Conscience

A conscience forms in us on the basis of whatever religious tradition we follow, depending on how deeply we internalize that tradition.

For people in the [Christian] church, their conscience is shaped either by truths [they themselves have drawn] from the Word that have become part of their faith or else by things based on the Word that they have been taught by others, depending on the extent to which they have taken these to heart. As we come to know and believe truths and comprehend them in our own way, when we will them and do them, then our conscience comes into being. Taking them to heart is taking them into our will, because our will is what we refer to as our heart.

That is why people who have a conscience say from the heart whatever they say, and do from the heart whatever they do. They also have a mind that is not divided, because what they do is consistent with what they understand and believe to be true and good.

People who are more enlightened than others concerning the truths of their faith, and who are more perceptive than others, are equipped to have a better conscience than people who are less enlightened and are less perceptive.

A genuinely spiritual life is a matter of having a true conscience, because in it our faith is joined to our caring. In that case, we see following our conscience as following the principles of our spiritual life, and going against our conscience as going against the principles of our spiritual life. As a result, when we act in accord with our conscience we feel calm and peaceful and have an inner sense of well-being, but when we go against our conscience we feel disturbed and pained. This pain is what people refer to as “pangs of conscience.”

People can have a conscience that is focused on what is good, and they can have a conscience that is focused on what is right. A conscience that is focused on what is good is a conscience that resides in our inner self; a conscience that is focused on what is right is a conscience that resides in our outer self. If we are driven from within to live by the precepts of faith, we have a conscience that is focused on what is good; if we are driven by outward considerations to live by civil and moral laws, we have a conscience that is focused on what is right. People who have a conscience that is focused on what is good also have a conscience that is focused on what is right.

People who have only a conscience that is focused on what is right nevertheless have the capacity to develop a conscience that is focused on what is good, and they do so when they are taught about it.

The type of conscience that is found in people whose lives are devoted to caring about their neighbor is a conscience focused on truth, because it is formed through the faith they have in the truth. The type of conscience that is found in people whose lives are devoted to love for the Lord, though, is a conscience focused on goodness, because it is formed through the love they have for the truth. The conscience the latter people have is of a higher kind and is called a perception of the truth that arises from goodness.

People who have a conscience focused on truth are part of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom; people who have the higher conscience, the one called perception, are part of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.

Some examples may help to show what conscience is. Suppose you have another’s goods without the other knowing it and can therefore profit from them with no fear of the law or of loss of position or reputation. If you nevertheless return the goods to the other because the goods are not yours, you are someone who has a conscience; you are doing a good thing because it is good, and doing the right thing because it is right. Or suppose you are offered a government position but you know that someone else who also wants that position would be of greater benefit to your country than you would. If you let the other person have the position for the good of your country, you are someone who has a good conscience. A similar principle would apply in many other situations.

On this basis we can tell what people who have no conscience are like; we can identify them because they are the opposite. For example, if for the sake of profit they make something that is wrong look right or something that is evil seem good (or the reverse), they are people who have no conscience. They do not even know what conscience is, and if someone tells them what it is they do not believe it and some of them have no interest whatever in learning more.

That is what people are like who do everything for worldly and selfish reasons.

If we do not develop a conscience in this world we cannot develop one in the other life and therefore we cannot be saved. This is because in that case we do not have a level into which heaven can flow and through which it can work—that is, a way in which the Lord can act by means of heaven to lead us to himself. This is because our conscience is the level within us into which heaven flows; it serves as the part of us that receives heaven’s inflow.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 130-138

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Piety

Many people think that a spiritual life, the kind of life that leads us to heaven, consists of piety, of outward holiness, and of renunciation of the world. In fact, though, piety without caring, outward holiness without inner holiness, and renunciation of the world without involvement in the world do not make our life spiritual. What does make our life spiritual is piety that comes from a caring heart, outward holiness that is a manifestation of inner holiness, and renunciation of the world that goes along with involvement in the world.

Piety is thinking and speaking reverently, giving ample time to prayer, having a humble attitude when we pray, attending church regularly and listening attentively to what is preached, observing the sacrament of the Supper several times a year, and performing the other ceremonial acts the church prescribes.

A life of caring, though, consists of having goodwill toward our neighbors and doing good things for them; basing all of our actions on what is right and fair, and what is good and true; and applying the same principles in all our responsibilities. In a word, a life of caring consists of being useful. This kind of life is the primary way to worship God; a life of piety is only secondary. This means that if we separate the one from the other, if we lead a pious life but not a caring life at the same time, we are not in fact worshiping God. We may be thinking about God, but this comes from ourselves and not from God, because we are constantly thinking about ourselves and not at all about our neighbor. If we do think about our neighbors, we regard them as worthless if they are not like us. Further, we are thinking of heaven as our reward, so our mind is preoccupied with self-love and taking credit. Being actively useful is something we either neglect or regard with contempt; and that is also how we treat our neighbors. Yet at the same time we believe there is nothing wrong with us.

This shows that a pious life apart from a caring life is not the spiritual life that is needed within our worship of God. Compare Matthew 6:7, 8.

Outward holiness is similar to the pious behavior just described (it consists primarily in seeing all worship of God as a matter of the sanctity we experience when we are in church); but this is not holy for us unless we are holy inwardly. This is because our inner nature determines our outer nature—the latter comes from the former the way our actions come from our spirit. This means that outward holiness apart from inner holiness is earthly and not spiritual, which is why it can be found just as readily in evil people as in good people. Furthermore, people whose worship is nothing but external are for the most part empty; that is, they have no knowledge of what is good or true, even though goodness and truth are holiness itself. Goodness and truth are what we are to know and believe and love because they come from the Divine and there is therefore something divine within them. To be inwardly holy, then, is to love what is good and true because it is good and true and to love what is right and honest because it is right and honest. The more we love these things for their own sakes, the more spiritual we become. Our devotion to God becomes more spiritual, too, because we become more and more eager to know what is good and what is true and to put them into practice. On the other hand, as our love for these things diminishes, we become more earthly, our devotion to God becomes more earthly, and we become less and less interested in knowing and doing these things.

We could compare outward worship apart from inner worship to having living breath without having a living heart, while outward worship prompted by inner worship is like living breath that is joined to a living heart.

As for renunciation of the world, many believe that renouncing the world and living for the spirit and not for the flesh is a matter of casting aside worldly things (primarily wealth and status), going around in constant devout meditation concerning God, salvation, and eternal life, and spending our lives in prayer and in reading the Word and devotional literature, not to mention self-affliction. This, though, is not at all what renouncing the world means; it means loving God and loving our neighbor. We love God when we live by his commandments, and we love our neighbor when we do things that are useful. If we wish to receive the life of heaven, we must by all means live in this world and be involved in its responsibilities and dealings. A life withdrawn from worldly concerns is a life of thought and faith, and yet is completely separate from a life of love and caring. In that kind of life, having goodwill toward our neighbors and doing good things for them ceases altogether; and when our goodwill and our good actions come to an end, our spiritual life is like a house without a foundation that gradually sags into the ground, cracking and splitting, then leans to one side, and finally collapses.

From the Lord’s own words we can see that doing what is good is how we are to worship the Lord:

Everyone who hears my words and does them I will liken to a wise man who built his house on the rock; but anyone who hears my words and does not do them I will liken to a foolish man who built his house on the sand or on the ground without a foundation. (Matthew 7:24–27; Luke 6:47, 48, 49)

This now makes it possible for us to see that a pious life is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that a caring life is joined to it. The latter is primary and determines the nature of the former.

Likewise, outward holiness is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that it comes from inward holiness, because the nature of the latter determines the nature of the former.

And again, renunciation of the world is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that it takes place in the world, since we renounce the world when we lay aside our self-love and our love for the world and do what is right and honest in every office we hold, every item of business we transact, and everything we do, doing so from within and therefore from a heavenly source. This source is present within our life when we do what is good, honest, and right because doing so accords with divine laws.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 123-128

Freedom

All freedom is a function of love, because what we love we do with a sense of freedom. Therefore all of our freedom is connected with our will, because whatever we love we also will to do; and since our love and our will constitute our life, freedom too constitutes our life. This can show us what freedom is, namely, that it is a reflection of our love and our will and therefore our life. That is why anything we do freely seems to us to have come from ourselves.

Doing evil freely seems to be a kind of freedom but it is actually slavery, since this freedom comes from our love for ourselves and our love for this world, and these loves come from hell. This kind of freedom actually turns into slavery after we die, since anyone who had this kind of freedom becomes a lowly slave in hell afterward.

In contrast, freely doing what is good is freedom itself because it comes from a love for the Lord and from a love for our neighbor, and these loves come from heaven. This freedom too stays with us after death and then becomes true freedom because anyone who has this kind of freedom is like one of the family in heaven. This is how the Lord expresses it: “Anyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not abide in the house forever, but the Son does abide forever. If the Son makes you free, you will be truly free” (John 8:34, 35, 36).

Since everything good comes from the Lord and everything evil from hell, it follows that it is freedom to be led by the Lord and it is slavery to be led by hell.

The purpose of our having the freedom to think what is evil and what is false and even to put them into practice (to the extent that the laws do not prevent it) is that it gives us the ability to be reformed. What is good and what is true need to be planted in our love and our will if they are to become part of our life, and there is no way this can happen unless we have the freedom to contemplate both what is evil and false and what is good and true. This freedom is given to each one of us by the Lord. When we are contemplating something that is good and true, then to the extent that we do not at the same time love what is evil and false the Lord plants that goodness and truth in our love and our will and therefore in our life, and in this way reforms us.

Anything that is planted within us while we are in a state of freedom becomes a permanent part of us; anything, though, that is planted under coercion does not last, because our will is not engaged; the will behind it is that of the person supplying the pressure.

That is also why worship in a state of freedom is pleasing to the Lord but forced worship is not. Worship in freedom is worship that comes from love; forced worship does not come from love.

No matter how similar they look on the surface, freedom to do good and freedom to do evil are as different and as remote from each other as heaven and hell. The freedom to do good comes from heaven and is called “heavenly freedom,” while the freedom to do evil comes from hell and is called “hellish freedom.” To the extent that we have the one freedom we do not have the other—no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can also see from this that people who have hellish freedom see it as slavery and bondage if they are not allowed to will what is evil and think what is false whenever they feel like it, while people who have heavenly freedom loathe to will anything evil and to think anything false, and if they are forced to do so, it torments them.

Since acting from freedom seems to us to come from ourselves, heavenly freedom can also be called “heavenly selfhood” and hellish freedom can be called “hellish selfhood.” Hellish selfhood is the sense of self into which we are born, and it is evil. Heavenly selfhood, though, is the sense of self into which we come as we are reformed, and it is good.

This shows us what freedom of choice is—namely, doing what is good by choice or intentionally; this is the freedom we have when we are being led by the Lord. We are led by the Lord when we love what is good and true because it is good and true.

We can tell what kind of freedom we have from the pleasure we feel when we are engaged in thought, speech, action, hearing, or seeing, because all the pleasure we feel is a reflection of what we love.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 141-147

Faith (Continued)

The assurance or trust which people say faith provides, and which they call a “truly saving faith,” is not a spiritual assurance or trust but an earthly one when it is based on faith alone. Spiritual assurance or trust derives its essence and life from good actions done out of love and not from the truth that belongs to religious faith apart from those good actions. The assurance provided by a faith separated from good actions is dead; therefore real assurance is not possible for us when we are leading evil lives. An assurance that we are saved because of the Lord’s merit with the Father no matter how we have lived is a long way from the truth as well.

All who have spiritual faith, though, have an assurance of being saved by the Lord, because they believe that the Lord came into the world to give eternal life to those who both believe and live by the principles that he taught. They know that he is the one who regenerates such people and prepares them for heaven, doing so all by himself without their help, out of pure mercy.

Believing what the Word or the church teaches and not living by it may look like faith, and some may even conjecture that they are saved by it; but the truth is that no one is saved by faith alone. Faith alone is a conviction one deliberately induces in oneself; therefore I need now to describe the nature of such self-induced convictions.

A self-induced conviction is when we believe and love the Word and the teachings of the church not for the sake of their truth or in order to live by them but for the sake of profit and respect and to be thought learned. As a result, when this is the kind of faith we have we are not focusing on the Lord or heaven but on ourselves and this world. People who aspire to worldly greatness and crave an abundance of material things express stronger conviction that what the church teaches is the truth than people who have no such aspirations or cravings. This is because for the ambitious the church’s teachings are only a means to their own ends, and the more they love those ends, the more they love—and trust—the means.

In reality, though, what determines the strength of their conviction at a given moment is how intensely their love for themselves and for the world is burning and how much that fire is affecting their conversation, preaching, and actions. During moments on fire they are completely convinced that what they are saying is true. When they are not feeling the fire of those loves, however, they believe very little—some have no belief at all. This shows that a self-induced conviction is a faith of the mouth and not of the heart, so it is really no faith at all.

People whose faith is self-induced do not know from any inner enlightenment whether what they are teaching is true or false, and as long as the crowd believes them, they do not care. In fact, they have no interest whatever in knowing the truth for its own sake. As a result, if they cannot obtain status or profit they abandon their faith (or at least if they can do so without putting their reputation in jeopardy), because self-induced conviction does not live deep within us. It remains on the outside, only in our memory, so we can call on it when we are teaching. This means that this type of faith vanishes after death, and so do the truths that go with it, because the only kind of faith that remains then is the kind that lives within us—that is, that has taken root in our doing of good and has therefore become part of our life.

The following passage in Matthew is about people whose faith is self-induced:

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many great things in your name?” But then I will declare to them, “I do not know you, you workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22, 23)

Then it says in Luke:

Then you begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:26, 27)

They are also described as the five foolish young women in Matthew who did not have oil for their lamps:

Later the other young women came along and said, “Lord, Lord, open up for us.” But he will answer and say, “I tell you truly, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:11, 12)

The oil [that should have been] in their lamps means the good actions from love [that should be] in our faith.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 115-119

Faith

No one knows what faith is in its essence who does not know what caring is, because where there is no caring there is no faith. This is because caring is just as inseparable from faith as goodness is from truth. What we love or really care about is what we regard as good, and what we believe is what we regard as true. We can therefore see that the oneness of caring and faith is like the oneness of what is good and what is true. The nature of that union was made clear in the earlier material on goodness and truth.

The oneness of caring and faith is also like the oneness of our will and our understanding. These are, after all, the two faculties in us that are receptive to goodness and truth, our will being the faculty receptive to goodness and our understanding being the faculty receptive to truth. These two faculties are also receptive to caring and faith, because caring has to do with goodness and faith has to do with truth. Everyone knows that caring and faith are with us and in us, and since they are with us and in us, the only place they can be is in our will and in our understanding. Our whole life resides there and comes forth from there. Yes, we do have a faculty of memory as well, but that is only a waiting room where things gather that are going to enter our understanding and our will. We can see, then, that the oneness of caring and faith is like the oneness of our will and our understanding. The nature of this oneness can be seen from the information already presented on our will and our understanding.

Our caring is joined to our faith when we choose to do what we know and perceive to be true. Our caring is a function of what we choose to do, and our faith is a function of what we know and perceive to be true. Faith first enters us and becomes part of us when we choose to do what we know and perceive to be true, and when we come to love that truth. Until that happens, faith remains outside us.

Faith is not faith for us unless it becomes spiritual, and it does not become spiritual unless it arises out of our love. This happens when we love to live a life of truth and goodness—that is, to live by what we are commanded in the Word.

Faith is a passion for truth that comes from wanting to do what truth teaches because it is the truth; and wanting to do what truth teaches because it is the truth is the very definition of human spirituality. That is, it transcends our earthly nature, which involves our wanting to do what truth teaches not because it is the truth but for the sake of praise or fame or profit for ourselves. Truth detached from such concerns is spiritual because it comes from the Divine. Whatever comes from the Divine is spiritual, and this is joined to us through love because love is a spiritual joining together.

We can know and think and understand a great deal, but when we are left to the privacy of our own thoughts we discard anything that is not in harmony with our love. We discard such things after our physical lives as well, when we are in the spirit, since the only things that are left to us once we are in the spirit are the things that have entered into our love. After death all the rest strikes us as foreign matter that we throw out of our house because it is not part of our love. And I say “in the spirit” because we live as spirits after death.

We can form some image of the relationship between good actions that come from caring and the truth that belongs to religious faith if we think in terms of the warmth and light of the sun. When the light that radiates from the sun is joined to warmth, as is the case in spring and summer, then everything on earth sprouts and blossoms. When there is no warmth in the light, though, as is the case in winter, then everything on earth becomes dormant and dies. The truth that belongs to religious faith is spiritual light, and love is spiritual warmth.

This makes it possible for us to form some image of what people of the church are like when faith is joined to caring in them. They are just like a garden paradise. Their image, though, when faith is not joined to caring in them is like that of a desert or a land buried in snow.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 108-114

Notes:

Goodness and Truth: Published on 11/14-15/2017
Will and Understanding: Published on 11/18/2017

Love in General

What we love constitutes life itself to us: what our love is like determines what our life is like and therefore what we are like as human beings. In particular, it is the love that is dominant or supreme in us that makes us who we are.

That love has many loves that are subordinate to it, loves that derive from it. They take on various guises, but they are all nevertheless present within the dominant love, and together with it make one kingdom. The dominant love acts as the monarch or head of the rest; it governs them and works through them as intermediate goals, in order to focus on and strive for its primary and ultimate goal of all, doing this both directly and indirectly.

The object of our dominant love is what we love more than anything else.

Whatever we love more than anything else is constantly present within our thoughts and also within our will. It constitutes the very core of our life. For example, if we love wealth more than anything else, whether in the form of money or of possessions, we are constantly considering how we can acquire it. We feel the deepest joy when we do acquire it and the deepest grief when we lose it—our heart is in it.

If we love ourselves more than anything else, we are mindful of ourselves at every little moment. We think about ourselves, talk about ourselves, and act to benefit ourselves, because our life is a life of pure self.

We have as our goal whatever we love more than anything else. This is what we focus on overall and in every detail. It is within our will like the hidden current of a river that draws and carries us along even when we are doing something else, because it is what animates us.

What is loved above all is also something we look for and see in others, and something we use to influence them or to cooperate with them.

The way we are is entirely determined by what controls our life. This is what distinguishes us from each other. This is what determines our heaven if we are good and our hell if we are evil. It is our essential will, our self, and our nature. In fact, it is the underlying reality of our life. It cannot be changed after death because it is what we really are.

All the pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness we feel comes from and accords with what we love above all. We call whatever we love a pleasure because that is how it feels to us. While we can also call something a pleasure that we think about but do not love, that kind of pleasure is not alive for us.

What we see as good is what is pleasing to our love, and what we see as evil is what is displeasing to our love.

There are two kinds of love that generate all that is good and true, and two kinds of love that generate all that is evil and false.

The two kinds of love that are the source of everything good and true are love for the Lord and love for our neighbor; the two kinds of love that are the source of everything evil and false are love for ourselves and love for this world.

The latter two kinds of love are the exact opposites of the former two kinds of love.

The two kinds of love that are the source of everything good and true (which as just stated are love for the Lord and love for our neighbor) make heaven for us, so they reign in heaven as well; and since they make heaven for us they also constitute the church.

The two kinds of love that are the source of everything evil and false (which as just stated are love for ourselves and love for this world) make hell for us and therefore reign in hell as well.

The two kinds of love that are the source of everything good and true (which as just stated are the kinds of love in heaven) open and give form to our inner, spiritual self because that is where they live. However, when the two kinds of love that are the source of everything evil and false are in control, they close and wreck our inner, spiritual self and cause us to be materialistic and sense-oriented according to the extent and nature of their domination.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 54-61

Will and Understanding

We have two abilities that make up our life, one called will and the other understanding. They are distinguishable, but they are created to be one. When they are one, they are called the mind; so they are the human mind and it is there that all the life within us is truly to be found.

Just as everything in the universe that is in accord with the divine design goes back to what is good and what is true, so everything in us goes back to will and understanding. This is because whatever is good in us resides in our will and whatever is true in us resides in our understanding. These two abilities, or these two living parts of ours, receive and are acted upon by what is good and true: our will receives and is acted upon by everything that is good, and our understanding receives and is acted upon by everything that is true. Goodness and truth can be found nowhere else in us but in these faculties. Further, since they are not to be found anywhere else, neither are love and faith, since love and goodness are mutually dependent, and similarly faith and truth.

Now, since everything in the universe goes back to goodness and truth and everything about the church goes back to good things that are done from love and truth that belongs to faith, and since we are human because of will and understanding, the body of teaching [I am presenting] deals with will and understanding as well. Otherwise we could have no clear concept of them, no solid foundation for our thinking.

Will and understanding also form the human spirit, since they are where our wisdom and intelligence dwell—in general, where our life dwells. The body, [by contrast,] is simply a thing that follows orders.

There is no knowledge more relevant than knowing how our will and understanding make one mind. They make one mind the way goodness and truth form a unity. There is the same kind of marriage between will and understanding as there is between goodness and truth. You may see quite well what that marriage is like from what has already been presented concerning goodness and truth [Sections 23–24]. That is, just as goodness is the reality underlying something and truth is how that thing becomes manifest from goodness, so our will is the reality underlying our life, and our understanding is how life becomes manifest from our will. This is because the goodness that is characteristic of our will takes form in our understanding and presents itself to view [there].

People who are focused on what is good and true have both will and understanding, while people who are focused on what is evil and false do not have will or understanding. Instead of will they have craving, and instead of understanding they have mere information. Any will that is truly human is receptive to goodness, and any understanding that is truly human is open to truth. This means anything that is evil cannot [properly] be labeled “will,” and anything that is false cannot [properly] be labeled “understanding,” because these things are opposites, and opposites are mutually destructive. That is why anyone who is focused on something evil and therefore on what is false cannot be called rational, wise, or intelligent. Then too, the deeper levels of our minds are closed when we are evil, and those levels are where our will and understanding principally reside.

We assume that we have will and understanding even when we are evil because we say that we are willing things and understanding them, but our “willing” is nothing but craving and our “understanding” is mere information.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 28-33

Providence

Providence is the name for the Lord’s governance in the heavens and on earth. Since all the goodness that comes from love and all the truth that leads to faith—the things that are required for our salvation—come from him and none whatever comes from us, we can see that the Lord’s divine providence is involved in absolutely everything that contributes to the salvation of the human race. As the Lord teaches in John:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

And again,

As a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it abides on the vine, the same goes for you unless you abide in me. Without me you cannot do anything. (John 15:4, 5)

The Lord’s divine providence is operative in the smallest details of our lives; there is only one source of life, who is the Lord, and in him we live and move and have our being [Acts 17:28].

People who think about divine providence in worldly terms come to the conclusion that it applies only on the largest scale, but that the details are left to us. But people who think this way do not know the mysteries of heaven. They draw their conclusions solely on the basis of self-love, love for the world, and the things that give pleasure to these loves. So when they see evil people raised to high rank, making more money than good people, and skillfully and successfully accomplishing evil things, they say in their hearts that none of this would be happening if divine providence were operative in all the details. They fail to take into account, though, that the goal of divine providence does not concern what is momentary and transient, what comes to an end when our lives in this world cease. Rather, its goal concerns what lasts to eternity, what therefore does not have an end. Whatever has no end is real, while what comes to an end is relatively unreal. Consider, if you will, whether a hundred thousand years are anything next to eternity, and you will see that they are not. What then are the few years of our lives in this world?

Anyone who weighs the matter properly can know that eminence and wealth in this world are not genuine divine blessings, even though we call them that because we enjoy them so much. They come to an end for us; and they also lead many of us astray and turn us away from heaven. No, the real blessings that come from the Divine are eternal life and the happiness it brings. This is what the Lord is teaching us in Luke:

Provide yourselves a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys; because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33, 34)

from New Jerusalem, Sections 267-270

Sacred Scripture, or the Word

Without revelation from the Divine, we cannot know anything about eternal life or even about God, and even less about love for God and faith in God. This is because we are born into utter ignorance and have to learn from worldly sources everything that gives form to our understanding. It is also because by heredity we are born with evils of every kind, which come from love for ourselves and for the world. These loves give rise to pleasures that retain constant control over us and prompt us to think things that are diametrically opposed to the Divine. This, then, is why we know nothing about eternal life; so there must of necessity be some revelation that makes it possible for us to know.

If we consider people in the church, we can see very clearly that the evils of love for ourselves and for the world bring about this kind of ignorance about eternal life. Even though people in the church are informed from revelation that God exists, that heaven and hell are real, that there is an eternal life, and that this eternal life is gained by doing good things that are inspired by love and faith, still they fall into denial; and the educated are as prone to this denial as the uneducated.

This shows how great the ignorance would be if there were no revelation.

So since we live after death and our life after death is eternal, and since the particular life that lies ahead for us is based on the state of our love and faith, it follows that the Divine, out of love for the whole human race, has revealed the kinds of thing

In the Christian world, what the Divine has revealed for us is the Word.

Since the Word is a revelation from the Divine, it is divine in every detail. This is because whatever comes from the Divine cannot be otherwise.

Whatever comes from the Divine comes down to us through the heavens, so in the heavens it is adapted to the wisdom of the angels who live there, and on earth it is adapted to the grasp of the people who live here. Consequently, the Word has an inner meaning, which is spiritual and intended for angels, and an outer meaning, which is earthly and intended for us. For this reason it is the Word that joins heaven and us together.

The true meaning of the Word is understood only by those who are enlightened, and we are enlightened only when we are devoted to loving the Lord and having faith in him. In that case our inner levels are lifted into the light of heaven by the Lord.

The Word in its letter cannot be understood properly except by means of a body of teaching drawn from the Word by an enlightened person. Its literal meaning has been accommodated so that it is possible even for those with no education to comprehend it; therefore [to find their way to a truer understanding] they need a body of teaching drawn from the Word to serve as a lamp.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 249-254

Goodness and Truth (Continued)

Goodness takes many forms. Basically, it can be spiritual or earthly, and these two types of goodness come together in what is genuinely good on the moral level. The same goes for types of truth as for types of goodness, because truths come from what is good and are forms of what is good.

The relationship between what is evil and what is false is the inverse of the relationship between what is good and what is true. That is, just as everything in the universe that is in accord with the divine design goes back to what is good and what is true, so everything that violates that design goes back to what is evil and what is false. Further, just as what is good loves being joined to what is true and what is true loves being joined to what is good, likewise what is evil loves being joined to what is false and what is false loves being joined to what is evil.

And just as all intelligence and wisdom are born of a bond between what is good and what is true, so all madness and stupidity are born of a bond between what is evil and what is false. The bond between evil and falsity is called “the hellish marriage.”

We can see from the fact that evil and falsity are the opposite of goodness and truth that nothing true can be joined to anything evil and nothing good can be joined to any falsity arising from evil. If anything true is put together with something evil it is no longer true; it is false because it has been distorted. If anything good is put together with some falsity arising from evil it is no longer good; it is evil because it has been polluted. A falsity that does not arise from evil, though, can be joined to goodness.

“No one who is resolutely and habitually devoted to what is evil and what is false can know what is good and what is true, because such people believe that their evil is good and that their falsity is the truth. On the other hand, anyone who is resolutely and habitually devoted to what is good and what is true can know what is evil and what is false. This is because every type of goodness and its accompanying truth is heavenly in essence, and if any of it is not heavenly in essence it still comes from heaven. Every type of evil and its accompanying falsity, though, is hellish in essence, and any of it that is not hellish in essence still comes from hell. Everything heavenly is in the light, while everything hellish is in darkness.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 16-19