True Christian Religion #400

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)      

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1. Loving oneself is wishing oneself alone well, and no others except for one's own sake, so neither the church, nor one's country, nor any human community or fellow citizen. It also includes for instance doing good to them solely for the sake of one's own reputation, honour and glory. If someone does not see these advantages in the good deeds he does to them, he says in his heart, 'What does this matter? Why should I do this, and what do I get out of it?' So he puts a stop to them. From this it is plain that a person who is in a state of self-love does not love the church, his country or community, nor his fellow citizen, nor anything that is truly good, but only himself and what is his.

[2] 2. A person is in a state of self-love when in his thoughts and deeds he does not pay regard to the neighbour, so not to the public, much less the Lord, but only to himself and his own people; and consequently when he does everything for his own sake or for the sake of his people. If he does something for the sake of the public, it is only for show; and if he does it for his neighbour's sake, it is to win his favour.

[3] 3. We say for his own sake or for the sake of his people, because the person who loves himself also loves his people. These are in particular his children and grandchildren, and generally speaking all who act as one with him and whom he calls his own. Loving either of these groups is also loving oneself, for he looks on them as, so to speak, in himself, and he sees himself in them. The people he calls his own include also all who praise, honour and respect him. Other people he may regard as human beings with his physical eyes, but with the eyes of his spirit as hardly more than ghosts.

[4] 4. A person is in a state of self-love, when he despises the neighbour compared with himself, when he treats him as an enemy if he does not take his part, revere and respect him. He is even more in a state of self-love if on this account he hates the neighbour and persecutes him; more still, if on this account he burns to get his revenge on him and longs for his ruin. Such people end up by loving cruelty.

[5] 5. A comparison with heavenly love can show what self-love is like. Heavenly love is loving to perform services for their own sake, or the good deeds which a person does for the church, his country, his fellow men and fellow citizens for the sake of the good deeds themselves. On the other hand the person who loves them for his own sake, only loves them as he would servants, because they are of use to him. It follows from this that a person who is in a state of self-love wants the church, his country, the communities he belongs to and fellow citizens to be of use to him, rather than himself to be of use to them; so he sets himself above them and them beneath him.

[6] 6. Further, in so far as anyone has heavenly love, which is loving forms of service and good deeds and being heartily pleased when he performs them, so far is he led by the Lord, because that is the Lord's love and the love that comes from Him. On the other, in so far as anyone loves himself, so far does he lead himself, and so far is he led by the self (proprium). A person's self is inevitably evil, for it is his hereditary evil, which is loving oneself more than God, and the world more than heaven.

[7] 7. Another characteristic of self-love is that in so far as its restraints are relaxed, so far, that is, as external bonds are removed - fear of the law and legal penalties, fear of losing one's reputation, honours, profit, office and life - so far does it rush headlong, until it not only wants to rule over the whole world, but even heaven, in fact, God Himself. Nowhere does it set itself an end or limit. This desire lurks hidden in every person in a state of self-love, even if it is not plain for the world to see, since there the restraints and bonds just mentioned hold him back; and anyone of this character, when confronted with an impossibility, simply stops there until it does become possible. The result of both these facts is that a person who is in that state is unaware that such a crazy, limitless craving lies hidden within him. Yet the truth of this must be apparent to everyone in the case of dictators and kings who meet none of these restraints, bonds or impossibilities. They rush to subdue provinces and kingdoms so far as their success permits and they aspire to unlimited power and glory; even more so, if they extend their dominion to heaven and arrogate to themselves all the Lord's Divine power. These people continually seek to go further.

[8] 8. There are two types of power, one based on love towards the neighbour, the other on self-love. These two types of power are opposites. A person who wields power as a result of love to the neighbour, wishes the good of all, and likes nothing better than performing uses, or being of service to others. (Being of service to others is doing good to others because one wishes them well, and performing uses.) This is his love, and this is the pleasure of his heart. Also, in so far as he is advanced to high rank, he is pleased, not because of his rank, but because of the uses he is then better able to perform, and in more cases. Such is power in the heavens. On the other hand, the person who wields power as a result of self-love, wishes no one well, only himself and his own people. The services he performs are for his own honour and glory, for these are the only uses he recognises. He is of service to others only for the sake of having services done to him, of being honoured and given power. He seeks high rank not so as to be able to do good, but so as to hold a leading position and be highly honoured, and so fulfil his heart's pleasure.

[9] 9. The love of power still remains with everyone after his life in the world; but those who wielded power out of love towards the neighbour have power entrusted to them in the heavens too, but then it is not they, but the services and good deeds they love, which wield the power. It is the Lord who wields the power when services and deeds do. Those, however, who wielded power in the world out of self-love, are, after their life in the world is over, deposed and reduced to slavery.

These are the signs by which those who are in a state of self-love can be recognised. It makes no difference what they look like in outward appearance, whether they are proud or submissive. For such things belong in the internal man, and most people hide the internal, and train the external to put on a pretence of love for people and the neighbour, the opposite of what he really feels. They do this for their own sakes, for they know that loving people and the neighbour inwardly disposes all in their favour, so that they are the more esteemed. The reason people are so disposed is the influence heaven exerts on that love.

[10] 10. The evils to be found in those who are in a state of self-love are in general contempt for others, envy, unfriendliness to those who do not take their part, hostility arising from this, various kinds of hatred, vengeful behaviour, trickery, guile, hard-heartedness and cruelty. Where such evils exist, there is also contempt for God and what is God's, the truths and kinds of good which belong to the church. Any respect they pay to these is mere lip-service and not from the heart. Since evils of this sort arise from this love, there are also similar falsities, because falsities arise from evils.

[11] 11. The love of the world, however, is wanting by any means to divert others' wealth to oneself, setting one's heart on riches, and allowing worldly considerations to withdraw and seduce one from spiritual love, which is love towards the neighbour and so of heavenly origin. Those who love the world are those who desire to divert others' goods to themselves by various means, especially those who do so by guile and trickery, paying no heed to the neighbour's good. Those in the power of that love long for other people's goods, and, in so far as they are not afraid of the laws or loss of reputation by seeking gain, they deprive them of their goods, or rather plunder them.

[12] 12. But the love of the world is not so diametrically opposed to heavenly love as is self-love, since there are no such great evils hidden within it.

[13] 13. The love of the world takes many forms. It includes the love of wealth as a means of advancement to honours; the love of honours and distinctions as a means to acquiring wealth; the love of wealth for various purposes which give pleasure in the world; the love of wealth simply for the sake of wealth (that is the love of the miserly), and so on. The purpose for which wealth is desired is called its use; and it is the purpose or use which gives a love its quality, for the quality of love is determined by the purpose for which it is desired - all else serves as its means.

[14] 14. In short, self-love and the love of the world are totally opposed to love to the Lord and love towards the neighbour. Self-love and the love of the world, as described above, are therefore hellish loves; they are dominant in hell, and also cause hell to exist in a person. Love to the Lord, however, and love towards the neighbour are heavenly loves; they are dominant in heaven and also cause heaven to exist in a person.

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The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78

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