Arcana Coelestia #1820

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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1820. 'By what shall I know that I shall inherit it?' means temptation directed against the Lord's love which wished to be made quite certain of the outcome. This becomes clear from the feeling of doubt which the words express. Anyone who is undergoing temptation experiences doubt as regards the end in view. That end is the love against which evil spirits and evil genii fight and in so doing place the end in doubt. And the greater his love is, the more they place it in doubt. Unless the end in view which a person loves is placed in doubt, and even in despair, there would be no temptation. A feeling of certainty about the outcome precedes, and is part of, victory.

[2] Since few people know what temptations really are, let a brief explanation of them be given here. Evil spirits never contend against any other things than those which a person loves, and the more intensely he loves them the more fiercely do those spirits contend. Evil genii are the ones that contend against the things of affection for what is good, and evil spirits are the ones that do so against the affection for what is true. As soon as they detect even the smallest thing that a person loves or get a scent, so to speak, of what is delightful and precious to him, they attack it instantly and try to destroy it, and so the whole person, since his life consists in his loves. Nothing ever gives them greater delight than to destroy a person; nor would they leave off but would continue even for ever, if the Lord did not drive them away. Those who are ill-disposed and deceitful worm their way into those very loves by flattering them, and in this way they bring a person in among themselves. And once they have so brought him in, they very soon try to destroy his loves and so to slay that person, which they do in a thousand unimaginable ways.

[3] Nor are the attacks which they make solely those in which they reason against goods and truths - the making of such attacks being nothing to them, for if they were defeated a thousand times over they would carry on with them because their supply of reasonings against goods and truths can never be exhausted. Rather, in their attacks, they pervert goods and truths, setting these ablaze with a certain kind of evil desire and of persuasion, so that the person himself does not know any other than that similar desire and persuasion reign within him. At the same time they infuse those goods and truths with delight which they seize from the delight which that person has in some other thing. In these ways they infect and infest him most deceitfully, doing it all so skillfully by leading him from the one thing to another that if the Lord did not come to his aid, that person would never know other than that it was indeed so.

[4] They act in similar ways against the affections for truth that constitute conscience. As soon as they become aware of anything, whatever the nature of it, that is a constituent part of that conscience, they mould an affection out of the falsities and weaknesses that exist with that person, and by means of that affection they dim the light of truth and so pervert it, or else they cause him anxiety and torment. In addition to this they keep his thought firmly fixed on one single thing; and they fill that thought with delusions, at the same time secretly incorporating evil desires within those delusions. Besides this they use countless other devices which cannot possibly be described so as to be understood. These are a few of the ways - and only very general ones - by which they are able to get at a person's conscience, which above all else they take the greatest delight in destroying.

[5] These few, indeed very few, observations show the nature of temptations - in general that the nature of a person's temptations is as the nature of his loves. They also show the nature of the Lord's temptations, that these were the most dreadful of all, for as is the intensity of the love so is the dreadfulness of the temptations. The Lord's love - a most ardent love - was the salvation of the whole human race; it was therefore a total affection for good and affection for truth in the highest degree. Against these all the hells contended, employing the most malicious forms of guile and venom, but the Lord nevertheless conquered them all by His own power. Victories have this effect, that after they have been won, wicked genii and spirits do not dare to attempt anything; for their life consists in their being able to destroy, but when they perceive that a person is able to withstand them, they flee even when they are making their first assault, as they usually do when they draw near to merely the threshold of heaven. They are straightaway gripped with horror and dread and hurl themselves back in retreat.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.