Category — Criticizing others
“‘That the devil may not seduce them and put evils into their hearts; knowing that while they are not led by the Lord, he leads and breathes in evils of every kind, such as hatreds, revenges, cunnings, deceits as a serpent breathes in poisons.” [AE 1148]
As is generally known in the Church the devil in the most general sense stands for hell. In a less general sense as when compared to Satan, the devil stands for the hell opposed to the celestial kingdom, while Satan stands for the hell opposed to the spiritual kingdom. In the abstract sense the devil stands for the love of self; for it is the love of self which forms the hell opposed to the celestial kingdom while it is the love of the world which makes the hell opposed to the spiritual kingdom. To seduce, as to its roots, means to lead aside, or lead astray, that is, to lead off the way. The Lord said: “I am the way.” The Lord Himself is the strait and narrow path which leads to heaven. The moment the man does not live in the presence of the Lord, he is off the path of life, he has been seduced, or led astray.
Inmostly seen it is nothing but the love of self inflowing from the hells, which seduces man, or leads him astray, takes him away from the way which is the Lord. The Lord with a mighty force works to keep man on this holy way, the hells work with all their power to seduce him or lead him out of the way. It is said that the devil seduces them and puts evils into their heart; or what is the same, it is the love of self that seduces men and puts evils into their hearts. Let us therefore consider the nature of the love of self further in order that we may see why this is so.
In order to consider this matter more deeply we will quote again a number from the Journal of Dreams which was quoted in the sermon last week.
“I perceived that I was unworthy above others and the greatest of sinners for the Lord has granted me to go more deeply with my thoughts in certain matters than many others have done; and I perceived that here lies the very fountain of sin viz. in thoughts which are brought to the work; so that in this manner my sins come from a deeper source than in the case of many other persons. Herein I perceived my unworthiness and my sins to be greater than those of others; for it is not enough to call oneself unworthy, for this may be done while the heart is far away from it, and it may be a pretense, but to perceive that one is such this is the grace of the spirit. I thought and strove by means of my thoughts to gain a knowledge of how to avoid all that is impure, but I noticed nevertheless that on all occasions something from the love of self intruded itself and was turned about in the thought; as for instance, when any one did not show the proper regard for me, according to ray own imagination, I always thought ‘If you only knew what grace I am enjoying you would act otherwise’ which at once was something impure having its source in the love of self. After a while I perceived this and prayed God to forgive it… Thus I observed clearly there was still with me that pernicious apple which has not yet been converted which is the root of Adam and hereditary sin, yea, and an infinite number of other roots of sin are with me.” (74, 75)
From the above we can see that the very root of evil called the devil, resides in feeling and thinking oneself superior to others.. This is the first state. In the case of Swedenborg, he recognized and from the Lord he combated against this so that it did not proceed further.
We read: “Judge not lest ye be judged; for with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged. (Matt. 7:1-2) Without Doctrine this can be adduced to confirm that it is not to be said of evil that it is evil, thus that we are not to judge that an evil person is evil. But from Doctrine it is allowable to judge, but justly. For the Lord says, Judge a just judgment.” (John 7:21, S.S. 512)
In the above passage from the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, is pointed out an apparent contradiction in the New Testament, a contradiction which can only be reconciled by Doctrine. When we come to examine the Newest, and last, Testament, the Writings of Swedenborg, we again find an apparent contradiction in what is said concerning judging.
We read: “Therefore a man is never allowed to judge concerning another as to the quality of his spiritual life; for the Lord alone knows this. But everyone is allowed to judge concerning another as to his quality as to moral and civil life; for this is of importance to society.” (A.C. 22843).
Similar teaching to the above is given in various places in the Latin Word as is well known in the Church. On the other hand we read:
“Love and faith are meant in the spiritual sense by works … From this it is that works signify, not the things which appear in outward form, but the things of the will and the thought. That this is so is known to every one who reflects. Who that is wise regards a man from his deeds alone and not from his will? If the will is good he loves the deeds; but if the will is evil he does not love the deeds. He sees the deeds but interprets them according to the intention of the will. He that is spiritual attends still less to the deeds, but explores the will; for the reason already given that deeds in themselves are nothing, but all that they are is from the will (A. E. 983)
Moral and civil goods can be seal in natural light, a light in which all but the insane can see.
That moral and civil good and evil San be seen in natural light is taught in the Arcana Coelestia as follows:
“The Israelitish nation might have known these laws (that parents are to be honored, that murder, adultery and theft are not to be committed, and that no one should bear false witness) from natural light alone; for what nation is there which does not know them?” (A.C. 8862)
It is self-evident that every man can see natural truth in natural light, not only the truths of natural science, but also truths of civil and moral life, and can judge concerning them from a faculty of natural rational understanding. Were not this true the world would be insane and human society would be impossible.
“From the love of self springs contempt of others, in comparison with self, then the derision and abuse of them, afterwards enmity if they do not favor, and finally the delight of hatred, the delight of revenge, thus the delight of violence, nay of cruelty” (A.C. 9348).
Everyone is born into the love of self; but this love does not, at first, appear to man, and often not to others, in its ugliness. It often hides under the appearance of love towards others and even under the appearance of love into the Lord.
This love can only be discovered in its .affects. The first of these effects if the contempt of others in comparison with ourselves, but even this evil, which is the most prevalent, seeks to hide itself; it hides itself behind the love of things which are one’s own. Observe how men of all nations despise other nations in comparison with their own; how members of churches despise other churches in comparison with their own; how one despises other families in comparison with one’s own family; how one despises other professions in comparison with one’s own profession. If one is scientific, acute or learned how one despises those who are not scientific, acute or learned. If one is artistic or sensitive how one despises those who are not artistic or sensitive. If one is sociable, and affable, how such a one despises those who are not sociable or affable. If one is generous and kindly how such a one despises those who are less generous and kindly. If one is subtle in understanding, influencing or persuading others, how one despises those who have not such talents. If one is quick at grasping the things of the Word and doctrinals thence, one despises those who do this with difficulty. Everyone finds things by means of which he despises others in comparison with himself, and from which he holds others, particularly those who do not agree with himself, in contempt. The evil despise the good, either thinking or calling them hypocrites.
The contempt of others in comparison with self is more in evidence, and is of a mere interior quality with those who cling ardently to their church than with others.
One who knows many truths of faith can more clearly see the evils and falsities of others, than those who have not such truths, but unless he is in humility he does not see his own evils and falsities. Seeing the evils and falsities of others he is in greater contempt of others in comparison with himself than are those who do not have truths of faith. The more truths of faith one has, if the love of self is not shunned, the more the contempt of others in comparison with self grows, until it despises all in the universe in comparison with oneself.
From the contempt of others there arises derision and abuse of them. Observe how much so-called humor has in it contempt of others, – derision, ridicule, and mockery; observe the great delight felt in such derision and ridicule. Observe also the delight in the abuse of others, in criticizing, and in speaking of their faults, especially in regard to those who do not favor ourselves. Finally such an attitude breaks forth in an attitude of enmity towards those who do not favor ourselves, or our own.
Let anyone observe his attitude towards those who are critical of him, or are critical of his family, his country, or his church, and do not favor him, and see if a feeling of enmity is not present towards them. How few there are who are not delighted when misfortune overtakes those who have been critical of them, or their own and have manifested disfavor towards them.