Spiritual Judo


By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Making a spiritual journey is like entering a judo arena.

In judo, you are trained to take advantage of your opponents' momentum to throw them off balance, and to the ground. You don't have to be bigger or stronger to win a combat.

There's a spiritual judo arena for each of us. When we start to try to shun evils, learn truths, and do good, we're entering the arena. We're going to engage in contests, combats.

We can expect that our opponent (our old, selfish mind/self, which believes false things and loves evil things) will try to use our new momentum to throw us off balance, and down. If we shun an evil successfully, once or twice, it will pull us into the evil of self-congratulation. If we learn some exciting new truths, it will yank us further into a pride in our own intelligence. If we fail a few times, it will throw us into despair or lead us to abandon the whole project.

If we know to expect these judo tactics, can we do better at keeping our balance? Yes, for sure. We can recognize that we're in the spiritual arena, in spiritual combats, or temptations. We can try to keep our balance, keeping the Word as our touchstone, and getting advice and support from people we love and trust. We can move without over-reaching, learning truths to match with new-found loves for doing good things. We can practice, over and over again, and not lose heart.

Judo is not mentioned in the Bible, but when you look, you can see the techniques at work:

Three times in the Old Testament, there are stories of good high priests - Aaron, Eli, and Samuel - who have evil sons that they don't rein in. Initially strong, good efforts get pulled off balance, either by inattention or pride or neglected practice. (See Leviticus 10:1-2, 1 Samuel 2:12-34, and 1 Samuel 8:1-3)

The three most prominent kings of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, all start well, but get seduced by their power, pride, or wealth, which seem to corrupt them.

In another case, during the Exodus, Moses has led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and towards the land of Canaan. He's doing well, obeying the Lord's commands. But at Meribah, he gets impatient, and loses trust in the Lord, and tries to take matters into his own hands. As a result, he's not permitted to enter the Promised Land. (See Numbers 20:6-13)

In Swedenborg's work, "The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine", there's a chapter about temptation that begins in section 196. In section 197 we find this statement:

"Temptation is a combat between the internal or spiritual man, and the external or natural man (See Arcana Coelestia 2183, 4256)"

When you set out to make spiritual progress, you're entering the judo arena. Your new-forming spiritual self will combat your habitual "natural" self. You'll be fighting to keep your balance, and -- if you stay aware that you're in a spiritual battle, you'll even be able to see ways to throw evil and falsity off-balance, to the ground.

From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #2183

Study this Passage

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2183. 'He took butter and milk, and the young bull which he had made ready' means all those things so joined together. This becomes clear from the meaning of 'butter', 'milk', and 'the young bull', which are dealt with in the next paragraph. The subject in the verses previous to this has been the providing of the Lord's Rational with that which is celestial and that which is spiritual derived from this, meant by 'the meal of fine flour made into cakes', 2176, 2177, and also with the celestial-natural, meant by 'the young bull', 2180. The same things are now expressed by other words - by 'butter', 'milk', and 'a young bull', which mean all those same things when they have been joined together.

[2] But one is scarcely able to describe these matters to the ordinary mind because the majority do not know that every person possesses an internal, a rational, and a natural, and that these three are quite distinct and separate from one another, so distinct in fact that one can be at variance with another. That is to say, the rational, which is called the rational man, can be at variance with the natural, which is the natural man; indeed the rational man is able to see and perceive evil that is in the natural, and if it is a genuine rational, is able to correct it, see 1904. Before these two have been joined together man is unable to be whole or to experience the serenity of peace, since the one is in conflict with the other. For the angels present with a person govern his rational, while the evil spirits present with him govern his natural - and this gives rise to conflict.

[3] If in this conflict the rational prevails, the natural is placed in subjection, and the man is thus endowed with conscience; but if the natural prevails, he is not able to receive any conscience at all. If the rational prevails, his natural becomes as though it too was rational; but if the natural prevails, the rational becomes as though it too was natural. In addition, if the rational prevails, angels draw nearer to that person, implanting within him charity, a celestial quality which comes through the angels from the Lord; and at the same time the evil spirits move some distance away from him. But if the natural prevails, the angels move further away, that is, more towards his interiors, and the evil spirits draw nearer to the rational, constantly attack it, and fill the lower parts of his mind with forms of hatred, revenge, deceit, and the like. If the rational prevails, the man enters into the serenity of peace, and in the next life into the peace of heaven; but if the natural prevails, though during his lifetime he seems to experience serenity, he enters in the next life into the unrest and torment of hell.

[4] From these considerations one may know the nature of a person's state so far as his rational and so far as his natural are concerned. There is nothing else that can bring him blessing and happiness except the conformity of his natural to the rational when both are joined together. This is achieved solely by means of charity; and charity originates wholly in the Lord.

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