True Christian Religion (Chadwick) n. 504

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504. The second experience.

I was once, while in the world of spirits, given the inward spiritual sight enjoyed by the angels of the higher heaven; and I saw two spirits not far from me, though some distance apart. I could tell that one of them loved good and truth, which linked him with heaven, and the other loved evil and falsity, which linked him with hell. I approached and called them to me, and from the sound of their voices and their replies I gathered that they were each equally able to perceive truths, and acknowledge them when perceived, to use their understanding to think about them, and to direct their intellectual processes as they pleased, and the motions of their will as they liked; in other words each enjoyed similar free will on the rational level. Moreover I noticed that as a result of that free will there appeared in their minds a glow which extended from the first vision, that of perception, to the last, that of the eye.

[2] But when the one who loved evil and falsity was left alone to think, I observed something like smoke rising from hell and putting out the glow above the level of the memory, so that he was in thick darkness as of midnight. This smoke caught fire and burned like a flame lighting up the region of his mind below the level of memory; this caused him to think of extraordinary falsities arising from the evils of self-love. When the other, however, the one who loved good and truth, was left alone, I saw a gentle flame flowing down on him from heaven, which lit up the region of his mind above the level of memory, and the region below this as well right down to the level of the eye. The light from this flame shone brighter and brighter as his love for good led him to perceive and think of truth. These sights showed me plainly that everyone, wicked as well as good, enjoys spiritual free will, but that hell sometimes blots it out in the case of the wicked, and heaven enhances it and makes it burn brighter in the case of the good.

[3] After this I talked with each of them, first with the one who loved evil and falsity. I had asked something about his experiences, but he was incensed when I mentioned free will. 'What madness it is,' he said, 'to believe that man has free will in spiritual matters! Can any human being help himself to faith and do good of himself? Does not the priesthood at the present time teach what the Word says, that no one can acquire anything unless it is given him from heaven? The Lord Christ said to His disciples, 'Without me you can do nothing.' To this I would add, that no one can move his foot or his hand to do any good action, nor move his tongue to utter any truth derived from good. The church therefore under the guidance of its wise men came to the conclusion that man is unable to will, understand or think about anything spiritual, not even to fit himself to willing, understanding or thinking about it, any more than a statue, a block of wood or a stone; and that therefore God, who alone has the freest and unlimited power, at His good pleasure breathes faith into man, and this, without any action or power on our part, by the working of the Holy Spirit produces all the effects which the uneducated attribute to man.'

[4] Then I talked with the other spirit, the one who loved good and truth, and when I had asked something about his experiences, I mentioned free will. 'What madness it is,' he said, 'to deny that man has free will in spiritual matters! Is there anyone who is unable to will and do good, and to think about and speak truth of himself, which he draws from the Word, and so from the Lord who is the Word? For He said: "Bring forth good fruit" and "Believe in the light", as well as "Love one another" and "Love God"; or again "He who hears and keeps my commandments loves me, and I will love him"; not to mention thousands of similar things throughout the Word. So what use then would the Word be, if man could will and think nothing, and so do and speak nothing that is prescribed in it? If man did not have that ability, what would religion and the church be but a shipwreck lying at the bottom of the sea, with the ship-master standing on top of the mast, shouting. 'There's nothing I can do,' while he watches the rest of the crew hoist sail in the life-boats and sail away. Was not Adam given freedom to eat from the tree of life and also from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? And because in his freedom he ate from the latter tree, smoke from the serpent, that is, from hell, entered his mind, and on account of that he was expelled from paradise and cursed. Yet even still he did not lose his free will, for we read that the route to the tree of life was guarded by a cherub, because if that had not been done, he could still have wished to eat from it.'

[5] When he said this, the other spirit who loved evil and falsity said: 'I reject what I have just heard, and keep in my mind what I suggested myself. Surely everyone knows that it is only God who is alive and so is active, and man is of himself dead, and so is purely passive? How could someone like this, who in himself is dead and purely passive, take to himself what is alive and active?' My reply to this was: 'Man is an instrument for life; and God alone is life. God pours His life into the instrument and all its parts, just as the sun pours its heat into a tree and all its parts. God allows man to feel that life in himself as if it were his own; and God wants man to feel this so that man may, as it were of himself, live in accordance with the laws of order, which are as many as there are commandments in the Word; and so that he may put himself into a suitable state of mind to receive the love of God. Still God continually keeps His finger on the pointer of the balance, and controls it, without, however, violating free will by compulsion.

[6] 'A tree is unable to receive anything that the sun's heat supplies through its root, unless every single fibre in it is warmed and heated. Nor can elements rise up through the root, unless every single fibre passes on the heat it has received and thus contributes to the transport. Man behaves in like fashion with the vital heat he receives from God, but in distinction from a tree he feels the heat as his own, though it is not his. To the extent that he believes it is his and not God's, he receives vital light though not the heat of love from God, but the heat of love from hell. Since this is gross, it obstructs and closes the finer ramifications of the instrument, just as impure blood does the capillary vessels of the body. In this way a person turns himself from being spiritual into a purely natural man.

[7] 'Man's free will is derived from his feeling the life in him as his own, and God's leaving him to feel like this so that linking may take place. This linking is impossible unless it is reciprocal, and it becomes so when a person freely acts as if of himself. If God had not left man to do this, man would not be man, nor could he have everlasting life. For it is the reciprocal link with God which makes man a man rather than an animal, and allows him after death to live for ever. This is the result of free will in spiritual matters.'

[8] On hearing this the wicked spirit took himself off to a distance, and I then saw a flying serpent, of the sort called prester*, on a certain tree, offering someone fruit from it. In the spirit I approached the place, and saw there in place of the serpent a monstrous man, whose face was so covered in beard that only his nose stuck out; and instead of the tree there was a lighted fire-brand, near which he stood. The smoke had previously penetrated his mind, and after that he rejected the idea of free will in spiritual matters. Suddenly similar smoke came out of the fire-brand and surrounded both it and the man. Since they were thus lost to view, I went away. But the other spirit, who loved good and truth and insisted that man has free will in spiritual matters, accompanied me home.

* Or 'fiery serpent'.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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