September 1, 2015

Re-born; from the Former to the New Life

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
... It is known that man is born into the nature of his parents, and of his grandfathers, and also of those who have been his ancestors for ages; thus he is born into the hereditary evil of them all successively accumulated, insomuch that as regards what is from himself he is nothing but evil. The result of this is that as to both understanding and will man has been utterly destroyed; and of himself wills nothing of good, and consequently understands nothing of truth; and therefore that which he calls good and believes to be good, is evil; and that which he calls truth and believes to be truth, is falsity. For example: loving himself above others; desiring better for himself than for others; coveting what belongs to another; taking thought for himself alone, and not for others except for the sake of himself. As of himself man is desirous of these things he therefore calls them goods, and also truths; and what is more, if anyone injures or endeavors to injure him in respect to these goods and truths as he calls them, he hates him, and also burns with revenge toward him, desires and even seeks his ruin, and feels delight in it, and this in proportion as he actually confirms himself in such things, that is, in proportion as he more frequently brings them into actual exercise.

When such a person comes into the other life he has the same desires; the very nature which he has contracted in the world by actual life remains, and the delight just referred to is plainly perceived. For this reason such a man cannot be in any heavenly society, in which everyone desires better for others than for himself, but has to be in some infernal society where the delight is similar to his own.  This nature is that which must be rooted out while the man lives in the world, which cannot possibly be done except by the Lord through regeneration; that is, by his receiving a totally new will and derivative new understanding; or in other words by being made new in respect to both these faculties. But in order that this may be effected, the man must first of all be reborn as a little child, and must learn what is evil and false, and also what is good and true; for without knowledge he cannot be imbued with any good; for from himself he acknowledges nothing to be good but what is evil, and nothing to be true but what is false.

To this end such knowledges are insinuated into him as are not altogether contrary to those which he had before; as that all love begins from self; that self is to be taken care of first and then others; that good is to be done to such as appear poor and distressed outwardly, no matter what may be their inward character; in like manner that good is to be done to widows and orphans simply because they are so called; and lastly, to enemies in general, whoever they may be; and that thereby a man may merit heaven. These and other such knowledges are those of the infancy of his new life, and are of such a nature that while they derive somewhat from his former life or the nature of his former life, they also derive somewhat from his new life into which he is thereby being introduced; and hence they are such as to admit into them whatever things are conducive to the formation of a new will and a new understanding. These are the lowest goods and truths, from which those who are being regenerated commence, and because these admit into themselves truths that are more interior or nearer to Divine truths, by their means there may also be rooted out the falsities which the man had before believed to be truths.

But they who are being regenerated do not learn such truths simply as memory-knowledges, but as life, for they do these truths; but that they do them is from the beginning of the new will which the Lord insinuates entirely without their knowledge; and insofar as they receive of this new will, so far they receive of these knowledges, and bring them into act, and believe them; but insofar as they do not receive of the new will, so far they are indeed capable of learning such things, but not of bringing them into act, because they care merely for memory-knowledge, and not for life.

This is the state of infancy and childhood in respect to the new life which is about to succeed in place of the former life; but the state of the adolescence and youth of this life is that regard is no longer had to any person as he appears in the external form but to his quality in respect to good; first in civil life, next in moral life, and lastly in spiritual life; and good is that which the man then begins to hold and love in the prior place, and from good to love the person; and at last, when he is still further perfected, he takes care to do good to those who are in good, and this in accordance with the quality of the good in them, and at last he feels delight in doing good to them, because he feels delight in good, and pleasantness in the things that confirm it. These confirmatory things he acknowledges as truths; and they also are the truths of his new understanding, which flow from the goods which are of his new will.

In the degree that he feels delight in this good, and pleasantness in these truths, he has a feeling of what is undelightful in the evils of his former life, and of what is unpleasing in its falsities; and the result is that a separation takes place of the things which are of the former will and the former understanding from the things that are of the new will and the new understanding; and this not in accordance with the affection of knowing such things, but in accordance with the affection of doing them. Consequently the man then sees that the truths of his infancy were relatively inverted, and that the same had been by little and little brought back into a different order, namely, to be inversely subordinate, so that those which at first were in the prior place are now in the posterior place; thus that by those truths which were the truths of his infancy and childhood, the angels of God had ascended as by a ladder from earth to heaven; but afterwards, by the truths of his adult age, the angels of God descended as by a ladder from heaven to earth.

... all goods and truths descend from the Lord, and ascend to Him; that is, that He is the first and the last; for man has been so created that the Divine things of the Lord may descend through him down to the ultimates of nature, and from the ultimates of nature may ascend to Him; so that man might be a medium that unites the Divine with the world of nature, and the world of nature with the Divine; and that thus the very ultimate of nature might live from the Divine through man as the uniting medium; which would be the case if man had lived according to Divine order.

That man was so created is evident from the fact that as to his body he is a little world, for all the arcana of the world of nature are stored within him; for every hidden property there is in the ether and its modifications is stored within the eye; and every property in the air is stored within the ear; and whatever invisible thing floats and acts in the air is in the organ of smell where it is perceived; and whatever invisible thing there is in waters and other fluids is in the organ of taste; and the very changes of state are in the sense of touch everywhere in the body; besides that things still more hidden would be perceived in his interior organs if his life were in accordance with order. Hence it is evident that there would be a descent of the Divine through man into the ultimate of nature, and from the ultimate of nature there would be an ascent to the Divine, if with faith of heart, that is, with love, man would only acknowledge the Lord as his first and last end.

In such a state were the most ancient people, who were celestial men; for whatever they apprehended by any sense was to them a means for thinking concerning the things of the Lord; thus concerning the Lord and His kingdom; and from this came the delight they derived from things worldly and terrestrial .... Moreover when they thus contemplated the lower and ultimate things of nature, these appeared before their eyes as if they were alive; for the life from which they descended was in their internal sight and perception, and the objects presented to their eyes were as images of this life; which images, although inanimate, to them were thereby animated. Such is the perception the celestial angels have regarding all things in the world; as has frequently been given me to perceive; and hence also little children have such a perception .... From all this we can see what is the quality of those through whom the Divine things of the Lord descend down to the ultimates of nature, and from the ultimates of nature ascend to Him, and represent the Divine communication and the consequent conjunction which in the supreme sense are signified by the "angels ascending and descending on the ladder set on the earth, whose head reached unto heaven, and upon which stood Jehovah."
(Arcana Coelestia 3701-3702)