Divine Providence #217

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217. Now I need to illustrate these three items individually.

(a) Rank and money may be either blessings or curses. Everyday experience bears witness to the fact that reverent and irreverent people, just and unjust people--good and evil people, that is--may have eminence and wealth. Yet no one can deny that irreverent and unjust people, evil people, go to hell while reverent and just people, good people, go to heaven. Since this is so, it follows that eminence and wealth, or rank and money, may be either blessings or curses, and that they are blessings for the good and curses for the evil.

I explained in Heaven and Hell 357-365 (published in London in 1758) that both rich people and poor, both the prominent and the ordinary, may be found in heaven and in hell. This shows that for people in heaven, eminence and wealth were blessings in this world, while for people in hell, they were curses in this world.

[2] If we give the matter only a little rational thought, we can see what makes eminence and wealth blessings and what makes them curses. Specifically, they are blessings for people who do not set their heart on them and curses for people who do. To set one's heart on them is to love oneself in them, and not to set one's heart on them is to love the service they can perform and not oneself in them. I have noted in 215 above what the difference between these two loves is like; and I need to add that eminence and wealth seduce some people but not others. They are seductive when they arouse the loves of our sense of self, which is self-love. (I have already noted [206, 207] that this is the love of hell that is called "the devil.") They are not seductive, though, when they do not arouse that love.

[3] The reason both evil and good people are elevated to high rank and advanced in wealth is that both evil and good people do worthwhile things, though the evil are doing them for the sake of their personal worth and for the benefit of their image, while the good are doing them for the sake of the worth and benefit of the actions themselves. These latter regard the worth and benefit of the actions as the principal cause and any personal worth or benefit to their image as instrumental causes, while the evil regard their personal worth and the benefit to their image as the principal cause and the worth and benefit of the actions as instrumental causes. Can anyone fail to see, though, that the image, our position and rank, is for the sake of our responsibilities and not the other way around? Can anyone fail to see that judges are for the sake of justice, officials for the sake of public affairs, and the monarch for the sake of the realm, and not the other way around? So the laws of the realm provide that we should be given the eminence and rank appropriate to the importance of the tasks of our offices. The difference is like the difference between what is primary and what is instrumental.

If people attach importance to themselves or their image, when this is portrayed in the spiritual world they seem to be upside down, feet up and head down.

[4] (b) When rank and money are blessings, they are spiritual and eternal, but when they are curses, they are temporal and transient. There are eminence and wealth in heaven just as in this world, because heaven has governments and therefore areas of responsibility and offices. There is also business and consequently wealth, because heaven has communities and associations.

Overall, heaven is divided into two kingdoms, one called the heavenly kingdom and the other called the spiritual kingdom. Each kingdom comprises countless larger and smaller communities, all organized according to differences in love and wisdom, as are their individual members. In the heavenly kingdom there are differences in heavenly love, which is love for the Lord; and in the spiritual kingdom there are differences in spiritual love, which is love for our neighbor.

That is what the communities are like; and all their members were once people on earth. This means that they keep the loves they had in this world, the difference being that now they are spiritual and that their actual eminence and wealth are spiritual in the spiritual kingdom and heavenly in the heavenly kingdom. Because of all this, the people who have the most eminence and wealth are the people who have the most love and wisdom. They are the ones for whom eminence and wealth were blessings in this world.

[5] This shows us what spiritual eminence and wealth are like. They are attributes of the task and not of the individual. True, individuals who have eminence live in striking splendor there, like some earthly monarch, but they attach no importance at all to the eminence itself, only to the services that belong to their area of responsibility and office. They accept the rank appropriate to their individual levels of eminence but attribute it to their services and not to themselves; and since all forms of service come from the Lord, they attribute them to the Lord as their source. This, then, is the nature of the spiritual eminence and wealth that are eternal.

[6] However, it is different for people for whom eminence and wealth were curses in this world. Because they attributed them to themselves and not to their forms of service, and because they did not want service to be more important than they themselves were but wanted to be more important than their service (which they regarded as useful only to the extent that it furthered their own rank and fame), they are in hell. They are wretched slaves there, living in disgrace and misery. It is because this eminence and wealth perish that they are called temporal and transient.

This is what the Lord tells us about these two kinds of people. "Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth where rust and maggot corrupt and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor maggot corrupts and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be as well" (Matthew 6:19-20, 21).

[7] (c) The relationship between the rank and money that are curses and the rank and money that are blessings is like a relationship of nothing to everything, or of something unreal to something real. Everything that perishes and becomes nothing is essentially, inwardly, nothing. It is something outwardly and can seem rich, can seem to some like everything, as long as it lasts, but it is not like that essentially and inwardly. It is like a surface with nothing inside it, like an actor on the stage wearing royal robes when the play is ended. What lasts forever, though, has something lasting within it and is therefore everything. It truly exists because its reality has no end.

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