Category — Innocence
“‘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.
“Such as hatreds, revenges, cunnings, deceits, as a serpent breathes in poisons.” [A sermon on AE 1148]
Hatreds, revenges, cunnings, deceits, describe the internal and external evils in relation to the will and the understanding.
Hatred, is of the will, and revenges are the acts which proceed from the will. Cunning is of the understanding and deceits, are the acts which come forth from this cunning.
To view these evils we must see them as the opposites of goods. Hatreds are the opposite of loves; revenges are the opposite of showing mercies, and doing good; cunning is the opposite of innocence; and deceit is the opposite of acting sincerely.
Every one has a natural idea of these goods and their opposite evils. But such goods and such evils in the natural man do not differ much from such loves and acts with animals. What such evils are in the internal sense is hidden in the internal sense of the Word.
While the evils spoken of in the external sense of the Word are natural evils, this does not mean that this sense is not important to us. In the early states of reformation these are the only evils we see, and if in such states we do not combat and overcome them, we can never come to more interior states in which we must see and combat against more interior evils.
One who does not combat against natural hatred, can never be brought to see what interior hatred is; one who does not combat against natural revenge, can never come to see what interior revenge is; one who does not combat against natural cunnings and deceits, can never come to recognize interior cunnings and deceits. We must first come to recognize these natural evils in ourselves, and come to have a horror of them; and thus be brought to the goods of the natural to which these evils are opposed.
Any one who reflects can easily observe how, when one opposes him, or resists him, particularly in relation to his ruling loves, or ignores him, or fails to respect or honor him, or even pays insufficient attention to him; how he tends to become angry with such a one, and tends to take revenge, by hurting him or by speaking ill of him.
One can also easily observe, if he reflects, how he cunningly strives to accomplish his own ends, how he puts on appearances to persuade others, how he says things which are not exactly true, or gives a twist to things to take advantage of others.
There is nothing more important to begin with, than by shunning cunning and deceits to come to a natural innocence, and sincerity in all things of our natural life. This first natural innocence and sincerity is not however, natural innocence and sincerity itself. It is only after shunning interior cunning and deceit, and thereby coming to an interior innocence and sincerity, that a new nat¬ural can come into existence in which there is natural innocence and sincerity itself out of the Divine Human of the Lord, who is innocence itself.
“Thou Shalt Not Steal”
We read: “Amen, amen, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10: 1, 7-10)
All goods and truths which a man has from the Word and the Church out of his own will and his own understanding are stolen things, in which the Lord is not present, and which therefore lack an internal. Wherefore we read: “If the rational is consulted the Doctrine becomes null and void.” Unless a man has given up the life of his proprial will and understanding he always consults his rational, and then ail things from the Word and from the Doctrine of the Church are with him stolen things, an external without an internal.
Do we not see with every man, that strong tendency to steal. In churches generally, we see an effort to increase the Church in numbers, power and prestige, by appealing to the proprial will and understanding of men and women. Appeals are made to the natural affections, and the intel-lect is flattered. Or where this is not done, threats and anathema, are used to inspire fear, fear of hell, and fear of losing the pleasures of heaven. Let us not think that we are free of such dangers.
We are told that the devils are not averse to worshipping God the Father, but they are averse to the Lord in His Divine Human. The Father is the Lord the Creator, the Divine Human is the Lord the Redeemer. Man is not averse to acknowledging God the Creator, but he is, by hereditary nature, averse to acknowledging the Lord the Redeemer, for he is averse to Redemption. He is not willing, from his proprium, to acknowledge that, “A total damnation stands before the door and threatens.” The door of both his will and understanding, for he trusts in the rationality he has from creation and in his instinctive good feelings, which he has from birth. To give up trust in these is to give up his life, and this he does not easily do.
There is an expression commonly used, “appealing to a man’s better instincts,” such an expression implies a climbing up some other way like a thief and a robber, and not entering through the door, that is the Lord Who is the door. The man of the Most Ancient Church did indeed have human instincts by creation, instincts of love into Good and towards his neighbor, for he was born into the order of his life. We are not born into the order of our life, and if we appeal to man’s better instincts, we climb up some other way, and come to apparent goods and truths, which are only externals without internals. Man’s internals are formed by innocence from the Lord, and a man cannot be in innocence from the Lord unless he believes, that it is solely by the Lord’s undergoing temptation in him, and by His overcoming and subjugating the hells which rule in him, that he can be saved. The moment a man loses this perception he is a thief and steals.
Every young man and woman is given gifts from the Lord: the young man particularly, a kind of youthful understanding of truth, an enthusiasm for it, and a youthful ideal of usefulness.
But the young man begins to steal the understanding of the truths he has been given and make them favor himself, and his own ends. He loses the innocence of youth, and thus the internal is stolen away. He must then look to the Lord for a new understanding in which there can be formed a new good of innocence, and must repent of his theft.
In the past year abortion was made legal in the United States by decision of the Supreme Court. The legalization of abortion has taken place or is about to take place in many other formerly Christian countries. By this action the civil laws protecting the lives of unborn children have been removed. The right or wrong of abortion is left to the conscience of the expectant mothers, or to their whims, if they have not a conscience.
The conscience of those of the Church on such a matter must be formed from the teachings of the Word of the Lord, and with us this means, in the first place, from the teachings of the Third Testament. Because this subject has not been publicly considered in the Church, the teachings of the Word that have relation to it are not widely known within the Church. Under the present circumstances it is needful that they be brought to the attention of all in the Church.
The Third Testament does not speak directly of abortion, but it does speak of the life of the embryo in the womb, and the teachings on this subject must be considered by those in the Church.
In the Arcana Coelestia 3570:4 it is said: “It is known that the soul of man begins in the ovum of the mother, and is perfected next in her womb, and there is given round with a tender body, and indeed with such that the soul through it can act suitably in the world into which it is to be born” This does not mean that the soul is from the mother. The general teaching of the Word is that the soul is from the father. But the soul which is present in the seed of the father is not the soul of a man until it is conjoined with the ovum of the mother. The beginning of the soul of an individual man is when the soul in the seed from the father is conjoined with the ovum of the mother.
In the work entitled “The Divine Wisdom”, (generally to be found at the end of the sixth volume of the Apocalypse Explained,) in the second chapter, it is said that the Lord has created with man, and afterwards forma with him, a receptacle of love, which is the will, and adjoins to this a receptacle of wisdom, which is his understanding. And further on in the beginning of that chapter it is said: “1. That these forms, which are the receptacles of love and wisdom, first exist with man conceived and being born in the womb.” In the “Divine Wisdom”, chapter III, the summary of the contents of the chapter reads as follows: “1. That the Lord conjoins Himself to man in the womb of the mother from first conception, and forms him. 2. That He conjoins Himself in those two receptacles, in one through love, in the other through wisdom. 3. That love and wisdom simultaneously and unanimously form all and single things, but still distinguish themselves in them. 4. That the receptacles are distinguished into three degrees with man, one with another, and that the two superior degrees are the dwelling-places of the Lord, but not the lowest. 5. That one receptacle is for the will of the future man, and the other for his understanding; and yet nothing whatever of his will and understanding is present in the formation. 6. That in the embryo before it has been born there is life, but that the embryo is not conscious of it.”
Further on in that third chapter, in treating of the first of the above listed subjects, it is said: “All this work of preparation of Himself the Lord does in the womb.” And further in the same section, “While man is in the womb he is in a state of innocence; thence his first state after birth is a state of innocence; and the Lord does not dwell with man unless in his innocence, wherefore especially then when he is as if innocence. Likewise man then is in a state of peace.” And under the sixth subject of this chapter, it is said: .. “That-the-.life, out of which, the embryo lives in the womb is not his, but the Lord’s alone, Who alone is Life”.
Consider all the things said in the second and third chapters of the above quoted Work. Consider also what is said at the end of the Divine Love and Wisdom, number 432, concerning the quality of the initiament of man from conception.
From these teachings it must be clear to all that the embryo in the womb, in its conception and in its formation, is called a man, and has working within it the life that is of the Lord. Nothing on earth can be compared to the wonders that are taking place within it, except the miracle of regeneration by the Lord, through which a man receives the Lord’s life as the life of Heaven within him. Abortion, which is the killing of such a being, cannot be taken lightly, as now it is in the world. Any in the Church who consider themselves to be faced with the question of abortion cannot but regard it as an evil, only to be excused if some worse evil might result without it, such as the death of the mother and the child. And the judgment as to what is a worse evil is a most grievous one, requiring the best available knowledge from the Church and from the doctors.
It is taught in the “Divine Wisdom” chapter 3, section 5, that the embryo has no proper life of its own until the lungs are opened. This teaching has generally been understood to mean that an embryo has no eternal life until it has drawn the first breath at birth, although some students of this subject in the New Church believe that this is not involved in that teaching, and that every embryo has eternal life from its conception. From the idea that an embryo has no eternal life until its first breath at birth, some have argued that the killing of an embryo is in no sense a form of murder. But even if we were to take it for certain that an embryo has no eternal life until its birth, what does this really have to do with the question as to the degree of the evil of abortion? Must we not still face the question as to which is the greater crime, to kill a man after he has been born, and has an eternal existence before him, or to kill that which has been prepared for an eternal existence and which could have an eternal existence, if it were to live?
Some also argue that the killing of an embryo is no worse than the prevention of the conception of an embryo, whether this is done by abstention or by the employment of other means of birth control. The fallacy in this argument appears to me to be that while the male sperm is a potential human soul, it is not in fact the soul of a man until conjoined with the ovum of the mother. A male sperm is not by itself a human life begun. It cannot by itself ever become an eternal being. An embryo is the beginning of a human life, and it can become an eternal being.
There are many human problems which force those who have to face them to consider the possibility of abortion. There is sometimes the danger or even the certainty that a mother will die if a pregnancy is continued: there is the shame of a woman who must bear an illegitimate child: there is the fear of giving birth to a deformed or hopelessly retarded child due to disease or to the influence of drugs: there is the problem of what should be done in the unlikely event of conception following rape; there is the problem of what must be done if a pregnancy would bring about the mental breakdown of a mother. These are heart-rending problems. We do not propose to enter into all these problems in this short paper, but we ask that you consider them and consult with your pastors about them, and with your doctors. Let your conscience be formed from the Word and from the best enlightened knowledge you can obtain from the world. Do this while you are under no pressure from any such problem. Most of you will never have to face any of these problems. But it is best to have your thought, your conscience, formed clearly about them, rather than to face them in a panic, in that unlikely event that you are forced to do so.
It may be said that the Church needs much more light to face such a moral problem as abortion, and that we here are facing it only out of an external understanding, from the sense of the letter of the Third Testament. To this we must reply that the Church and every one in it must face such problems in such light from the Word as we now have. The giving of any more interior light in the Word depends on our living what we see to be true in the sense of its letter. Certainly we need more light, more Love, more Mercy. But if we do nothing, with that which He has given us , how can we by Him be prepared to receive more?
If you wish to see what is represented in the Word by an embryo, consider what is said in the Apocalypse Explained, number 710: “’And having the womb’ That it signifies nascent doctrine out of the good of love celestial lb evident’ out of the signification of to have in the womb when concerning the Church which is signified by the woman, that it is the nascent doctrine of the true out of the good of love celestial. By the womb is signified inmost love conjugial, and thence love celestial in the whole complex. And by the embryo who is in the womb, the true of doctrine out of the good of love celestial; for by him is signified a like thing as by the male son whom she brought forth, concerning whom in the fifth verse following, through whom the doctrine of the true out of the good of love is signified; with the difference that the embryo, because still in the womb, draws more from the good of innocence than after he has been born.”
It is to be feared that the present acceptance of abortion, and the inhuman lack of feeling with regard to it, is an ultimate of the hatred of the hells against all innocence, against the nascent Doctrine of the Church. That cold, cruel hatred works its way into the minds of ignorant men, resting in men besotted with the superficial reasonings of the loves of self, of the world, and of pleasures.