state of continuous sadness and disquietude. If angels or spirits closely associated with a man as much as converse together about things contrary to man’s faith or life, such sadness would affect him even if he was then thinking about something utterly different.167
So far as a man’s mind is under the shadow of false persuasions his spiritual progress is delayed here on earth and spiritual illustration is denied him. Although the world of spirits is now ordered and purged so that the progress of spirits after their death is quickened—the evil being judged sooner than formerly and the good being instructed sooner— yet on earth the progress is halted so long as man is under the restraining pull of false doctrines. And it is only exceptionally that men can liberate their minds from false beliefs and come to embrace the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine.
The New Church on earth can therefore grow only very slowly, and then only from such as are “interiorly affected by truths,” thus from “such as have cultivated their intellectual faculty and have not destroyed it in themselves by the loves of self and the world.”168Natural affections for kindred and friends form strong bonds which are difficult to sever. Experience testifies that conversion into the New Church is usually made easier with a man who is being introduced into a new environment or comes into a radical change of state through which the spirits with him are also changed; as when he moves to a new city or country, or enters into the married state, or comes of age, or comes into an entirely new group of friends and acquaintances who believe in the Writings. The intermediation of friendship is also a common aid in such changes of state.
But the loosening of the hold of false doctrines and social bonds marks only an external phase of the process which leads to illustration and association with the New Heaven. The internal conjunction with heaven and the Lord is by means of the Word—the Word seen no longer through the veils of falsities, but as it is in itself.
There is no conjunction with heaven through the doctrine and faith of the old church. But among the simple and sincere in the Christian world there are vast numbers who read the Word without much reflection upon false doctrines, and who consequently find in it the simple directions for salvation —faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and charity to man. And these, through the Word, are conjoined interiorly with spirits who are being led towards the New Heaven. Indeed, in all religions there are those who are in such simple states—upon whom the false doctrines of their religiosities have only a superficial hold: who have shunned evils as sins and placed religious life, usefulness, and common-sense charity higher than “orthodoxy.” Such are interiorly joined to heavenly societies, more or less closely according to their states of innocence. They belong already to the invisible kingdom of God—that vast communion which is called in the Writings “the Church Universal.” These are, after death, led to their various heavens. And those among them who are moved by a spiritual affection of truth can be instructed in the Heavenly Doctrine and be more nearly associated with the New Christian Heaven. According to the increase of such spirits in the world of spirits, we are told, will the New Church on earth be increased: for such spirits are needed to predispose men of various religious affiliations to receive the truths of the second advent of the Lord.169
Spirits and their Use of Man’s Memory
The general rule that each man is attended by spirits of his own faith is based on certain laws governing the relationship of the two worlds. For these worlds are held apart so that the life of each may be free. As has already been pointed out, men would not be free if they were sensibly ruled by spirits or were conscious of their presence; and spirits would not be free to progress into interior states if they were aware of the men with whom they are or felt that they used the memory of someone else. And in order that the two worlds might be apart in appearance although mutually conjoined and dependent on each other in actual fact, it is necessary that spirits and men should live consciously on two different planes and in two different states or mental environments.
When a man becomes a spirit he leaves the material body with its sense organs which throughout life had enriched his corporeal memory with constantly new impressions and with knowledges about the ultimate things of the world. But it is ordained that the risen spirit must, as to his thought, be lifted out of his own corporeal memory, which then becomes quiescent and is put to sleep; even as happens with us when we “forget” or are not thinking actively about some former experience. The spirit retains his corporeal memory—and all that is in it. It remains—but is not active. It no longer plays any active role in his mental life. Unless Swedenborg happened to be able to supply such information from his own memory, the spirits with him did not even know what their names or rank had been in their bodily life! They had forgotten, and had no curiosity about it.170
The lulling of a spirit’s external natural memory is not sudden but gradual; yet it appears to be accomplished only a relatively few days after death.171 The Lord may indeed —by various guarded modes—re-awaken a spirit’s particular earthly experiences at least in part. But this is done only for the sake of some spiritual use to be served. In order to progress in his eternal development a spirit must be liberated from such memories and from the sphere of his own material ideas which are based on space and time and personal bias. If this is not done the spirit would be unable to enter into the spiritual ideas which are proper to the more brilliant and colorful mental life which he can enjoy after death.172
Terrible consequences would also threaten mankind if spirits could actively use their own external memory. Some spirits told Swedenborg that the human race would then be liable to perish.173For the man would then become aware of the spirits, and be unable to think from his own memory-experiences. The memory of the spirits would be confused with man’s own.174 At the very least man would suffer the not uncommon illusion that he had thought such things before, a sensation which has led some people to confirm themselves in the notion of reincarnation—the persuasion that they lived on earth before, perhaps centuries ago.175
Swedenborg makes the comment that the life of a spirit is happy, that is, happy compared to that of men, and his faculties of sensation and thought vastly more distinct and subtle.176 Man has to eke out his life of thought from a few very limited experiences and from knowledges gathered with great labor. Man’s affections are clothed with no great variety in his few knowledges and in his still more scanty words. His states often fail to mature or develop, because time and space cut them short. But spirits live an intenser life—for “a spirit no longer subsists on his own basis, but upon a common basis, which is the human race.”177
Indeed, “man is the ultimate of order . . . and all ideas, even those of spirits, are terminated in man’s memory.”178 The thoughts of spirits eventually terminate and come to rest in the material ideas, the objects and mental images, of the men with whom they are associated. The spirits select these ideas from men without any conscious effort, and each spirit may be associated with a great many men at the same time, to complete the terminations of his thought. We should not take this to mean that the spirit thinks with material ideas borrowed from men. Unless he belongs to a class of exceedingly gross spirits180 he thinks quite apart from space-time concepts, and takes the material ideas of man only as a sort of basic symbol for a field of abstract ideas upon which he loves to dwell.186 Yet without the basic ultimate of man’s thought, thus without the material ideas, spirits would lose the whole connective of their thought and almost of their consciousness. Swedenborg tells that when spirits were deprived of some such material idea as that of place, they seemed to lose all sense of where they were and promptly vanished from the sight of other spirits. And they felt as if they had lost their feet.181
The reality, to spirits, of such material ideas, is illustrated by the fact that spirits after death inhabit such cities and places as they had frequented before death: but these cities are purely spiritual, and thus are based on general states of mind. They are not exactly like the corresponding cities in this world, but resemble them, especially as to the streets and well known public squares. They are of spiritual origin. The houses therein are “not built as in the world, but rise up in a moment, created by the Lord.”182 Yet they are usually quite permanent, and their inhabitants are at home in them for long periods. If spirits leave the city for good, their houses also disappear. Swedenborg gives in his journal the following interesting information “concerning cities in the afterlife and concerning the Providence of the Lord in preserving them”:
“There appear to spirits cities similar to the cities in the world—a London, an Amsterdam, a Stockholm, and so on. The reason for this is that every man has with himself spirits who are in the other life, and these possess the interiors of the man, thus all things of his memory. They do not, indeed, see the world through his eyes, but still they are inwardly in it from his ideas. Hence the ideas of similar houses, buildings, and streets of the cities appear as if they were the places themselves. . . . Hence it is that spirits who are with the men of some one city have the idea of the same city.”183
This throws considerable light on the teaching that “the angelic mansions are indeed in heaven, and to appearance separate from the abodes in which men are. And yet they are with man, in his affections of good and truth.”184 This is said of the angels, however. And angels do not dwell, as spirits do, in the material ideas with men, but in more interior things. Yet the terminations of the spiritual world are in the ultimates of man’s life. It is true that “angels and spirits are entirely above or outside of nature, and in their own world which is under another sun.” But it is an error to think of the spiritual world from appearances, as if it were in natural space, and to imagine angels and spirits as dwelling in the interiors of nature, in the ether or on the stars, or far away from men. Where there is no space, there is no distance. The kingdom of God is within you. “The spiritual world is where man is and in no wise apart from him.”185
The spirits who are with man live in a real world of spiritual substance, but the ultimates of this substantial world around them is somehow built up from the spiritual forms of ideas taken from men. The ultimates of the spiritual world lodge in the natural minds of men, while the interiors of men’s minds are formed from the spiritual world and according to its states and its inhabitants. And in this whole space-less spiritual world, it is the Lord alone who builds and creates.
The spirits with a man think spiritually,186 and generally do not take the material ideas of his thought as standing for material objects, but as foci and basic symbols for a field of abstract ideas upon which they dwell. The man, on the other hand, is only vaguely aware of these clustering associations of ideas which the spirits take up with delight as a part of their own thoughts, imagining that it is all from themselves. For spirits do not reflect on the sources of their thoughts. But the use of these inner fields of suggestion with man—by spirits who connect them with meanings, allusions, and values never guessed by man—enriches man’s thought with a sense of pleasure; so that he actually partakes of the delight which spirits have in his meagre ideas. And the result is that he is thus confirmed in the sphere of ideas in which he is.
Angels when they are present with a man are especially able to widen his ideas and insinuate a sense of interior value, profounder meaning, and greater delight into them. When angels inflow, the Arcana tells us, “it is not an influx of such thoughts as the man then has, but it is according to correspondences; for the angels are thinking spiritually whereas the man perceives this naturally. . . . When a man speaks of bread . . . the thought of the angels is about the goods of love. . . . Objects such as a man sees with his eyes do not appear before the spirits who are with the man, neither are words heard such as the man hears with the ear, but such as the man is thinking. . . . When the angels inflow, they adjoin affections also, and the very affections contain innumerable things within them. But of these countless things only a few are received by the man—in fact only those which are applicable to the things which are already in the memory. The remaining things of the angelic influx pass around and as it were enfold them.”187
Spirits Confirm Man’s Persuasions
This brings us back to the important principle that spirits cannot infuse new persuasions, new truths or new falsities, into the mind of a man.188 No angels from the New Heaven (for instance) can possibly inflow into the minds of mortals and change their faith, remove their falsities, and introduce truths in their place. Such angels can act only into men who have something of faith from the Heavenly Doctrine in their mind; and the effect of their presence is one of confirming them in the truths which they have already seen. This was no doubt implied by Swedenborg when he wrote to Doctor Beyer about the publication of the True Christian Religion: “I am certain of this, that after the appearance of the book referred to, the Lord our Savior will operate both mediately and immediately towards the establishment throughout the whole of Christendom of a New Church based on this ‘theology.’ The New Heaven will . . . very soon be completed . . .” (April 30, 1771).189 The Lord acts immediately from the Writings, and —so far as these are received—He acts mediately through the New Heaven.
Spirits have two kinds of life—the life of persuasion and the life of cupidity. When a spirit is in his persuasions, or in the thought from some faith which he has confirmed, he excites for his own use endless confirmations from the memory of the man with whom he is, and this without man knowing or feeling it. The spirit, since he cannot use his own corporeal memory,190 puts on the man’s knowledges, beliefs, and preconceptions, and assumes the man’s experience to be his own.191 Swedenborg was often astounded at the incredible wealth of ideas and arguments which were thus brought up.192 Things about which the spirit himself had never had any previous knowledge were at once arrayed with familiar skill and prudence, cunning and astuteness, as if by instinct !193 This has the tendency to confirm the man in his principles, by increasing his satisfaction with his own opinions. Normally, a spirit can never contradict a man! If this should occur, exceptionally, as it did with Swedenborg, spirit and man would become conscious of each other.
If a man should change his persuasions, then other spirits quickly apply themselves to him. But man “is not easily brought to renounce a preconceived persuasion”; “wherefore it is good for a man not to be persuaded in falsities, but to be confirmed in truths.”194
Yet man’s mind, even when it is enlightened by a true religion, is a very complex thing which has murky corners into which his faith has never really penetrated. It has logic-proof compartments and unexplored jungles where his hereditary evils hold sway and various false views, excuses, or stubborn reservations hold out against the faith which he professes. In such distant corners lie hidden all manner of inconsistencies from past states, undigested information and old prejudices bolstered by the pride of the proprium. With the regenerating man these old states are pushed to the sides more and more until they have little part in his mental life. But none the less they are easily observed by spirits who are in the same kind of rebellious falsities and who eagerly seize upon them as inviting fields of confirmation.195 Thus the man may be thrown into spheres of doubt and obscurity, and so far as his faith in truths is from the heart he will then suffer anxiety and temptation.
Doubts are of Providence permitted. Certain intellectual spirits who were prone to reflect and to be stuck in doubts, complained that faith—the persuasion of faith—could not be given one in a moment. But it was pointed out to them that man’s states are continually changing. What is clearly seen in one state may become doubtful later on. A sudden persuasion may satisfy one state, but it would not be adequate to answer all the questions of the next state.196 Faith takes root by degrees and grows in process of time under the Lord’s direction, like the mustard seed of the parable. And there is also another reason why “it is according to the laws of order that no one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment in such a way … as to leave no doubt whatever about it; for the truth which is so impressed becomes persuasive truth, and lacks any extension and also any yielding quality.”197 It becomes hard, bigotted, and not easily applicable to the diverse duties of life. Therefore, in the spiritual world, when a truth is being brought out before good spirits, a doubt—something opposite—is soon afterwards presented ; so that they might think about it and consider whether it is so and collect reasons for it, and so bring the truth into their minds rationally. Only so can the truth be seen in its varieties of forms and applications, and the real essential meaning discerned. And this is done by reflection. This spiritual law was signified in the Word by the notable mention that, after Aaron had cast his rod before Pharaoh and it had become a serpent, the magicians of Egypt did likewise with their enchantments.198 Still, Aaron’s rod swallowed up all the rest.
All those laws which govern the influx of the spheres of spirits into man’s mind, have a constant regard for man’s freedom of choice. Only that which is insinuated in full freedom remains deeply inscribed on man’s being. This is the reason why thought is not insinuated into man by any spirit. The spirit inflows with an affection, and it is only when this affection accords with man’s affection that it is received by man in his thought—his interior thought—and thus tends to confirm and extend that thought more widely and more profoundly.
The life of a spirit’s thought is based upon the general ideas which are with man as upon a soil or background. But it is also and equally true that man’s entire emotional life with all its affections, is derived solely from the spirits that are with him. Few realize how much we are placed under the control of spirits when we give way to emotional states; and how these cupidities may then enkindle all manner of persuasions and fantasies.
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