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 #4256

Study this Passage

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4256. 'Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him' means the state of truth in relation to good, in which truth has made itself first. This becomes clear from what has been stated in various places above, especially from those which deal with the birthright which Jacob acquired to himself by means of the lentil pottage and with the blessing which he took from Esau by the use of deceit. What is represented and meant by those two incidents may be seen in the places dealing with them, where it is shown that truth seems to occupy the first position when a person is being regenerated and good the second, but that in reality good occupies the first and truth the second, as is plainly so once he has been regenerated. These matters are dealt with in 3539, 3548, 3556, 3563, 3570, 3576, 3603, 3701, 4243, 4244, 4247. When therefore order is being turned around and good plainly takes up the first position, that is, when it starts to have dominion over truth, the natural man experiences fear and distress, 4249, and also enters into temptations.

[2] The reason for this is that when truth occupied the first position, that is, when it seemed to itself to have dominion over good, falsities intermingled themselves. For truth is not able to see from itself whether it is the truth, but has to do so from good; and where falsities exist so does fear when good draws near. Furthermore all who are governed by good start to experience fear when falsities are seen in the light received from good, for they fear falsities and want to have them rooted out. But they cannot be rooted out if they are well established, except by Divine means provided by the Lord. This explains why, following the experience of fear and distress, those who are to be regenerated enter into temptations too; for temptations are the Divine means by which falsities are removed. And this reason why a person who is being regenerated undergoes spiritual temptations is a most profound one. Yet it is not seen at all by the person himself because it lies beyond his range of discernment, as does everything which stirs, pricks, and torments his conscience.

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