March 19, 2015

Why Wars?

Selection from The Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The worshiper of himself and of nature confirms himself against Divine providence when he reflects that wars are permitted, and the consequent slaughter of so many men, and the plundering of their wealth. It is not from the Divine providence that wars exist, for they are connected with murders, plunderings, violence, cruelties, and other terrible evils, which are directly opposed to Christian charity; and yet they must needs be permitted, because, since the time of the most ancient people, meant by Adam and his wife, the life's love of man has become such that it wills to rule over others, and finally over all; also to possess the wealth of the world, and finally all wealth. These two loves cannot be kept bound, for it is according to the Divine providence that every one be allowed to act from freedom in accordance with reason; furthermore, without permissions man cannot be led from evil by the Lord, and thus be reformed and saved. For unless evils were permitted to break out man would not see them, and therefore would not acknowledge them, and thus could not be led to resist them. For this reason evils cannot be prevented by any providence; for if they were they would remain shut in, and like the diseases called cancer and gangrene would spread about and consume all that is vital in man.

For man from birth is like a little hell, between which and heaven there is perpetual discordance. No man can be withdrawn from his hell by the Lord unless he sees that he is in hell and wishes to be led out; and this cannot be done without permissions, the causes of which are laws of the Divine providence. For this reason there are wars, lesser and greater, the lesser between the possessors of estates and their neighbors, and the greater between the rulers of kingdoms and their neighbors. Between the lesser and greater there is no difference, except that the lesser are kept within bounds by the laws of the nation, and the greater by the laws of nations; also that while both the lesser and greater wish to transgress their laws, the lesser cannot, and the greater can, although not beyond its abilities.

There are many other reasons stored up in the treasury of Divine wisdom why the Lord does not check the greater wars, with their kings and commanders, connected as they are with murders, depredations, violence, and cruelties, neither in their beginning nor in their progress, but only at the close, when the power of one or the other has become so reduced that he is in danger of destruction. Some of these reasons have been revealed to me, and among them is this: that all wars, however much they may belong to civil affairs, represent in heaven the states of the church, and are correspondences. Such were all the wars described in the Word, and such also are all wars at this day. The wars described in the Word are those that the children of Israel waged with various nations, as the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Philistines, the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Assyrians; and when the children of Israel, who represented the church, departed from their commandments and statutes and fell into the evils signified by those nations, they were punished by some nation, because each nation with which the children of Israel waged war signified some particular kind of evil. For example, when they profaned the holy things of the church by foul idolatries they were punished by the Assyrians and Chaldeans, because "Assyria" and "Chaldea" signify the profanation of what is holy.

Like things are represented by the wars of the present day, wherever they occur; for all things that take place in the natural world correspond to spiritual things in the spiritual world, and every thing spiritual has relation to the church. It is not known in this world what kingdoms in Christendom answer to the Moabites and Ammonites, what to the Syrians and Philistines, or what to the Chaldeans and Assyrians, and the others with whom the children of Israel waged war; and yet there are those that do answer to them. Moreover, what the quality of the church upon earth is and what the evils are into which it falls, and for which it is punished by wars, cannot be seen at all in the natural world; because in this world externals only are evident, and these do not constitute the church; but this is seen in the spiritual world, where internals are manifest, in which the church itself is; and there all are conjoined in accordance with their various states. The conflicts of these in the spiritual world correspond to wars; which are governed by the Lord on both sides correspondentially, in accordance with His Divine providence.

That in this world wars are governed by Divine providence the spiritual man acknowledges, but the natural man does not, except when a festival is appointed on account of a victory that he may return thanks on his knees to God that He has given the victory, also by a few words before going into battle. But when he returns into himself he ascribes the victory either to the prudence of the general or to some measure or occurrence in the midst of the battle, which they had not thought of, from which nevertheless came the victory.

The Divine providence that is called fortune is in the least particulars of even trivial things; and if in these you acknowledge the Divine providence you must certainly acknowledge it in the affairs of war. Also the successes and favorable occurrences of war are called in common language the fortune of war; and this is Divine providence, especially in the plans and preparations of the general, even although he then and afterwards may ascribe it all to his own prudence. And let him do this if he will, for he is in full liberty to think in favor of the Divine providence or against it, and even in favor of God and against Him; but let him know that no part whatever of the plan or preparation is from himself; it all flows in either from heaven or from hell,- from hell by permission, from heaven by providence.
(Angelic Wisdom Concerning The Divine Providence 251)