Divine Providence #312

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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312. 2. On the basis of our own prudence, we adopt and justify the conviction that we are the source and the locus of everything that is good and true as well as of everything that is evil and false. Let us try an argument by analogy, an analogy between what is good and true on the physical level and what is good and true on the spiritual level. We begin by asking what is true and good to our eyesight. To our eyes, is not something true when we call it beautiful, and good when we call it pleasing? We do feel pleasure at beautiful sights. What is true and good to our hearing? Is not something true when we call it harmonious and good when we call it sweet? We feel soothed by harmonious sounds; and it is much the same with our other senses. This shows what truth and goodness are on the physical level.

Now think about what is true and good on the spiritual level. Is spiritual truth anything but what is beautiful and harmonious in spiritual events and objects? Is spiritual good anything but what is pleasing and sweet in our sense of that beauty and harmony?

[2] Let us see, then, whether we can say anything about one that we cannot say about the other, anything about the spiritual that we cannot say about the physical. We say of what is physical that the beauty and pleasure in the eye are flowing in from the objects of vision, and that the harmony and sweetness in the ear are flowing in from the instruments. What else is true of the organic substances of our minds? We say that things are happening within these mental substances but that things are flowing into our physical organs; but if we ask, "Why are we saying that things are flowing in?" the only answer is that there seems to be a distance involved. Then if we ask, "Why are we saying that things are happening inside?" the only answer is that there is no perceptible distance involved. That is, it is the appearance of distance that inclines us to believe one thing about what we think and feel, and something else about what we see and hear.

All this collapses, though, when we realize that spirit is not involved in distance the way the material world is. Think of the sun and the moon or of Rome and Constantinople. Is there any distance between them in your thought? There is none as long as the thought is not tied to the experiences we have through sight and hearing. Then why do you convince yourself that what is good and true and what is evil and false are within you, not flowing in, simply because there is no perceptible distance involved in your thinking?

[3] I may add here an experience that is quite common in the spiritual world. One spirit can instill her or his own thoughts and desires into another spirit, and the other spirit is totally unaware that the thought and desire are not arising spontaneously. In the spiritual world they call this thinking in someone else or thinking from someone else. I have seen this a thousand times, and even in the hundreds of times I have done it the appearance of distance was clearly evident. However, as soon as people realized that someone else was instilling these thoughts and feelings, they became resentful and turned away, recognizing still that the distance would not have been perceptible in their inner sight or thought unless it had been unveiled to their inner sight or eye, so to speak. This enabled them to recognize that it was flowing in.

[4] I may append to this experience something that happens to me every day. Evil spirits are often inserting evil and false elements into my thoughts, things that seem to me to be within and from myself, as though I myself were thinking them. However, since I have realized that they were evil and false, I have asked who was inserting them. They have been unmasked and driven away, and they were at a considerable distance from me.

This shows that everything evil is flowing in with its falsity from hell, and that everything good is flowing in with its truth from the Lord, and that both seem to be within us.

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