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