Divine Providence #294

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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294. I mentioned in 289 above that when some people were shown convincingly that we do not think on our own but receive thoughts from others, all of whom in turn are not thinking on their own but from an inflow from the Lord, in their wonderment they claimed that it meant that they were not to blame for doing evil and that it seemed as though evil came from the Lord. They did not understand how the Lord alone could work things out so that we all think differently, either.

Since these three thoughts are bound to occur to people who think about effects as coming solely from effects and not from causes, I need to pick these up and look at them in terms of causes.

[2] First, it meant that they were not to blame for doing evil. If everything we think is flowing in from others, it does seem as though the blame rests on those others as the source. However, the real blame rests on us who accept what is flowing in, since we accept it as our own. That is all we know and all we want to know. We all want to be our own people and find our own way. Particularly, we want to think our own thoughts and make our own decisions. This is the essence of that freedom we enjoy that seems to be our very own. If we knew, then, that what we are thinking and intending was flowing in from someone else, we would feel caught and caged, no longer under our own control, and all the joy would go out of our lives. Eventually, our very humanity would go, too.

[3] I have often seen this demonstrated. When some individuals were allowed to feel and sense that they were being led by others, their rage blazed up so that they could no longer think straight. They said that they would rather be chained and imprisoned in hell than not be allowed to think what they wanted to think and intend what they were thinking. They called this restriction having their life itself bound, which was harsher and more intolerable than being bound physically. They did not say the same about being restrained from saying and doing what they were thinking and intending, because what held them in check was the pleasure of civil and moral life, and this made the restraint easier to bear.

[4] Since we do not want to know that others are leading us to think what we think, then, but want to think on our own and believe that we do, it necessarily follows that we ourselves are to blame and cannot avoid that blame as long as we are in love with our own thinking. If we are not in love with our own thinking, though, we extricate ourselves from our engagement with these others. This happens when we realize that something is evil and want therefore to abstain and refrain from it. Then the Lord rescues us from the community that is focused on this evil and moves us to a community that is not. However, if we recognize that something is evil and do not abstain from it, then we are held responsible for it and become guilty of that evil.

Whatever we believe we are doing autonomously, then, is said to come from us and not from the Lord.

[5] Second, it therefore seemed as though evil came from the Lord. This can seem as though it follows from what I said in 288, namely, that in hell, the goodness that flows in from the Lord is turned into evil and the truth into falsity. Surely, though, anyone can see that the evil and falsity do not come from what is good and true and therefore from the Lord. They come from the receiving subject or object that is focused on what is evil and false and that distorts and inverts what it is receiving, as has been amply demonstrated in 292. I have already explained several times [15, 204, 286] how the evil and falsity in us originate.

There have been experiments in the spiritual world with people who believed that the Lord could take the evils out of evil people and replace them with good qualities, thereby taking all hell into heaven and saving everyone. You may see that this is impossible, though, at the end of this book [331-340] where I deal with instant salvation and direct mercy.

[6] Third, they did not understand how the Lord alone could work things out so that we all think so differently. The Lord's divine love is infinite, and his divine wisdom is infinite, and infinite forms of love and infinite forms of wisdom radiate from the Lord and flow into everyone in heaven and everyone in hell. From heaven and hell they flow into everyone in the world. This means that none of us can lack the ability to think and intend, since infinite forms are everything infinitely.

The infinite things that radiate from the Lord flow in not only in a general way but in full detail, since divinity is all-inclusive because of those smallest details, and the divine smallest details are what we call "the totality," as already explained [202]. Further, every divine detail is also infinite.

We can tell from this that it is the Lord alone who makes each one of us think and intend in keeping with our own natures and in keeping with the laws of his providence. I have explained in 46-69 and in Divine Love and Wisdom 17-22 that everything that is in the Lord and that radiates from the Lord is infinite.

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