Category — Misusing the truth by turning it to one’s own ends
“‘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.
“Knowing that while they are not led by the Lord, the devil will lead and breathe in evils of all kinds such as hatreds, revenges, cunnings and deceits” (A.E. 1148)
The general teaching of the text is that man is, at all times, led either by the Lord, or by hell. This is a well known teaching of the Lord, but one which few believe in the life. Man’s nature is to seek for his own life, which appears to be neither of Heaven or of hell, but such a life is not possible. While we are not led by the Lord we are led by the devil. If we seek a life that is not continually from the Lord, the devil leads. The devil specifically signifies the love of self. A man who loves his own life is necessarily led by the love of self which inflows from hell.
When man permits himself to be so led, the devil inspires or breathes in evils of all kinds, such as hatreds and revenges, cunnings and deceits. It should be noted that hatreds and revenges are the evils of the will. Hatred is of the internal evil of the will, revenge, the external. Cunnings and deceits are the evils of the understanding, cunning, the internal evil, and deceit, the external.
We belong to a nation which is characterized by good-naturedness, tolerance and friendliness, and the whole of education in this land looks to the fostering of these virtues. When we therefore read that anger and revenge are the characteristic evils that the devil inspires, this seems foreign to our very nature.
To many it may appear that they have no enemies, and that they have a friendly feeling towards all. If generally recognized evils are condemned, no one is angry, and yet this apparent friendliness and tolerance is deceptive. What church appeared more tolerant and more in the desire to preserve freedom for the individual than the church in which we were brought up, – and yet how angry and intolerant it became at the manifestation of the internal sense of the Word. From this we can learn a lesson that applies to all.
For the most part, anger and revenge are not aroused by condemnation of what is generally recognized as evil, but by a judgment on what is believed to be good. Particularly is anger aroused when an external good or truth which was originally from the Lord, but in which the Lord no longer dwells, is soon in the light of an interior truth; for such a truth touches the apparent goods and truths which are dearest to a man, and cause him to react with what appears to him as righteous indignation, and appropriate punishment. So does the anger and revenge inspired by the devil appear to the man.
All evil and falsity arise from the separation of a good and truth of a lower degree from the good and truth of a higher degree, while regeneration consists in reducing the apparent goods and truths of a lower degree into subservience to the goods and truths of a higher degree, until they become genuine and servo the higher degree. This process continues in its ascent from one degree to another.
Consider the following illustration. If a man, living in a town near a well-loved and awe-inspiring mountain, beyond which lay a great range of mountains, were to rise on wings to a great height, then the near-by mountain would appear to sink until it appeared like an insignificant hill, while the great range of mountains in the distance would look greater, higher, and more magnificent than from below. If, on his return, he told the people of the town how insignificant and small their beloved mountain looked from on high, compared to the great range of mountains beyond, they would become angry. Hills and mountains represent loves and when from an elevation it is seen that the loves which are near and dear to a man are little and insignificant, compared to the loves that a man has only seen at a distance, his anger is aroused, and this tends to carry over into revenge.