Arcana Coelestia #1937

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1937. That 'humble yourself beneath her hands' means that it ought by self-compulsion to place itself under the controlling power of that interior truth is clear without explanation. In the original language 'humbling oneself' is expressed by means of a word which means to fling down. That 'flinging oneself down' in the internal sense is compelling oneself becomes clear from very many places in the Word, the meaning of which will be dealt with later on. The need for the individual to compel himself to do good, to obey what the Lord has commanded, and to utter truths, meant by 'humbling herself beneath her mistress's hands', that is, submitting oneself beneath the controlling power of Divine good and truth, comprehends more arcana within itself than can be explained briefly.

[2] There are certain spirits who during their lifetime, having heard that all good originated in the Lord and that man was unable from himself to perform any good at all, had for these reasons held to a principle of not compelling themselves in anything and of remaining utterly passive; for they had supposed that, what they had heard being true, any effort at all made by them was totally ineffectual. They had therefore waited for immediate influx into the effort of their will and had not compelled themselves to do anything good. Indeed when anything evil had crept in, since they did not feel from within any resistance to it, they had gone so far as to abandon themselves to it, imagining that it was permissible to do so. But those spirits are such that they do not possess so to speak any selfhood, and so do not possess any mind of their own, and are therefore among the more useless; for they suffer themselves to be led just as much by the evil as by the good, and suffer much from the evil.

[3] But those who have practiced self-compulsion and set themselves against evil and falsity - even though at first they had imagined that they did so of themselves, or by their own power, but had after that been enlightened to the effect that their effort originated in the Lord, even the smallest of all the impulses of that effort - in the next life cannot be led by evil spirits, but are among the blessed. This shows that a person ought to compel himself to do what is good and to speak what is true. The arcanum Lying within this is that in so doing a person has a heavenly proprium bestowed on him from the Lord. This heavenly proprium is formed within the effort of his thought; but if he does not maintain that effort through self-compulsion - as this appears to be the way it is maintained - he does not by any means do so by abstaining from self-compulsion.

[4] To make this matter clearer let it be said that within all compulsion towards what is good a certain freedom exists, which is not recognized as freedom while a person is exercising self-compulsion, but is nevertheless inwardly present. Take for example one who is willing to risk death for the sake of some particular end, or one who is willing to endure physical pain for the sake of his health. There is a willingness and so a certain freedom in those actions, though while he is taking risks or suffering pain these remove any feeling of willingness or freedom. So also with those who compel themselves to do what is good. Present within them there is a willingness and thus freedom, which is the source of and the reason for their self-compulsion. That is to say, they compel themselves for the reason that they may obey the things which the Lord has commanded and that their souls may become saved after death; and within these a still greater reason is present, though the person himself is not aware of it, namely the Lord's kingdom, and indeed the Lord Himself.

[5] This applies most of all in times of temptation. In these, when a person practices self-compulsion and sets himself against the evil and falsity that are implanted and prompted by evil spirits, more freedom is present than there would ever be in any state outside those times of temptation, though the person cannot comprehend it then. It is an interior freedom, which produces in him the will to subdue evil and which is great enough to match the power and might of the evil assailing him; otherwise he would not be able to fight at all. This freedom comes from the Lord who implants it in his conscience and by means of it causes him to overcome evil as though he did so from his own proprium. By means of that freedom the person receives a proprium into which the Lord is able to exert good. Without a proprium acquired, that is, conferred, by means of freedom, no one can possibly be reformed, since he is unable to receive a new will, which is conscience. The freedom so conferred is the actual plane into which the influx of good and truth from the Lord passes. Consequently people who in times of temptation do not put up any resistance from that will or freedom conferred on them go under.

[6] Present in all freedom is a person's life, because present there is his love. Whatever a person does from love appears to him as freedom. But within that freedom, when the person practices self-compulsion, setting himself against evil and falsity and doing what is good, heavenly love is present which the Lord instills at that time and by means of which He creates that person's proprium. It is the Lord's will therefore that this proprium should appear to the person to be his own, though in fact it is not. This proprium which a person receives in this manner during his lifetime by means, as it seems, of compulsion, the Lord replenishes in the next life with limitless forms of delight and happiness. Such people are also by degrees enlightened, or rather are confirmed, in the truth that their self-compulsion has not commenced at all in themselves but that even the smallest of all the impulses of their will has been received from the Lord. They are also led to see that the reason why their compulsion had appeared to commence in themselves was that the Lord might give them a new will as their own, and in this way the life belonging to heavenly love might be imparted to them as their own. Indeed the Lord's will is to share with everyone that which is His, thus that which is heavenly, so that it may appear to be that person's and to be within him, though in fact it is not his. A proprium such as this exists with angels, and insofar as they accept the truth that everything good and true comes from the Lord the delight and happiness belonging to such a proprium exist with them.

[7] People however who despise and reject everything good and true and who are unwilling to believe anything that conflicts with their evil desires and their reasonings are unable to compel themselves and so are unable to receive this proprium imparted to conscience, that is, to receive a new will. From what has been stated above it is also evident that self-compulsion is not the same as being compelled, for no good ever results from being compelled, as when one person is being compelled by another to do good. What is being discussed here is self-compulsion which is the product of a certain freedom unknown to the individual, for the Lord is never the source of any compulsion. From this comes the universal law that everything good and true is implanted in freedom. Otherwise the ground never becomes receptive and able to foster what is good; indeed there is no ground for the seed to grow in.

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