True Christian Religion#12


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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.'


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



Divine Love and Wisdom#356


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356. Can anything earthly have useful functioning as a goal and arrange functions in sequences and forms? Only someone wise can do this, and only God, who has infinite wisdom, can arrange and form the universe in this way. Who else--or what else--can foresee and make available all the things that serve for our food and clothing, food from the fruits of the earth and from animals, and clothing from both as well?

It ranks among the miracles that the humble insects called silkworms provide splendid, beautiful silken clothing for both women and men from queens and kings to maids and servants, and that the humble insects called bees provide wax for the candles that lend their brilliance to temples and courts. These and many other facts are clear evidence that the Lord produces everything that happens in nature from himself through the spiritual world.

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