Divine Providence #215

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215. 1. Temporal matters involve eminence and wealth, and therefore rank and money, in this world. There are a great many temporal matters, but they all boil down to eminence and wealth. By "temporal matters" I mean things that either die off in time or simply cease when our life on earth is over. By "eternal matters" I mean things that do not die off and stop either in time or at the end of our life on earth.

Since all these temporal matters boil down to eminence and wealth, as just noted, it is important to know the following things: what eminence and wealth are and where they come from; the nature of a love of them for their own sake and the nature of a love of them for the sake of service; and that the difference between them is like the difference between heaven and hell, a distinction of loves that most people find difficult to recognize. But let me discuss these one at a time.

[2] (a) What eminence and wealth are and where they come from. Eminence and wealth were very different in the earliest times from what they gradually became later. In the earliest times, eminence involved simply the relationships between parents and children. It was an eminence of love, full of profound respect, not for parents as the source of birth but for parents as the source of teaching and wisdom, which constitute a second birth, essentially a spiritual one, because it is a birth of their spirit. This was the only kind of eminence in the earliest times, because people were living separately in tribes, families, and households then and not under governments the way we are today. The head of the clan was the one with the eminence. The ancients called this period the Golden Age.

[3] Later, though, a love of being in power simply for the pleasures of power gradually took over; and since it brought with it belligerence and enmity against anyone who was not willing to submit, people necessarily gathered their tribes, families, and households into alliances and appointed someone who was at first called a judge, then a prince, and eventually a king and an emperor. They also began fortifications--towers, earthworks, and walls. From these judges, princes, kings, and emperors, as from a head into the body, the craving for power spread like a contagious disease to the many. This was the beginning of grades of eminence and of corresponding grades of respect. Love for themselves accompanied all this, and pride in human prudence.

[4] Much the same happened with the love for wealth. In the earliest times, when tribes and families lived separately from each other, a love for wealth meant nothing more than having the necessities of life. People acquired these in the form of flocks and herds and in the form of the fields, pastures, and gardens that provided them with food. Their necessities of life also included attractive homes furnished with all kinds of utensils and clothing. The parents, children, servants, and maids in a home were busily engaged with all this.

[5] After a love for being in power took over and destroyed this commonwealth, though, a love for possessing wealth beyond the limits of need took over, culminating in a desire to possess the wealth of everyone else.

These two loves are close relatives. People who want to control others also want to own everything, because this makes others their servants and makes themselves the sole masters. We can see this clearly in those individuals in Catholicism who have exalted their lordship all the way into heaven, to the very throne of the Lord, and have placed themselves upon it. We can see it also in their acquisition of all the wealth in the world and filling their treasuries without limit.

[6] (b) The nature of a love of eminence and wealth for their own sake and the nature of a love of them for the sake of service. A love of eminence and wealth for their own sake is a love for ourselves--strictly speaking, a love of being in control that arises from self-love; and a love of wealth and money for their own sake is a love for this world--strictly speaking, a love of gaining ownership of what belongs to others by fair means or foul. However, a love of eminence and wealth for the sake of service is a love of service. This is the same as a love for our neighbor, since the purpose of our actions is the goal that prompts them. It is the first and primary element, and everything else is intermediate and secondary.

[7] As for a love of eminence and wealth for their own sake (which is identical to love for ourselves, or strictly speaking, to a love of being in control that arises from self-love), it is a love for our own self-importance, and our sense of self-importance is wholly evil. That is why we say that we are born into utter evil and that what we inherit is nothing but evil. What we inherit is the sense of self that encompasses us and that we participate in by virtue of our self-love--especially by our love of being in control because of our self-love. This is because when we are wrapped up in this love we are totally focused on ourselves and therefore immerse our thoughts and feelings in our own sense of self-importance. As a result, within our self-love there is a love of doing harm because we have no love for our neighbor, only for ourselves. When we love only ourselves, we see others only as outside ourselves, either as completely worthless or as simply nothing. We regard them as inferior to ourselves and think nothing of doing them harm.

[8] This is why people who are possessed by a love of being in control because of their self-love think nothing of cheating their neighbors, committing adultery with their neighbors' spouses, slandering their neighbors, plotting vengeance and even murder, torturing their neighbors, and the like. We get these attitudes from the fact that the devil itself is nothing but a love of being in control because of self-love, and we are united to and being led by the devil. When we are being led by the devil, by hell, that is, we are being led into all these evils. We are constantly being led by the pleasures of these evils, which is why all the people who are in hell want to harm everyone, while the people who are in heaven want to help everyone.

From this opposition there arises an intermediate space where we are. We are in a kind of balance in this space so that we can turn either toward hell or toward heaven. As we approve of the evils of self-love we turn toward hell; as we banish them from ourselves we turn toward heaven.

[9] I have been allowed to feel the nature and strength of the pleasure of a love of being in control because of self-love. I was plunged into it in order to know it from experience, and it was so intense that it transcended all the pleasures in the world. It took over my whole mind from center to surface, while in my body it felt congenial and gratifying, a free expansion of my chest. I was also allowed to feel that the pleasures of all kinds of evil deeds bubbled up from it like water from a spring, pleasures in adultery, vengeance, fraud, and slander--in general, pleasures in doing harm.

There is a similar pleasure in the love of possessing what belongs to others by fair means or foul, and this pleasure gives rise to various compulsions that branch off from it. However, it is not so intense unless it is united to self-love.

As for eminence and wealth not for their own sake but for the sake of service, though, this is not a love of eminence and wealth but a love of service, with the eminence and wealth functioning as means. This is a heavenly love, which will be more fully discussed later [217].

[10] (c) The difference between these two loves is like the difference between heaven and hell. This should be clear from what has already been said, to which I may add the following. In spirit, all the people who are caught up in a love of being in control because of their self-love are in hell. It does not matter who they are, whether they are prominent people or ordinary folk. All the people who are caught up in this love are caught up also in a love for all kinds of evil deeds. If they do not actually commit them, they still believe in their spirits that there is nothing wrong with them and therefore do them physically whenever their own eminence and respect, or a fear of the law, does not get in the way.

Beyond this, though, at the center of a love of being in control because of self-love lies a hidden hatred of God and therefore a hatred of the divine values of the church, especially a hatred of the Lord. If they do acknowledge God, it is nothing but words; and if they acknowledge the divine values of the church, it is simply from a fear of losing respect. The reason this hatred of God lies hidden deeply within is that at the center of this love there is a desire to be God, a worship and reverence of no one but themselves. This is why there is a heartfelt love for anyone who respects them to the point of saying that they have divine wisdom and are worldly demigods.

[11] It is different with a love of eminence and wealth for the sake of service. This is a heavenly love because it is the same as a love for our neighbor, as just noted.

"Service" means good actions, so performing services means doing good things; and performing services or doing good things means helping others and serving them. Even though the people who are doing this are eminent and wealthy, they still do not regard their eminence and wealth as anything but means to being helpful and therefore means to service and ministry. These are the people meant by the Lord's statement, "Whoever of you wants to be great, must be your servant; whoever of you wants to be first must be your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27). These are also the people whom the Lord entrusts with authority in heaven. For them, authority is a means of helping or doing good, that is, of serving; and when services or good actions are the goals or the loves, then it is not they who are in authority but the Lord, because everything good comes from him.

[12] (d) This is a distinction of loves that most people find difficult to recognize. This is because most people of eminence and wealth also do helpful things, but without realizing whether they are doing them for the sake of themselves or for the sake of service. It is particularly hard to tell because there is more fire and passion for service in people who love themselves and the world than there is in people who are not caught up in love for themselves and the world. Yet the first are doing helpful things for the sake of their reputation or for profit and therefore for selfish reasons. In contrast, people who are being of service for the sake of service, or doing good for the sake of the goodness itself, are not acting on their own but from the Lord.

[13] It is hard for us to tell the difference because we do not know whether we are being led by the devil or by the Lord. When we are being led by the devil, we are helpful for the sake of ourselves and the world, but when we are being led by the Lord, we are being helpful for the sake of the Lord and heaven. All the people whose helpfulness comes from the Lord are people who are abstaining from evils as sins, while all the people whose helpfulness comes from the devil are people who are not abstaining from evils as sins. Evil comes from the devil, but service, or doing good, comes from the Lord. This is the only way to tell the difference. They look alike outwardly, but their inward form is completely different. One is like a golden object that has slag inside, while the other is like a golden object that is pure gold all the way through. One is like a piece of artificial fruit that looks outwardly like fruit from a tree but actually is colored wax with powder or tar inside, while the other is like fine fruit, appealingly delicious and fragrant, with its seeds within.

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