April 4, 2015

Two Means Provided for Return

Selection from the Doctrine of Charity ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
In so far as anyone does not shun evils as sins, he remains in them.

Man was created into the image and likeness of God, and made so that he might be a recipient of the Lord's love and wisdom. But, because he did not want to be a recipient, but wanted to be actual love and wisdom, and thus like God, he consequently inverted his form, and so turned away his affections and thoughts from the Lord to himself, and so began to love, even to worship, himself more than the Lord. In this way he estranged himself from the Lord, and looked backwards away from Him, thereby perverting the image and likeness of God in himself, and making it into an image and likeness of hell. This is signified by his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.  Genesis 3:6 KJV
By the serpent which he obeyed is signified the sensual, which is the ultimate of the natural man, and its lust. The sensual, because it exists in the world, and admits therefrom the objects it desires, loves the things of the world; and, if it is allowed to rule, it draws the mind [mens] away from the objects of heaven, which are goods of love and truths of wisdom, in themselves Divine. This is the origin of man being, in respect of his proprium, nothing but evil, and of his being born into it from parents.

But means have been provided by the Lord, so that he may not perish on account of this; and these are: to look to the Lord and acknowledge that every good of love and every truth of wisdom is from Him, and nothing from man himself. In this way man inverts his form, turning away from himself and turning round to the Lord; thus he returns to the state into which he was created, which was, as has been said, that he might be a recipient of good and truth from the Lord, not from himself at all. Man's proprium having, by this inversion, become evil only, there is the other means of recovering the image of God - shunning evils as sins. For if a man does not shun evils as sins, but only shuns them as hurtful, he is still not looking to the Lord, but to himself, and so continues in a perverted state. When, however, he shuns evils as sins, he is also shunning them because they are against the Lord and contrary to His Divine laws; and then he beseeches the Lord for help and for power to resist them; and this power, when besought, is never denied. It is by these two means that a man is purified from his innate evils.

Consequently, if he does not adopt these two means, he cannot but remain such as he was born. He cannot be purified from evils if he only looks to God and prays; for in that case he believes, after having prayed, either that he is entirely without sins, or that they have been remitted, by which he understands that they have been taken away. But in that case he still remains in them; and to remain in them is to increase them; for they are like a disease that eats away everything round about it and brings death. Nor are evils removed by only shunning them; for in that case the man is looking to himself, and he thereby strengthens the origin of evil, which was, that he turned himself backwards, away from the Lord, and round towards himself.

(Doctrine of the Lord 204)