What is wisdom?

I must have glared at the complete stranger and she sharply asked me why.

I was walking behind her and her male companion neither of whom had I seen before. We were going across the car park at my place of work ? a tidy new public building set near attractive woodland and playing fields. A place I suppose I was rather proud of. I happened to notice her popping something into her mouth and tossing aside a tiny piece of what I took to be a sweet wrapping paper. Although the car park was well swept, any litter she had made was so tiny it could be barely seen!

Being challenged, I voiced my indignation — not rudely — but admittedly with a strong note of irritation in my voice. Immediately her companion launched into a hostile volley of foul language at me. Not wanting to escalate the confrontation, I said nothing and walked away, steaming inside.

Thinking about the incident later, when I had calmed down, I started to wonder if I could have responded more wisely to what had been the most trivial of misdemeanours. I’m afraid I do tend to jump in where angels fear to tread. Or perhaps a bull in a china shop might be a better way of putting it. Clearly I had over-reacted and I could have spoken differently. But no, I had to respond on impulse without any thought.

In contrast, when an Asian friend found herself on a crowded train, she noticed some kids dropping litter on to the carriage floor. She felt anxious about saying anything but reflected that unless someone did the youngsters would never learn proper conduct. So she spoke in a reasonable tone of voice saying to the lads ‘You might not have noticed ? actually there is a litter bin here.’ And was pleased to see them pick up what they had dropped and place the bits into the bin.

Of course sometimes it’s wise to keep quiet. On another occasion she told me that on the rush hour train there was a group of college teenagers ‘effing and blinding’ and she looked at them and decided it would be futile to say something to them but when she got to work, as she had overheard what college they were at, she telephoned the principle to describe their inappropriate behaviour asking him to raise this with the students.

We all put our foot in it from time to time, some of us more than others. I’m thinking about social gaffs, ill-judged decisions, or reaching an unfair conclusion about someone. When we do unwise things, we usually have to pay the price. Our foolish mistakes often seem to bounce back at us.

I imagine wiser people are less likely to make such errors of judgement. So how can we acquire more wisdom?

Do we need to gain more knowledge? This is often what people assume. They may turn to scholars with academic learning for the right answers. Or seek understanding from professionals such as psychotherapists, personal skills coaches, or religious advisors who have psychological or spiritual knowledge. The British shadow chancellor of the exchequer got into hot water by joking about his ignorance of economics. Clearly appreciation of the working of banking, the business cycle and the tax system is important for wise political decisions regarding the economy. The same is true for all walks of life – you can’t expect wisdom from those who lack knowledge and understanding.

In these materialistic times, the world of commerce and government emphasise understanding about competitive performance and efficiency. Likewise the media emphasise information concerning the arts, science and technology. In this climate, wisdom tends to be dismissed as something ethereal. But I would suggest it is really needed if we are to solve our personal and social problems.

So what is this intangible thing we call wisdom? Foolishness is often associated with youth who lack knowledge of the world and its ways. But I would suggest wisdom involves something much more than mere knowledge, understanding or skill – important as these are.

In ancient cultures wisdom was often associated with old age, not just because older people have more experience of life, but because they have had the chance to learn from their mistakes and develop virtues of character. We only reach our potential by making a spiritual journey.

According to this view, true wisdom is not the same as intellectual reasoning. It is a spiritual gift that comes to those who are good at heart. How can we hope to be wise if we do not have sympathy for others and the humility that enables us to laugh at ourselves? I believe that when concern for oneself doesn’t come first, then there can be an opening up of a spiritual consciousness; a higher level of the human mind that can receive clearer light.

How could I hope to wisely respond to people who drop litter without giving offence, unless I have a friendly respectful attitude based on concern for them? If you really want to put your foot in it, not only point out the misconduct of others, but also be sure in your indignation to set yourself up in judgment over them.

“Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.” (Kahlil Gilbran)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

First published as Putting your foot in it in January 2011 Edition of New Vision magazine.

Rational and Moral Wisdom

Rational and Moral Wisdom

      A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.


First Lesson: GEN 24:50-67

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

Second Lesson: Mat 5:38-48

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

Third Lesson: CL 130:1, 4

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

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

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

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

Growing in Wisdom

Sermon: Growing in Wisdom

Posted on March 19, 2012 by Coleman Glenn

GROWING IN WISDOM
A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn

18 March 2012

Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-21; Luke 2:40-52; True Christian Religion 387

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in age, and in grace with God and men.” Luke 2:52

Picture someone wise. Try to make it someone you know, someone who really exemplifies wisdom for you. If you’re not able to think of someone you know, then try to think of the kind of person who comes to mind when you think of wisdom. Now think about what it is that makes that person wise. Why did they come to mind and not someone else? Did you think of someone with a lot of education, a lot of knowledge? May so – that can be part of wisdom. But that’s probably not the only thing you thought of – there’s a good chance that the smartest person you know is not the wisest person you know.  So, what other qualities make a person wise? What else made you think of the person you did? Maybe the person you thought of has a real humility – a quiet acknowledgment that they don’t know everything. If you told them they were wise, chances are they’d brush it aside and deny it.  Chances are they’re not the loudest person you know, or the most argumentative, although they could be.  When we think of someone wise, we often think of someone who speaks from their heart, with real warmth in their voice. We think of someone who speaks from life, not just from knowledge. We think of someone who speaks the truth from love.

How old was the person you thought of? Many of us probably thought of people older than us – parents or grandparents, elders who have seen a lot of life and speak from a lifetime of experience.  There is wisdom in old age, as people become humbled by life, and start to gain true wisdom. But some of us might also have thought of children. Most teachers will tell you that they learn as much from their students as their students do from them. There is a special kind of wisdom that comes along with childhood – a sense of wonder about the world that a lot of us lose as we get older. In young children, we see some of that same humility we do in old age – a willingness to ask questions, to admit that they don’t know everything.  There’s a wisdom of innocence in children – they aren’t afraid to say things as they see them, because they don’t even know that they are supposed to see things differently.  It’s not yet the true innocence and true wisdom of old age, but it’s a picture of it. That innocent childhood wisdom is reflected in the words of a Psalm: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have ordained strength” (Psalm 8:2). That childhood wisdom is the image of the true wisdom that comes with age.

But all wisdom comes from the Lord; and the wisdom of the wisest person we know pales in comparison with the Lord’s wisdom. When He was in the world, though, the Lord did not immediately come into wisdom. He had to gain wisdom gradually – He had to walk the same path that we do. That’s why we read. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

But if Jesus is God, why does He need to increase in wisdom? The reason is that at the Lord’s birth, His soul was Divine, but His body and the lower levels of His mind were merely human. Throughout His life, He went through a process of opening up those lower levels of His mind to the Divinity within Himself, until He replaced everything that was merely human with His Divine Human. And because He went through that process, He can lead all of us through a similar process – not that we ever become Divine or have anything Divine that belongs to us, but that He opens up our minds and hearts to Him more and more to eternity.

So in the Lord’s childhood, He needed to progress just as we progress. The book True Christian Religion describes this: “In respect to His Human He was, for this reason, an infant like other infants, a boy like other boys, and so on; with the sole difference that this development was accomplished in Him more quickly, more fully, and more perfectly than in others” (TCR 89). We see that in the story we read today – He was still growing in wisdom, had not become omniscient on all levels of His mind – but even at twelve He had gained an astonishing amount of wisdom.

So, we return to our story with this in mind – that we can look to the Lord here in this story and ask how we can follow in His footsteps, what He is teaching us here, and specifically what He is showing us about growing in wisdom.

In the story, Mary and Joseph had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, along with many of their relatives; and when they left, they assumed Jesus was with someone else in their company. A day later, discovering that He was missing, they rushed back to Jerusalem, and searched for him for three days. Finally they found Him – not lost somewhere in the streets, but sitting in the temple in the middle of the teachers of Israel.

It says that they saw Him there in the midst of the teachers, “both listening to them and asking them questions.” And here we find something that may be surprising – the Lord is described first, not as teaching these teachers, but as listening to them and questioning them. And again, remember, the Lord really did need to learn things. And this attitude that He expressed here shows us one of the most important things about wisdom – we can only grow in wisdom if we acknowledge that we do not know everything, that we have something to learn from others. This was the God of the universe in human form – and He needed to ask questions, to listen! If we think that we can figure everything out on our own, we have not even reached the foothills of wisdom. We just read a story that Emanuel Swedenborg related about the Temple of Wisdom that he saw in heaven. He spoke to angels about it, and they told him that the only people who could see this temple were those who acknowledged that they knew nothing from themselves, and that what they knew was nothing compared to what they didn’t know. That is the beginning of wisdom.

There’s humility on both sides of the conversation in this story. It took humility for the Lord to ask these great teachers questions; but think of the humility also that it would have taken for those teachers to listen to this twelve-year-old Boy, who hadn’t been trained in their schools, who to all appearances was only a carpenter’s son. Looking in at this story from their point of view, we realize something else – we may not always find wisdom where we expect it. We tend to put people into categories, to judge them as wise or foolish – and once we’ve judged someone as foolish or not worth listening to, we can dismiss the things that they say simply because we don’t like them. If we heard those same things from the mouth of someone we regard as wise, though, we realize the wisdom in them. We need to know that the Lord can talk to us through anyone.

This was true for those teachers, and it was true for the Lord as a twelve-year-old. Many of those teachers in the temple were corrupt – as an adult the Lord often criticized the teachers of Israel. And yet they did know the Old Testament well – the Lord could learn important things from them about it. He could listen for the wisdom in what they were saying, for God’s voice speaking even through imperfect vessels. Again, God can speak even through imperfect vessels, and we need to be open to hearing His voice from anyone.

So far we’ve been focusing mostly on the humility it takes to advance in wisdom, the acknowledgment that we don’t know everything and that we need to listen to others. But sometimes people can take this too far, and to think that they are wise because they question everything, because they never come to any conclusions on anything. This is not the case. The Lord was in the temple listening and asking questions – but the people were astonished at His understanding and His answers. True wisdom means that we do have a sight of the truth. We never think that we know all there is to know, but at the same time, we do not become nihilistic and say that we can never know anything.

There’s a great story that Emanuel Swedenborg relates about a group of spirits he saw in the world of spirits. He heard voices saying, “O how learned,” and came down to find a group of people stamping on the ground, not moving at all. When Swedenborg asked an angel why they were doing it, the angel replied that it was because these people never came to any conclusion about anything, but only discussed and questioned whether something existed, and so they never progressed in wisdom at all.  When Swedenborg asked, “What must the religion be that saves a person?” they spent hours discussing whether religion even existed, or whether salvation even existed, and came to no conclusion at all. When he asked whether they would answer the question within a year, they answered that they couldn’t answer it within a hundred years. Swedenborg replied, “And meanwhile you are without religion!” He said to them, “You are anything but learned, for you are only able to think whether a thing is, and to turn it this way and that. Who can become learned unless he knows something for certain, and goes forward in that as a man advances from step to step, and so on successively into wisdom. Otherwise you do not so much as touch truths with the finger-nail, but put them more and more out of sight.” (True Christian Religion 333). To grow in wisdom, we do have to reach conclusions; acknowledging that we know nothing compared to the Lord’s infinite wisdom does not mean that we deny our ability to know anything at all.

And so the Lord as a twelve year old did not only ask questions, he also answered them, and demonstrated His wisdom – already a wisdom superior to that of the most learned people in Israel.  This is what He was doing when Mary and Joseph found Him, after searching for Him throughout the city. When they asked why he had done this, causing them such anxiety, He replied, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be in what is my Father’s?” The Lord knew even then, as a twelve-year-old, that His soul was Divine, that His role in the world was to exemplify wisdom, as well as to teach it. And so it was the Father’s will – that is, the will of the Divine Love within Himself – that He learn truth and teach it, to advance more in wisdom, to show people how to live in goodness toward their neighbour.

We might expect the Lord’s ministry to begin then and there – but this is not what happens. The Lord still had years ahead of Him to grow to the point where He could teach Divine Truth, where He could be an embodiment of it. And there’s encouragement here. Learning how to live in this world is supposed to be a process. We are not supposed to know everything right away. When God Himself came into the world in human form, even He needed decades to reach His full potential of wisdom. How could we possibly expect it to be any different for us? The fact that we feel like progress is slow does not mean that we’re failing. And it’s a process that continues for ever. We’ll never reach a point where we say, “I’ve arrived – I know everything I need to know.” If we do reach that point, we’re in serious danger, because it’s at that point that we fall in love with our own wisdom, and stop seeking to become more wise – and loving our own wisdom is the height of foolishness.

So the Lord does go back home with Mary and Joseph – and He was subject to them, that is, He was obedient to them. And here’s the final piece of wisdom. In childhood, we learn obedience by obeying our parents – and that prepares us to obey the Lord’s Word. Because it is in living by the wisdom we’ve gained that that wisdom truly becomes part of us. It’s by trying to obey the Lord’s Word that we start to understand it. The Lord said that those who hear His Word and do not do it are like people building their house on the sand. They’re still doing something, building some kind of understanding – but if they don’t do it, that all falls to the ground when struggles and temptations come. But those who do His Word, who act in obedience to it, are like those who build their house on the rock. It does not fall down in times of struggle – it stands strong, because it is built on a rock.

True wisdom comes from building on the rock – that is, on hearing the Lord’s Word and doing it. And we are given the ability to do that because the Lord Himself walked that path for us. He is with us as we learn truth, as we see His wisdom in His word, as we learn also from the people around us. He is with us in that attitude of humility, the attitude that of ourselves we know nothing. He is with us in that willingness to listen for His voice even in unexpected places. He is with us in that childlike innocence, that excitement to learn, the willingness to ask even stupid questions over and over again, from a love of becoming truly wise. And that true wisdom is not about knowing more than someone else – that true wisdom is a wisdom of life, a wisdom of loving our neighbour, and loving the Lord above all else.

The final and most important step is acknowledging that none of our wisdom comes from ourselves. The Lord is the source of all wisdom – and in the world, He became Divine love and Divine wisdom in Human form. He is the Truth itself, that is, Wisdom itself; He is the way Itself, that is, the path that leads to wisdom; and He is life itself, that is, the life that comes from living in love and wisdom. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Amen.

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

REBIRTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arcana Coelestia 1555:2,3

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

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

ESTABLISHING A MATURE, RATIONAL FAITH

ESTABLISHING A MATURE, RATIONAL FAITH
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 8, 1992

“And Jacob awoke out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:16,17).

Jacob’s awakening from sleep describes man’s emergence from a state of obscurity into a state of spiritual light. It is the dawn of a new spiritual day wherein the person clearly perceives, for the first time, the Lord’s living presence in His Word. “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” These words express the wonder of a person who has been reading the Word, either from habit or self-compulsion, and suddenly awakens to a realization of its inmost Divine quality: “This is none other than the house of God.” These words express the person’s realization that the Lord is fully present in the Word – it is His dwelling place. In the Word a person may come to know God, and through its truths be conjoined with Him. Therefore the words follow “this is the gate of heaven.” The Divine truths of revelation truly are the gateway to heaven.

People, unlike animals, are born entirely without knowledge. Animals. when born, know instinctively what is good for them. They are born with the knowledge required to satisfy their desires. Human beings, on the other hand, are completely ignorant at birth. People have innate loves or desires, but they do not have the knowledge necessary to satisfy them. The state of man’s mind at birth is described in the book of Genesis as being “without form, and void” (Gen. 1:2).

At first glance this may seem strange. Why should man – the highest order of creation – begin life lower than a brute animal? On the surface there may even appear to be something of unfairness in this circumstance. However, when we consider the purpose for which we were created, then the reason for this becomes more clear. We are created to live to eternity as angels of heaven. As angels we can be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity.

The life of animals is circumscribed. They are born with certain desires and the requisite knowledge to satisfy them. They need and desire nothing more. We, on the other hand, are born without knowledge. But we are born with an innate love of knowledge and the capacity to receive and assimilate knowledge indefinitely. We are created with such a nature that we may be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity. In this way the delight of living may also increase to eternity.

Due to the fact that we are not born into the order of our lives, nor into any knowledge, we need to be instructed. On the physical plane we must be taught what is good for us and what is harmful. By example and precept we must be taught to distinguish between good and evil. We have to be introduced into a knowledge of the Lord and a belief in Him as our Heavenly Father – our God.

But, as we well know, there is a great diversity of opinion on these matters. On the physical plane, for example, there are those who think that certain foods are good and healthful, while others believe them to be harmful. Many people have their own pet theories on how to cure a particular illness; and although many of the theories are contradictory, each person believes that the one he believes in is right.

As to what is good and what is evil, there is even greater diversity of opinion. Physical pleasures such as sports or dancing and recreations such as card playing are regarded by some people to be immoral. Others believe that these are useful recreations when properly controlled and subordinated. Some people regard profanity as a legitimate form of expression while others regard it as evil. Many people accept the Ten Commandments as being a reliable, God-given standard as to what is good and what is evil. Others regard them as irrelevant – an outmoded standard of a bygone age.

In regard to God, there are those who categorically deny His existence. Others say that there is a God but that God is a creative force – He is not a Man. Others, again, believe in a God who is one as to substance but tri-personal in form.

These examples serve to illustrate the fact that the faith of every child is, to a great extent, the product of the opinions of parents, teachers, and friends, and of one’s own experience. During infancy and childhood a person’s belief, or faith, is the faith of one’s parents entirely. As one advances to youth, the person’s faith is affected by, and combined with, the faith of one’s teachers and friends and those whom one idolizes. We see from this that there are different kinds of faith.

The Writings speak of the following: “(1) Infantile faith, adolescent faith, adult faith. (2) Faith in genuine truth and faith in appearances of truth. (3) Faith of the memory, faith of reason, faith of light. (4) Natural faith, spiritual faith, celestial faith. (5) Living faith and faith founded on miracle. (6) Free faith and forced faith” (TCR 344).

The faith of infancy is a blind, unquestioning faith. The infant believes everything it is told. Because its mind is only beginning to be formed, the young child cannot distinguish between reality and appearance. The child’s faith, of necessity, is a faith in appearances of truth. In infancy and childhood there is no real choice as to what will be believed; faith is therefore, at this stage, to a degree a forced faith.

But as the child advances into adolescence, the quality of one’s faith changes. Because the adolescent is dependent on parents and is compelled, for example, to go to school, faith is, to that degree, still forced. But because the youth has acquired a background of individual experience from which judgments are made, faith, in this state of life, also partakes of freedom.

The faith of the adolescent is a faith of the memory. By this time a person has acquired much knowledge. The adolescent is a veritable storehouse of information. The rational faculty is just beginning to open, and so there is very little of the element of reason in one’s faith at this stage of development. Because the rational faculty is as yet largely undeveloped, appearances of truth are accepted for genuine truths. For until the rational faculty is more fully developed, the sight of the understanding cannot penetrate appearances. The faith of the adolescent is best characterized as traditional or historical faith. Although one may question parents and teachers and dispute their judgment, nevertheless the things the person calls into question are relatively few compared to those which one accepts unquestioningly. There is also an element of the miraculous in the faith of adolescence. The youth is given to hero worship; at this stage one is easily impressed by the unusual and spectacular, and this also colors one’s faith. Because regeneration does not begin until maturity, adolescent faith is purely natural in character.

When a person passes from adolescence into adult life, one’s faith should take on a new quality. As an adult, the person is no longer subject to parents. The young adult decides what will be believed and what will not. The person’s faith becomes a free faith. Since the rational faculty is more fully developed, the person is capable, if he makes the effort, of penetrating appearances and seeing genuine truths. The young adult’s faith should no longer be traditional, but should be a faith of reason and insight. As an adult, one should accept responsibility for one’s own loves, thoughts, and actions. A person should, therefore, begin to examine one’s life – one’s thoughts, intentions, and deeds – and shun those things which he sees to be evil as sins against God. As one does this, faith, from being faith of memory, becomes a living faith; from natural it becomes spiritual. And if the person advances in the life of regeneration until one is motivated in all one does by a genuine love for the Lord and the neighbor, then faith becomes celestial.

Every thinking person comes eventually to the point where he recognizes that two things which are mutually contradictory cannot both be true. If the person is given at all to reflection, he sees that in one’s traditional beliefs there are many such contradictions, and the person is faced with the problem of what to reject as false and what to accept as true. In view of the fact that there is such a diversity of opinion of a contrary nature in regard to the things of faith, one may wonder if it is possible to acquire a genuine, rational, adult faith.

The Lord assures us in the Writings of the New Church that such a faith is possible for all who sincerely seek. Such a faith is not inborn, nor is it transferred from one person to another. It can be acquired only by a person who is searching for truth – a person who is not content to found one’s life on the shifting sands of human opinion but who is looking for a rock upon which to build spiritual faith – one’s spiritual home.

It is of such a person that our text treats in the internal sense. Jacob was on his way to Padan-aram. When the sun set, he stopped at a certain place to spend the night. While there he had the remarkable vision of a staircase ascending toward heaven, its base on earth and the Lord at the top, with angels ascending and descending on it. It was then that the Lord renewed the promise which He had made to Abraham and Isaac, to give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance.

The Writings tell us that Jacob represents the person who is instructed in natural truths (see AC 3305). When he had this vision, he was on his way to Padan-aram. Padan-aram signifies knowledges of truth. We see from these teachings that the person who is instructed in natural knowledges, represented by Jacob, who is on his way to Padan-aram (searching for truths of faith) is given the Divine promise of an indefinite increase in the truths of faith. The Lord said to Jacob: “Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all of the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).

When the Lord had made this promise, then Jacob awoke and said: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” These words express the wonder and conviction of a person who has found the truth after a diligent search – the truth that the Lord is livingly present in His Word as Divine truth.

We cannot come to this conviction unless we go directly to the Word for ourselves seeking instruction directly from the mouth of the Lord. We may have been raised with the stories of the Word and taught about God. We may hear preachings regularly, but we cannot come to this state of conviction until we go directly to the source of truth itself. When we read the Word with a genuine desire to learn the truth; when we realize the inadequacy of our borrowed and traditional faith; when we are no longer satisfied with appearances of truth but seek genuine truth, then the Lord will enlighten our understanding and we will see, with clarity and conviction, the truths for which we have been searching. This rational, adult faith is said to exist in a person when one has spiritual sight, or when one’s understanding has been enlightened, when there is in the mind a harmony of truths, when there is interior conviction, and when an acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divinity is inscribed on one’s mind (see TCR 344). These are the signs of a genuine, rational, adult faith.

Such a faith is the characteristic of all who are truly of the Lord’s New Church. This enlightenment and this clear conviction are the reward promised to all who humbly and sincerely approach the Lord directly in His Word, and read it under His auspices (see TCR 165). Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 28:1-5, 10-19; AR 224

Apocalypse Revealed 224

To this I will add this relation. I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them that they might converse with them face to face and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, ‘Believe us’; and some of them, ‘We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.”

Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality, but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything but have only heard sounds, that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding, one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again.

Examples must serve for illustration: Are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is; that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” They replied that they understood these things. The angels said further, “Do you not understand that repentance from sins is to be performed in order that man may be saved, and that, unless a man actually repents, he abides in the sins into which he was born, and that the work of repentance consists in not willing evils because they are against God, and in examining himself once or twice a year, in seeing his evils, in confessing them before the Lord, imploring assistance, desisting from them, and leading a new life, and as far as he does this and believes in the Lord, so far his sins are remitted?”

Then some of the company replied, “This we understand, and thence also what remission of sins is.” And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any, therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea; but the idea of God as Man is a just idea, for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours, and we shall be consociated together.” On saying these words, their faces became resplendent. Concerning the immortality of the soul, they said, “Man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined with God by love and faith, this indeed is possible with every one. That this possibility constitutes the immortality of the soul you may understand if you think of it a little more deeply.” Concerning regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that every one has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually; for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as from himself is from the Lord. It is true that man cannot contribute anything thereto, no not in the least, nevertheless you were not created statues, but you were created men, that you might do that from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the only reciprocal of love and faith, that it is altogether the Lord’s will that it should be done by man unto Him. In a word, do it from yourselves and believe that you do it from the Lord, thus do it as from yourselves.”

But then the Englishmen inquired whether to act as from oneself is a faculty implanted in man from creation. The angel answered, “It is not implanted, because to act from Himself is the Lord’s alone, but it is communicated continually, that is, adjoined continually, and then so far as man does good and believes what is true as from himself, so far he is an angel of heaven; but so far as he does evil and thence believes what is false, which is done also as from himself, so far he is an angel of hell. That this also is as from himself surprises you, but still you see that it is so when you pray that you may be preserved from the devil lest he should seduce you and enter into you as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy you, soul and body. But everyone incurs guilt who believes that he acts from himself, whether it be good or whether it be evil; but he does not incur guilt who believes that he acts as from himself …”

OBEDIENCE

OBEDIENCE
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 13, 1990

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Our text occurs seven times in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. It is the concluding exhortation of each of the messages to the seven churches. Indeed, the Lord frequently ended His instruction to the Jews by saying: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear … ” (Matt. 11:15, et alia). The fact that this phrase and similar admonitions occur frequently throughout both the Old and the New Testaments warrants our consideration of its purpose and meaning.

In the Arcana Coelestia we are told that “to hear” in the Word does not mean simply the physical act of hearing, but rather the reception of that which is heard, first in the memory, next in the understanding, then in the will, and finally in the life (AC 9311).

Two of the five senses, we are told, especially serve man in perfecting the mind: the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. These are also the primary senses involved in man’s reformation and regeneration, for they are formed to receive those things which contribute to this end. The things which enter the mind through the sense of sight enter the understanding and enlighten it. For this reason when “seeing” is mentioned in the Word and it is frequently mentioned it refers to the enlightenment of the understanding. However, the things which enter through the sense of hearing enter both the understanding and the will, and for this reason when “hearing” is mentioned in the Word it refers to perception and obedience (see AE 14).

That “seeing” refers to understanding and enlightenment, and “hearing” to perception and obedience, is evident from ordinary speech. When we want to know if something is understood we ask: “So you see what I mean?” And if it is understood the answer is given: “Yes, I see.” Also we say of a person endowed with an unusual intelligence that he or she is bright or brilliant. Or if a person is low in intelligence we say he or she is dull. “Dull,” “bright,” and “brilliant” are attributes of light, and thus of sight.

That “hearing” refers to perception and obedience is also clear from ordinary speech. When somebody has been explaining something to us which he considers important, and we get the message, we say: “I hear.” Or, when we are trying to exact obedience from a child in a certain matter, we end by saying: “Do you hear me?” And if the answer is “Yes,” we expect obedience from that child.

These expressions, we are told, flow down into human speech out of the spiritual world, where man’s spirit is, by correspondence. Furthermore, in the Grand Man of heaven, those who are in the province of the ear are in obedience from perception. This province is said to be the axis of heaven, that is, the whole of the heavens have direct relation to those who are in obedience from perception because the ruling perception of heaven is that if a thing is true it must be done (see AE 14; AR 87).

In communication between people the function of the ear is to receive the speech of another and convey it to the mind so that we can perceive what is in the mind of the other person. Thus “to hear” is to perceive. The function of hearing is to transfer what a person is speaking from his thought, into the thought of another, and from his thought to his will and from the will into deed. Therefore to hear also involves obedience. The circle of communication, then, is from the will into thought, and so into speech, and from speech through the ear into another’s thought and will (see AC 5017).

The most important of all communication is that which exists between the Lord and mankind. And the medium of this communication is the Word. The Lord’s ardent love for the eternal happiness of mankind descended into His thought and from His thought into words, which were communicated to those who were prepared by the Lord for the office of revelator, who wrote them down. For the circle of communication to be completed these words must be conveyed to the understanding of man and from the understanding to the will, and from the will into life. When the Lord’s love is received in a person’s will, conjunction between the Lord and that person takes place. It is not enough that the Lord’s wisdom contained in the Word be communicated to our understanding; this merely produces presence but not conjunction. This is the reason the Lord has established a church and instituted worship so that His Word may be heard, that there may be an appeal to the very will itself.

Thus in the church we have the written Word and the spoken Word. To develop our understanding we should read the Word and presentations on its Divine doctrine and reflect calmly and deeply on their meaning. In this way we will grow in spiritual intelligence. But if we wish to grow in wisdom also, we should hear the Word read and preached. In hearing there will be, or should be, an added appeal to the affection. Thus it should enter into our will and from that into our life where the will is terminated and made permanent.

In His wisdom the Lord has provided that the mind of man may be reached through both of these senses through “seeing” and “hearing.” The written Word is almost devoid of emotion except for the emotion which the words themselves convey. Thus the intellect is appealed to so that the mind can come to know, understand, and believe the truth which the Lord teaches, simply because it is true. The spoken Word is then added to appeal to both the intellect and the will. The ideas expressed by the words are received in the understanding but the tone of voice and the inflection affect the will, so that what is said may be received in the will and cause a person to do that which is heard. From this we may see that there is a use and a need for both kinds of communication, and we can see what our response to both should be.

We are taught in the Word that to hear the voice of the Lord means to obey what is proclaimed from the Word; and that they who do so become rational and spiritual, but that they who do not become sensual and corporeal. “Those become … sensual and corporeal,” we read, “who have … known the things of the spiritual world and have afterward rejected them, and have imbued themselves with principles of falsity contrary to truths; and as to life, have looked solely to worldly, bodily, and earthly things, and from this have believed that life ought to be enjoyed with every pleasure, saying: `What has man more while he lives? When we die we die!’ … If anyone by rational arguments sets them thinking at all about eternal life, they think that they shall fare no worse than others, and immediately relapse into the state of their former life.

“With such there is a closing of the passage for the light of heaven and its influx, and light of heaven in their natural becomes thick darkness, but the light of the world … becomes brightness, and the brightness is so much the more brilliant as the light of heaven is more darkened; hence it is that such see no otherwise than that the evils of their life are goods, and that consequently the falsities are truths. It is from this then that a person becomes sensuous and corporeal” (AC 6971).

In other words, if we do not obey what we hear from the Word, we degenerate. Instead of becoming rational and spiritual, we become sensual and corporeal our minds are darkened and our will vitiated.

Compare this state with that of the angels of the celestial heaven. The wisdom of the angels of the inmost heaven consists in wishing to be led by the Lord and not by themselves, in loving what is good and delighting in what is true. Because they love nothing so much as being led by the Lord, whatever they hear from the Lord, whether through the Word or by means of preaching, they do not store in the memory but instantly obey it, that is, will it and do it (see HH 278). “In that heaven, love to the Lord is willing and doing Divine truth” (HH 271).

In the teachings which have been presented, we see sharply contrasted the final lot of those who hear only with their ears and those who really hear with the ears, with their understanding and with their will. We should need little convincing as to which state is preferable. But we may well ask ourselves: “Where do we fit in this picture?”

To find the answer to this question we should ask ourselves more particular questions. To what extent have we allowed the truths we have heard to enter into and change our lives? What is our usual reaction to the truths we hear preached? Do they enter only as far as the external ear and then vanish beyond recall? Are we momentarily stirred but cannot remember several days later what it was that moved us? Or do we see and perceive an important truth a truth which, if lived, can change our lives and make us better men and women? Do we will that truth and determine within ourselves to obey it?

Speaking generally, the purpose of a sermon is to draw a particular truth from the Word, to put it into perspective by showing its relationship to other truths, to examine it from several different aspects so that its nature and quality may be perceived, and to indicate the application of that truth to life. A sermon is not preached merely to uplift and soothe, nor is it intended to upset or depress the congregation, and certainly it is not to weary them. The Word is studied and its truth presented with the hope that it may be received, perceived and obeyed.

In the Arcana Coelestia where it treats of the reading of the covenant by Moses to the Children of Israel, we are told that to “read in the ears of the people” signifies hearkening and obedience. For when anything is read, it is that it may be heard, perceived and obeyed (AC 9397).

In the passage from the Apocalypse Revealed which we read for a third lesson, we are assured that if we read the doctrine of the New Jerusalem with a desire to know that doctrine, if we hear the things which are taught from it, and if we live according to it, then we will be blessed. We will be, as to our spirits, in communion with the angels of heaven even while we live on earth (see AR 8).

What, then, should be our attitude and response to the reading of the Word and the preaching from it that we regularly hear in Sunday worship? The nature of our response is clearly indicated in the Word itself. We should say in our hearts with conviction and determination: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and hear” (Exodus 24:7). Amen.

Lessons: Exodus 24:1-13; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-11; AR 8

Apocalypse Revealed 8

Verse 3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein” signifies the communion of those with the angels of heaven, who live according to the doctrine of the New Jerusalem. By “blessed” is here meant one who as to his spirit is in heaven; thus, one who, while he lives in the world, is in communion with the angels of heaven; for as to his spirit he is in heaven. By “the words of the prophecy” nothing else is meant than the doctrine of the New Jerusalem, for by “prophet” in the abstract sense is signified the doctrine of the church derived from the Word, thus here the doctrine of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem; the same is signified by “prophecy.” By “reading, hearing, and keeping the things which are written therein” is signified to desire to know that doctrine, to attend to the things which are in it, and to do the things which are therein; in short, to live according to it. That they are not blessed who only read, hear and keep or retain in the memory the things which were seen by John is evident (n. 944). The reason why “a prophet” signifies the doctrine of the church from the Word, and “prophecy” the same, is that the Word was written through prophets, and in heaven a person is regarded according to that which belongs to his function and office. From this also is every man, spirit, and angel named there. Therefore, when a prophet is mentioned, because his function was to write and teach the Word, the Word is meant as to doctrine, or doctrine from the Word. Hence it is that the Lord, because He is the Word itself, was called the Prophet (Deut. 18:15-20; Matt. 13:57; 21:11; Luke 13:33). To show that by “prophet” is meant the doctrine of the church from the Word, some passages shall be adduced, from which this may be collected. In Matthew: “In the consummation of the age many false prophets shall rise up and shall seduce many. There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and, if it were possible, they shall lead into error the elect” (Matthew 24:11,24).

“The consummation of the age” is the last time of the church, which is now, when there are not false prophets but falsities of doctrine. In the same: “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man shall receive a just man’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

“To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet” is to receive the truth of doctrine because it is true; and “to receive a just man in the name of a just man” is to receive good for the sake of good; and “to receive a reward” is to be saved according to reception. It is evident that no one receives a reward, or is saved, because he receives a prophet and a just man in the name of such. Those words cannot be understood by anyone without a knowledge of what “a prophet” and “a just man” signify; nor can those which follow: “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” By a “disciple” is meant charity, and at the same time faith from the Lord. In Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, so that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). This is concerning the church which was to be established by the Lord, in which they would not prophesy but receive doctrine, which is to “prophesy.” In Matthew: “Jesus said, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? but then will I confess unto them, I have not known you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

Who does not see that they will not say that they have prophesied, but that they knew the doctrine of the church, and taught it? In the Apocalypse: “The time is come for judging the dead and for giving reward to the prophets” (Rev. 11:18); and in another place: “Exult, O heaven, and holy apostles and prophets, for God hath judged your judgment” (Rev. 18:20).

It is evident that a reward would not be given to the prophets alone, and that the apostles and prophets would not alone exult at the Last Judgment, but all who have received the truths of doctrine and have lived according to them. These, therefore, are meant by “apostles” and “prophets.” In Moses: “Jehovah said unto Moses, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Exod. 7:1); “a god” here means the Divine truth as to reception from the Lord, in which sense the angels are also called gods, and by “prophet” is meant one who teaches and speaks it, therefore Aaron is there called a prophet. The same is signified by “prophet” in other places, as in Jer. 18:18; 23:15,16; 5:13; Isaiah 28:7; Micah 3:6; Jer. 8:10. In these passages, by “prophets” and “priests,” in the spiritual sense, are not meant prophets and priests, but the entire church, by “prophets,” the church as to the truth of doctrine, and by “priests” the church as to the good of life, both of which were destroyed; these things are so understood by the angels in heaven, while by men in the world they are understood according to the sense of the letter. That the prophets represented the state of the church as to doctrine, and that the Lord represented it as to the Word itself, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 15-17).

SEEING IN THE LIGHT OF WISDOM

SEEING IN THE LIGHT OF WISDOM

A Sermon by Rev Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, IllinoisMay 21, 1995

“So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals'” (Revelation 5:4-5).

The book of Revelation is special to the New Church. When understood in its internal sense it presents a vivid picture of why and how the New Church came into existence. It presents a picture of what we who aspire to be members of that church need to look at, what we care about, what we think and what we do. This sermon will focus on the opening of the seven seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets and the pouring out of the seven plagues described in the middle chapters of the book of Revelation.

The whole book of Revelation, when properly understood, helps us to see the Lord as a loving God who is reaching out to people, calling them to Him. It helps us to see the importance of understanding what is true and good. It helps us to see the nature of evil and its influence on religious people. And it helps us to see the way the Lord’s kingdom can be, in heaven and on earth.

Understanding the book of Revelation is not a matter of knowing about a single event, the Last Judgment. The spiritual dynamics of that event, which the New Church asserts has already occurred, have a direct counterpart in our daily lives. The better we understand how the Lord showed His loving care for all people through His role in the Last Judgment, the better we can see how He can care for and lead us.

One of the great false ideas about God is that He is angry at people who do evil and punishes them. If the book of Revelation is read on a merely superficial basis, it seems to support this point of view. The opening of the seven seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets, and the pouring out of the seven plagues, obviously coming from God, are related to numerous disasters, and much destruction. It seems that God causes this destruction as a punishment for the wicked. This is not how God expresses His infinite love. Many people nevertheless act from the idea that it is justified to be angry at people who do bad things and that it is right and good to cause them loss and pain, real or psychological. For example, we know that certain kinds of gossip can tremendously harm a person’s reputation and ability to be useful, but there is a part of faulty human nature that sees “out-of-step” behavior as bad and wrong, thereby justifying our destructive discussion of it and sharing it far and wide. It’s a secret and indirect punishment for the person who has broken some principle of accepted behavior. If this kind of gossip is widespread it can poison at least a segment of a social group and produce an environment in which people do not feel safe or able to trust that they won’t be the next victims of general criticism, shared disapproval, and subtle social sanction.

The book of Revelation describes a condition in which many things are not what they seem. Many things which on the surface look good and useful are actually empty and lifeless, and because they don’t look this way they are evil and destructive. If we could accurately discriminate between fantasy and reality we would make better decisions. For example, how can a middle-aged man contemplate abandoning his wife, family and social connections to marry a much younger woman? He does so because he thinks he will find more happiness with her than with his whole previous life. Typically he is unhappy with his life and believes that the solution is a new relationship. He looks at his previous married life and sees dreariness and unfulfilling effort. He looks at his new relationship and sees freshness and excitement, something that is more spontaneous; here is a new woman that he wants to go out of his way for and who seems to appreciate him more. His adultery looks like heaven and his marriage looks like a dreary hell. He believes his new relationship will have none of the flaws of his present one. He is pursuing a fantasy. If he makes his decision on this fantasy he will be hurt and so will his wife, his children, and in a sense so will all the people whose lives interact with his. His opting out of his marriage vows will tend to further erode their sacred quality and binding nature, making it easier for others to be seduced by a similar fantasy.

Fantasy can also exist on a much smaller and more mundane level. Take for example a woman who is regularly late or who regularly fails to fulfill her commitments, and yet when she is called to account, she always has reasons or excuses as to why it isn’t her fault. It was someone else’s fault, or it was just bad luck, or some natural thing failed, like her alarm clock even though she set it properly. Rarely is anything her fault and consequently she takes little or no responsibility for remedying the situation or trying to change. She sees the problem as entirely outside of herself. Things just happen. When she looks at herself she sees a picture of blameless decisions and actions. She sees a fantasy, which if it remains unchanged, will cause herself and others inconvenience and harm. If she is going to change, her eyes need to be opened.

It is the Lord’s desire that we see what is real. By seeing reality, we can make better decisions. When we base our decisions on fantasies or misperceptions, we hurt ourselves and others.

The book of Revelation specifically describes a condition when reality had been twisted. This occurred in a place that is part of the life after death. After a person’s natural body ceases to live, the person’s spirit awakens with a new body in a place intermediate between heaven and hell. This place is called the world of spirits. Here as in this world, at least initially, good and evil people are all mixed together and can live side by side. When a person’s true nature shows itself and he or she is given a choice of good and true things or evil and false ones, there is a spontaneous and natural judgment separating that spirit from those who react differently. The saying “birds of a feather flock together” describes this separation. But this separation can take place only if reality is seen, only if the light of heaven shines into the world of spirits. The book of Revelation describes a time when that was not occurring. Instead the spirits of people who had chosen evil things as their primary goals kept their true quality hidden. They made it appear as though they were among those blessed by God and that they were already in heaven. They created a false world of cities, trees, rivers, and so forth all of them beautiful but in reality they were fantasies of evil and false things.

John, the narrator of the book, describes seeing a scroll sealed with seven seals and weeping because no one could open it. This scroll represents how the Word of God had been so twisted and obscured by human invention that its fundamental truth was hidden. Historically, traditional Christian explanations of God as three persons, and subsequent explanations of salvation based on earning heaven by attending the right church and doing the right things, or salvation entirely by an intellectual faith apart from what a person cares about, thinks and does, had so clouded the fundamental messages of obedience to God, and love and service to the neighbor that they were lost.

The opening of the seven seals by the Lord represents the initial step necessary for genuine truth to be seen once again. The Word of the Lord needs to be present in our minds and understood before we can possibly see through the fantasies that our own unenlightened eyes would show us. The horses and riders seen as the first four seals are opened describe the progressive loss of true understanding and concern for what is good that can occur in a person’s life or the life of a church. The fifth seal was opened and John described seeing a vision of souls at the foot of an altar mourning their state. These souls represent people who were good but unable to recognize the fantasy of evil. In our own lives they are like the good motives and concerns that can get linked to evil ones and false ideas. Until they can see their proper place they are stuck where they are and change would destroy them. For example, righteous and angry punishment is often connected to something true or good. If the destructiveness of the anger is pointed out to the person, he can respond, “So are you saying I just should not care about the bad thing she was doing?” It seems there is no choice but either to be destructively angry or to decide there is no problem. But this is not reality. The Lord preserved the souls under the altar until the real truth could be seen and their goodness could be preserved. This is also the meaning behind the sealing of the 144,000. It represents a preservation of goodness that is initially too weak and obscure to remain unmixed and untainted by evil and false ideas. Children and teens often show this faulty mixture in their attitudes and decisions. They can simultaneously mix high ideals and short-term, self-centered, natural thinking, such as in their unwillingness to tell the truth if it will get a friend into trouble. Attacking the flaw can sometimes seem to them to attack the ideal of friendship and loyalty.

The sounding of the seven trumpets represents an exploration and opening up of what is real. As the light of truth once again shone forth in the world of spirits, the fantasy that had been accepted as reality was revealed to be quite different. The Lord wants each of us to see through similar fantasies within our own lives. We tend to excuse and even value goals, habits of thought and actions that can be terribly destructive to our own long-term happiness and can be terribly hurtful to others. This destructive life that seems so natural is what the Lord referred to when He said, “He who saves his life shall lose it and he who loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

The pouring out of the seven plagues represents that the evil fled out of the world of spirits and found their proper place in hell. Genuine evil cannot take the presence of goodness and truth. It wants either to control it, destroy it or get away from it. The Lord didn’t have to cast anyone into hell. He just needed to have something of His love and wisdom draw near to the evil in the world of spirits, and they could not stand to remain in its presence. The Lord hadn’t done it earlier because the good who had been mixed with the evil would have been hurt also.

In our own lives, when we see things as they really are, decisions are easy. When we see and acknowledge that a course of thought or action will hurt us and others, it isn’t hard to turn from it. Evil has its greatest power by appearing to be different from what it really is. It wants to seem beneficial or at least harmless. When seen for its true nature, this fantasy falls away.

May we pray for the light of truth in our own lives. May we seek a knowledge of the Lord’s Word and not just a collection of facts that can be used for intellectual discussion, but a living set of ideas that we use in daily life. May the Word be an open book for us. May we use it to reflect on our thoughts and intentions. May we use it to examine the courses of action that we contemplate. May the light of truth reveal the fantasies of evil that we may with strength and conviction turn from them and to the Lord and the life of heaven. Amen.

Lessons: Revelation 6:1-11, Apocalypse Revealed 320-322


Apocalypse Revealed 320-322

Verse 8.”And I saw, and behold, a pale horse” signifies the understanding of the Word destroyed both as to good and as to truth. “A horse” signifies the understanding of the Word (n. 298), and “pale” signifies no vitality. In the Word this want of vitality is predicated of those who are not in goods of life from truths of doctrine; for the Word, in the sense of the letter, is not understood without doctrine, and doctrine is not perceived without a life according to it; the reason is that a life according to doctrine which is from the Word opens the spiritual mind when light flows into it from heaven and enlightens and gives to perceive. That this is the case he does not know who knows truths of doctrine and yet does not live according to them. The reason why “the fourth animal” showed “a pale horse” was that that animal was like “a flying eagle,” and by it was signified the Divine truth of the Word as to knowledges and understanding therefrom (n. 244).Therefore he showed that with those who were now seen there were no knowledges of good and truth from the Word, nor any understanding of them, and such in the spiritual world appear pale, like those who are without life.

“And his name that sat upon him was Death, and hell followed with him” signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and thence damnation. By “death” is here signified spiritual death, which is the extinction of spiritual life; and by “hell” is signified damnation, which follows that death. Every man indeed has from creation, and therefore from birth, spiritual life, but that life is extinguished when he denies God, the holiness of the Word, and eternal life; it is extinguished in the will but remains in the understanding, or rather in the faculty of understanding. By this man is distinguished from beasts. As “death” signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and “hell” damnation thence, therefore “death and hell” in some passages are named together, as in these: “I will redeem them from the hand of hell; I will liberate them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O hell, I will be thy destruction” (Hosea 13:14).

“The cords of death encompassed me; the cords of hell encompassed me; the snares of death prevented me” (Psalm 18:4, 5; 116:3).

“Like sheep they are laid in hell; death shall feed on them; hell is their habitation, but God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell” (Psalm. 49:14, 15).

“I have the keys of hell and death” (Rev. 1:18).

“And power was given them over the fourth part of the earth to kill” signifies the destruction of all the good of the church. Since by “death” is meant the extinction of man’s spiritual life, and by “hell” damnation, it follows that “to kill” here means to destroy the life of man’s soul; the life of the soul is spiritual life; “a fourth part of the earth” signifies all the good of the church; “the earth” is the church (n. 285). That “a fourth part” is all good cannot be known by anyone unless he knows what numbers in the Word signify. The numbers “two” and “four” in the Word are predicated of goods and signify them; and the numbers “three” and “six” are predicated of truths and signify them; thus “a fourth part,” or simply “a fourth” signifies all good, and “a third part” or simply “a third” signifies all truth; therefore “to kill a fourth part of the earth” here signifies to destroy all the good of the church. That “power was not given to him that sat upon the pale horse to kill a fourth part of the habitable earth” is evident. Besides, “four” in the Word signifies the conjunction of good and truth. That “four” has these significations may indeed be confirmed from the Word, as by “the four animals or cherubim” (Ezekiel 1, 3, 10; Rev. 4), by “the four chariots between the two mountains of brass” (Zechariah 6), by “the four horns” (Zechariah 1:18), and by “the four horns of the altar” (Exodus 27:1-8; Rev. 9:13), by “the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth” (Rev. 7:1; Matthew 24:31), as also by “visiting the iniquity upon the thirds and fourths” (Numbers 14:18), and in other places by “the third and fourth generation.” By these and by many other passages in the Word, I say, it can be confirmed that “four” is predicated of goods and signifies them, and also the conjunction of good and truth; but since this would not appear without a prolix explanation of these passages, it is sufficient to mention that nothing else is meant in heaven by “four” and by “a fourth part.”