187. 4. We are allowed to see divine providence from behind but not face to face, and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state. Seeing divine providence from behind but not face to face is seeing it after the fact but not before; and seeing it when we are in a spiritual state and not in a materialistic state is seeing it from heaven and not from this world. Everyone who accepts inflow from heaven and recognizes divine providence (and especially people who have become spiritual by virtue of their reformation), on seeing events in their amazing kind of sequence, virtually sees providence from a deep recognition and confesses it. Such people do not want to see it face to face, that is, before things happen, because they are afraid their own volition would interfere with some element of its orderly sequence.
 It is different for people who do not let any inflow in from heaven but only from this world, especially people who have become complete materialists by accepting outward appearances as absolute truth. They see no trace of divine providence from behind, or after the fact, but they do want to see it face to face, or before things happen. Since divine providence works through means, and since these means include us and this world, if people like this were to see it either face to face or behind, they would ascribe it either to themselves or to the material world and so become even more certain in their denial.
The reason they would come to this conclusion is that their discernment is closed upward and open only downward, closed toward heaven and open toward this world, and we cannot see divine providence from this world, only from heaven.
I have sometimes asked myself whether these people would acknowledge divine providence if their minds were opened upward and they were to see in broad daylight that the material world is essentially dead and human intelligence essentially nothing, and that the contrary appearance in each case is the result of inflow. I have realized that people who have convinced themselves of the supreme value of the physical world and human prudence would not acknowledge providence, because the earthly light that flows up from below snuffs out the spiritual light that flows down from above.