May 5, 2016

Conquering 'Infernal' Freedom

Selection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
To compel oneself is not contrary to rationality and liberty.
Man has an internal of thought and an external of thought, and that these are distinct like what is prior and what is posterior, or like what is higher and what is lower; and because they are so distinct they can act separately and can act conjointly. These act separately when from the external of his thought a man speaks and acts in one way while interiorly he thinks and wills in another way; and these act conjointly when a man speaks and acts as he interiorly thinks and wills. The latter is generally true of the sincere, the former of the insincere.

Inasmuch as the internal and the external of the mind are so distinct, the internal can even fight with the external, and can force it by combat into compliance. Combat arises when a man thinks that evils are sins and therefore resolves to refrain from them; for when he refrains a door is opened, and when it is opened the Lord casts out the lusts of evil that have occupied the internal of thought, and implants affections for good in their place. This is done in the internal of thought. But as the enjoyments of the lusts of evil that occupy the external of thought cannot be cast out at the same time, a combat arises between the internal and the external of thought, the internal wishing to cast out these enjoyments because they are enjoyments of evil and not in accord with the affections for good in which the internal now is, and to bring in, in place of these enjoyments of evil, enjoyments of good that are in accord. The enjoyments of good are what are called goods of charity. From this contrariety a combat arises; and when this becomes severe it is called temptation.

Since, then, a man is a man from the internal of his thought, for this is a man's very spirit, it is clear that when a man compels the external of his thought to acquiescence or to an acceptance of the enjoyments of his affections, which are goods of charity, he is compelling himself. This evidently is not contrary to rationality and liberty, but is in accord with them, for rationality excites the combat and liberty carries it on. Moreover, liberty itself with rationality has its seat in the internal man, and from that in the external.

When, therefore, the internal conquers, as it does when the internal has reduced the external to acquiescence and compliance, the Lord gives man liberty itself and rationality itself; for the Lord then withdraws man from infernal freedom, which in itself is slavery, and brings him into heavenly freedom, which is in itself real freedom, and bestows upon him fellowship with the angels. That those who are in sins are servants, and that the Lord makes free those who accept truths from Him through the Word He teaches in John (8:31-36).

This may be illustrated by the example of a man who has had a sense of enjoyment in fraud and secret theft, and who now sees and internally acknowledges that these are sins, and therefore wishes to refrain from them. When he refrains a combat of the internal man with the external arises. The internal man has an affection for sincerity, while the external still finds an enjoyment in defrauding; and as this enjoyment is the direct opposite of the enjoyment of sincerity it only gives way when it is compelled; and it can be compelled only by combat. But when the victory has been gained the external man comes into the enjoyment of the love of what is sincere, which is charity; afterwards the enjoyment of defrauding gradually becomes unenjoyable to him. It is the same with other sins, as with adultery and whoredom, revenge and hatred, blasphemy, and lying. But the hardest struggle of all is with the love of rule from the love of self. He who subdues this easily subdues all other evil loves, for this is their head.

(Divine Providence 145,146)