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True Christian Religion#12

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12. (v) THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN LEAD THE HUMAN REASON, IF IT WISHES, TO GRASP AND DEDUCE THAT THERE IS A GOD AND THAT HE IS ONE.

This truth can be supported by countless things in the visible world; for the universe is like a theatre, upon the stage of which demonstrations of the existence of God and His oneness are continually being presented. To illustrate this I shall relate this account from my experiences in the spiritual world.

Once when I was talking with angels, some newcomers from the natural world arrived. On seeing them I made them welcome, and told them many facts they did not know about the spiritual world. After this conversation I asked them what learning about God and nature they brought with them from the world.

'We have been taught,' they said, 'that nature performs all the operations which take place in the whole of creation. After the act of creation God assigned to nature and stamped upon her this ability and power; God only supports and preserves everything from being destroyed. Consequently everything on earth which comes into existence, is born or re-born, is to-day put down to nature.'

I replied that nature of herself performs no operation; but it is God who does this by means of nature. Since they demanded a proof, I said: 1 'Those who believe in the working of God in the details of Nature can find many sights in the world in favour of their belief in God, many more than in favour of nature.

[2] Those who favour the working of God in the details of nature pay attention to the amazing sights to be seen in the reproduction of both plants and animals. In the case of plants, a tiny seed cast into the ground produces a root, by means of the root a stem, and so in order branches, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruit, until the result is fresh seeds, just as if the seed knew the pattern of successive stages or processes which lead to its renewal. Can any rational person think that the sun, which is nothing but fire, has this knowledge, or that it can instruct its heat and light to produce such effects, and that it can act purposefully? A person whose reasoning faculty is uplifted, on seeing and duly considering these facts, is inevitably led to think that they come from Him who possesses infinite wisdom, that is, from God. Those who acknowledge the working of God in the details of nature are further confirmed in their view on seeing these things; those on the other hand who do not make this acknowledgment see them not with the eyes of reason set in the face, but with eyes in the back of the head; these are the people who get all the ideas in their heads from the bodily senses and support their fallacious beliefs by saying 'Surely you see it is the sun which produces all these results by its heat and light. Something you cannot see cannot be anything.'

[3] 'Those seeking support for a Divine origin pay attention to the amazing sights to be seen in animal reproduction. First of all I may mention eggs, which contain the chick hidden in its seed together with everything needed for its development, and its whole future growth after hatching until it becomes a bird resembling its mother. Further if we consider flying creatures in general, the mind which thinks profoundly boggles at the astonishing facts about them; that the smallest as well as the largest, the invisible as well as the visible, that is, tiny insects as well as birds and large animals, possess sensory organs of sight, smell, taste and touch; also motor organs or muscles which allow them to fly and walk; also viscera attached to a heart and lungs, all controlled by brains. Those who attribute everything to nature admittedly see these things, but they think of them merely as facts and call them the products of nature. They say this because they have turned their minds away from thinking about the Divine. This turning away from the Divine prevents them from thinking rationally, much less spiritually, about the amazing sights they see in nature. Their thoughts are limited to the senses and matter, so that they think in nature from nature, rather than above her. Their only difference from animals is that they enjoy the faculty of rationality, that is, they can understand if they wish.

[4] 'Those who have turned away from thoughts of the Divine, which makes them dependent upon the bodily senses, do not realise that the sight of the eye is so coarse and gross that it sees a group of tiny insects as a dark mass. Yet every one of these is endowed with the powers of sensation and movement, that is to say, it is provided with fibres and vessels, a tiny heart, breathing pores, viscera and brain. These are constructed of the simplest natural substances, and their systems answer to the vital principle in its lowest degree, for even the tiniest organs are individually activated by it. Since the sight of the eye is so gross that a number of creatures, each with its countless parts, look like a small dark mass, and yet those who rely on their senses found their thought and judgment on those visual powers, it is obvious how blunted their minds are and thus how blind they are on spiritual matters.

[5] 'Anyone can, if he wishes, find support for the Divine idea in the sights of nature, and also further if he thinks about God and His omnipotence in the creation of the universe and His omnipresence in preserving it. As when he considers the birds of the air, each species of which knows its proper food and where to find it; it recognises its kind by sight and sound; it knows which birds are its friends and which its enemies; they know how to nestle under their plumage, they form pairs, cleverly construct nests, lay eggs in them and sit on them; they know how long to sit, and in due season hatch their chicks, whom they love dearly, protecting them under their wings, providing food and nourishing them, and continuing until they can look after themselves and perform the same service. Anyone who is willing to think how the Divine influences the natural world by means of the spiritual can see this in these facts. He can even, if he wishes, say in his heart, 'Such knowledge cannot be acquired from the sun's heat and light, for the sun which is the origin and essence of nature is nothing but fire. Consequently the radiation of its heat and light is totally devoid of life.' This may lead them to deduce that such things are the effect of Divine influence working on the lowest forms of nature by means of the spiritual world.

[6] 'Anyone can find support for the Divine idea from the sights of nature, when he looks at grubs. The pleasure of a certain love makes them seek and aspire to change their earthly condition into one analogous to the heavenly condition. Therefore they creep into suitable places, surround themselves with a cocoon and so put themselves into a womb that they may be born again. There they become chrysallises, pupae, nymphs, and finally butterflies. And when they have undergone their metamorphosis and have put on the lovely wings typical of their species, they fly up into the air as into their private heaven, play happily together, mate, lay eggs and see to the continuation of their race. Then they feed on lovely, sweet food provided by flowers. Can anyone, who finds support for the Divine idea in the sights of nature, fail to see a picture of man's earthly state in their life as grubs and his heavenly state when they become butterflies? But those who support the idea of nature admittedly see these facts, but because they have mentally rejected the idea of man's heavenly state, they call these nothing but the workings of nature.

[7] 'Anyone can find support for the Divine idea from the sights of nature when he pays attention to the facts known about bees. They know how to collect wax and suck up honey from roses and other flowers, how to construct cells as their tiny homes and arrange them so as to resemble a city with streets by which to come in and go out. They smell out from a distance the flowers and plants from which they collect wax for building and honey to eat. When they are loaded with these they know their bearings to fly home to their hive, and thus provide themselves with food for the coming winter, as if they could foresee it. They set a mistress or queen over them; she is the mother of their offspring. They build a sort of court above their own quarters for the queen surrounded by her courtiers. When the time comes for her to give birth, she goes around accompanied by her courtiers, called drones, from one cell to the next and lays her eggs which the attendant crowd seal in to protect them from the air. These produce their new stock. Later on when this grows up sufficiently to behave in the same way, it is expelled from the hive; the swarm first of all gathers into a cloud to keep together in formation, and then flies off to find themselves a home. Towards autumn the drones, because they have brought home no wax or honey, are taken out and stripped of their wings, so that they cannot come back and consume the food to which they have done nothing to contribute; and much more might be said. From all this it can be clearly seen that for the sake of the service they perform to human beings the Divine influence coming through the spiritual world has given them an organisation similar to that of men on earth, or indeed of angels in the heavens.

[8] 'Is there anyone of unimpaired reason who does not see that such effects are not produced in them by the natural world? What has the sun, the origin of nature, in common with an organisation which rivals and mirrors the organisation of the heavens? These and similar facts concerning the lower animals confirm in his belief the man who makes a profession of and worships nature. But the man who professes belief in and worships God uses the same facts to reinforce his belief in God; for the spiritual man sees in them spiritual facts, while the natural man sees natural ones, in other words, each sees what he is. For my part, such facts have been evidence to me of the influence of the spiritual world coming from God on the natural. Consider too whether you could think analytically about any type of organisation, or any civil law, or any moral virtue, or any spiritual truth, if the Divine influence did not make itself felt as a result of its wisdom by means of the spiritual world. I for my part have never been able to do so, nor can I now. I have consciously perceived that influence and felt it through the senses continuously for the last twenty-six years. So I make this statement as a witness.

[9] 'Can nature have as its aim the fulfilment of a purpose, and arrange these purposes into organised structures? Only a wise being can do this; and no one could so order and structure the universe except God, whose wisdom is infinite. Who else can foresee and provide what men need to eat and clothe themselves: the crops of the field, the fruits of the earth and animals for food, and clothing from the same sources? One of the astonishing things in this is that those insignificant insects called silk-worms dress both women and men in silk and adorn them magnificently, from queens and kings down to maids and servants; and that those insignificant insects called bees supply wax to illuminate splendidly churches and halls. These and many more are the outstanding proofs that God of Himself performs all the workings of nature by means of the spiritual world.

[10] 'To this I must add that I have seen in the spiritual world those who found confirmation of their naturalistic view in the sights of the world, to such an extent that they became atheists. Seen in spiritual light, their understandings seemed to be open underneath, but closed on top, because their thoughts had been turned downwards to earth, and not up to heaven. Above their sensual area, which is the lowest level of the understanding, there appeared a sort of covering flashing with hellish fire, in some cases black as soot, in others livid like a corpse. Therefore let everyone take care not to confirm his belief in nature, but seek rather proofs of God; there is no lack of material.'

Footnotes:

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

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Conjugial Love#416

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416. Afterwards, seeing me close by, the two angels said with respect to me to the spirits standing around, "We know that this man has written about God and nature. Let us hear what he has to say."

So they came over and asked me to read to them what I had written about God and nature; and I read therefore the following: 1

People who believe that the Divine operates in every single thing of nature, can, from the many things which they see in nature, confirm themselves on the side of the Divine, just as well as and even more than those who confirm themselves on the side of nature. For people who confirm themselves on the side of the Divine pay heed to the marvels which they see in the propagations of both plants and animals.

In the propagations of plants, they note how a tiny seed cast into the ground produces a root, by means of the root a stem, and then in succession branches, leaves, flowers and fruits, culminating in new seeds - altogether as though the seed knew the order of progression or the process by which to renew itself. What rational person can suppose that the sun, which is nothing but fire, has this knowledge? Or that it can impart to its heat and its light the power to produce such effects, and in those effects can create marvels and intend a useful result?

Any person having an elevated rational faculty, on seeing and considering these wonders, cannot but think that they issue from one who possesses infinite wisdom, thus from God.

People who acknowledge the Divine also see and think this; but people who do not acknowledge the Divine do not see and think it, because they do not want to. Therefore they allow their rational faculty to descend into their sensual self, which draws all its ideas from the light in which the bodily senses are, and which defends the fallacies of these, saying, "Do you not see the sun accomplishing these effects by its heat and its light? What is something that you do not see? Is it anything?"

[2] People who confirm themselves on the side of the Divine pay heed to the marvels which they see in the propagations of animals - to mention here only those in eggs, as that in them lies the embryo in its seed or inception, with everything it requires to the time it hatches, and with everything that develops after it hatches until it becomes a bird or flying thing in the form of its parent. Also that if one gives attention to the form, it is such that, if one thinks deeply, one cannot help but come into a state of amazement - seeing, for example, that in the smallest of these creatures as in the largest, indeed in the invisible as in the visible (i.e., in tiny insects as in large birds or animals), there are sensory organs which serve for sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch; also motor organs, which are muscles, for they fly and walk; as well as viscera surrounding hearts and lungs, which are actuated by brains. That even lowly insects possess such component parts is known from their anatomy as described by certain investigators, most notably by Swammerdam 2 in his Biblia Naturae 3 .

[3] People who attribute all things to nature see these wonders, indeed, but they think only that they exist, and say that nature produces them. They say this because they have turned their mind away from thinking about the Divine; and when people who have turned away from thinking about the Divine see wonders in nature, they are unable to think rationally, still less spiritually, but think instead in sensual and material terms. They then think within the confines of nature from the standpoint of nature and not above it, in the way that those do who are in hell. They differ from animals only in their having the power of rationality, that is, in their being able to understand and so think otherwise if they will.

[4] People who have turned away from thinking about the Divine when they see wonders in nature, and as a result become sense-oriented, do not consider that the sight of the eye is so crude that it sees a number of tiny insects as a single, indistinct mass, and yet that each of them is organically formed to be capable of sensation and movement, thus that they have been endowed with fibers and vessels, including little hearts, air passages, viscera and brains; that these have been woven together out of the finest elements in nature; and that these structures correspond to some activity of life, by which even the least of these are individually actuated.

Since the sight of the eye is so crude that a number of such creatures, each with countless components in it, looks to it like a small, indistinct mass, and yet people who are sense-oriented think and judge in accordance with that sight, it is apparent how obtuse their minds have become, and thus in what darkness they are in respect to spiritual matters.

Footnotes:

1. From Divine Love and Wisdom, nos. 351-357, 350.

2. Jan Swammerdam, 1637-1680, Dutch anatomist and entomologist.

3. Published posthumously under Dutch and Latin titles, Bybel der Natuure; of, Historie der insecten.../Biblia Naturae; sive Historia Insectorum... (A Book of Nature; or, History of Insects...), with text in Latin and Dutch in parallel columns, Leyden, 1737 (vol. 1), 1738 (vol. 2).

  
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Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation. The full title of this translation is "DELIGHTS OF WISDOM RELATING TO CONJUGIAL LOVE".


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