Arcana Coelestia #4459

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4459. 'Jacob's sons answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully means evil thought and intention regarding the truth and the good of the Church among the Ancients. This is clear from the representation of 'Shechem' as truth among the Ancients, or what amounts to the same, truth from the ancient Divine stock, dealt with in 4399, 4454; from the representation of 'Hamor' as the good from which that truth sprang, dealt with in 4399, 4431, 4447, 4454; and from the meaning of 'deceit' as evil thought and intention. In general deceit implies evil against another and against what he says and does, for the thought and intention of the one who is deceitful is different from that of the other person, as is also clear from the outcome of events described in this chapter. From this it is evident that 'the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully' means evil thought and intention regarding the truth and the good of the Church among the Ancients.

[2] The sons of Jacob, that is, his descendants, could have none but an evil thought and intention regarding the truth and the good belonging to the internal man, because they were interested in external things devoid of internal, 4281, 4293, 4307, 4429, 4433. They saw no value at all in internal things, and therefore utterly despised them. Such is also the nature of that nation at the present day, and so it is of all who are interested only in external things. People who are interested only in external things do not even know what it is to be interested in internal things, since they have no knowledge of what is internal. If anyone in their presence mentions that which is internal they either endorse the existence of it because they know from doctrine of its existence, though that endorsement is attributable to their deceit, or else they deny the existence of it with their lips as they do in their hearts. For they do not go further than the experiences of the senses of the external man, and as a consequence do not believe in any life after death. Nor do they believe any resurrection to be possible apart from their rising again in the physical body. That being so, they are allowed to have these thoughts concerning the resurrection, or else they would not have any at all. For they centre the whole of life in the body, not knowing that the life of their body flows from the life of their spirit which lives after death. People who are interested only in external things cannot possibly have any faith, for external things with them annihilate all thought concerning internal ones, and consequently all belief in them.

[3] Since this kind of ignorance reigns at the present day, an explanation needs to be given of what it is to be interested in external things devoid of internal. All people who are devoid of conscience are interested only in external things, for the internal man reveals itself through conscience. Anyone is devoid of conscience if he thinks and does what is true and good not for the sake of what is true and good but for the sake of his own personal position and gain, and also merely because he fears the law and fears for his own life. For if reputation, position, gain, and life were not endangered he would plunge without conscience into every unmentionable act. This is quite evident from those in the next life who were such during their lifetime. Because interior things are laid bare in that life those people are constantly endeavouring to destroy others, on account of which they are in hell, where they are held in bonds in a spiritual manner.

[4] To enable anyone to have a fuller knowledge of what is meant by an interest in external things, and what by an interest in internal ones; to enable him to know also that people who are interested only in external things cannot have any conception of what internal ones are and so cannot feel any affection for them (for nobody feels any affection for things of which he has no conception) let the following, for example, be considered. One who is least in heaven is the greatest, one who is humble is exalted, and also one who is poor and needy is rich and affluent. People who are interested only in external things cannot have any conception of these matters, for they think that the least cannot possibly be the greatest, nor the humble be the exalted, and that the poor cannot possibly be rich or the needy affluent. Yet this is precisely how it is in heaven. And because they cannot have any conception of these matters they are consequently unable to feel any affection for them; and when they reflect on them from the point of view of the bodily and worldly things which interest them they feel an aversion to them. How it is in heaven they do not know at all, and as long as they are interested only in external things they do not wish to know, nor indeed are they capable of knowing. For in heaven one who knows, acknowledges, and believes in his heart that is, with affection - that none of his power is self-derived, but that all the power he has comes from the Lord, is called the least. Yet he is the greatest because his power comes from the Lord. Similarly so with one who is humble yet exalted; for one who is humble, acknowledging and believing from affection that he has no self-derived power at all, nor any self-derived intelligence and wisdom, nor any goodness and truth, has power, an intelligent understanding of truth, and a wise discernment of good, conferred on him by the Lord more than on others. And likewise so with the poor and the needy being rich and affluent; for he is called poor and needy who believes in his heart and with affection that nothing he possesses begins in himself, nor does anything he knows and is wise in, nor does anything he has power in. In heaven he is rich and is affluent, the Lord granting him total wealth since he is wiser and richer than all others and lives in most magnificent palaces, 1116, 1626, 1627, and among the treasures constituting all the riches of heaven.

[5] Take as another example someone who is interested only in external things. Such a person cannot have any conception at all that heavenly joy consists in loving the neighbour more than himself and the Lord above all things, and that happiness depends on the amount and the quality of that love. For one interested only in external things loves himself more than his neighbour, and if he does love others it is because they show him favour; and so he loves them for a selfish reason - and he therefore loves himself in them and them in himself. A person like this cannot know what loving others more than himself is; indeed he does not wish to know, and is incapable of knowing. Consequently when told that heaven consists in such love, 548, he is repelled by the idea. Hence those who have been like this during their lifetime are unable to draw near any heavenly community; and when they do draw near, because they feel repelled by it, they cast themselves down headlong into hell.

[6] Because few at the present day know what it is to be interested in external things and what it is to be interested in internal ones, and because the majority believe that those interested in internal things cannot be interested in external ones, and vice versa, let one further example be introduced to illustrate the matter. Take the nourishment of the body and the nourishment of the soul. A person who is interested in merely external pleasures takes care of his own skin, gratifies his stomach, likes to live sumptuously, and finds that the choicest food and drink yields him the highest pleasure. A person however who is interested in internal things also takes delight in those same pleasures, but his governing affection is to nourish the body with pleasurable foods so that it may be healthy, the end in view being a healthy mind in a healthy body. His primary concern is health of mind, for which health of the body serves as a means. One who is a spiritual man does not stop there but regards health of mind or of the soul as the means provided to acquire intelligence and wisdom, not for the sake of reputation, position, or gain, but for the sake of the life after death. And one who is spiritual in a more interior degree regards intelligence and wisdom as a mediate end enabling him to serve as a useful member in the Lord's kingdom; while one who is celestial regards the same as that which enables him to serve the Lord. To him bodily food is a means to the enjoyment of spiritual food; and spiritual food is a means to the enjoyment of celestial food. And because they ought to serve in this manner those foods also correspond, and are therefore called foods. From these examples one may see what is meant by being interested only in external things and what by being interested in internal ones.

[7] The Jewish and Israelite nation, which is the subject in this chapter in the internal historical sense, apart from those who have died as children, are for the most part such. They more than all others are interested in external things, for they are governed by avarice. Those who do not love profit and gain for the sake of any use, only for the sake of gold and silver, and who focus the whole delight of life in those possessions, dwell in the outermost or lowest places, since they are entirely earthly things which they love. But those loving gold and silver because of some use these may serve are people who rise above earthly things, in accordance with that use. The use itself which a person loves is what gives direction to his life and marks him off from others, an evil use making him like one in hell and a good use like one in heaven. It is not indeed the use itself that does so but the love behind it, for everyone's life is inherent in his love.

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