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


The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine #196

Study this Passage

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Before a summary is given of what is written in the Arcana Coelestia, respecting temptations, something shall first be said concerning them, in order that it may be known still more clearly from whence they proceed. It is called spiritual temptation when the truths of faith which a man believes in his heart, and according to which he loves to live, are assaulted within him, especially when the good of love, in which he places his spiritual life, is assaulted. Those assaults take place in various ways; as by influx of scandals against truths and goods into the thoughts and the will; also by a continual drawing forth, and bringing to remembrance, of the evils which one has committed, and of the falsities which he has thought, thus by inundation of such things; and at the same time by an apparent shutting up of the interiors of the mind, and, consequently, of communication with heaven, by which the capacity of thinking from his own faith, and of willing from his own love, are intercepted. These things are effected by the evil spirits who are present with man; and when they take place, they appear under the form of interior anxieties and pains of conscience; for they affect and torment man's spiritual life, because he supposes that they proceed, not from evil spirits, but from his own interiors. Man does not know that such assaults are 1 from evil spirits because he does not know that spirits are present with him, evil spirits in his evils, and good spirits in his goods; and that they are in his thoughts and affections. These temptations are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains; and still more so, when those pains are of long continuance, and no deliverance is granted, even although the Divine mercy is implored; hence results despair, which is the end.

Some particulars shall first be adduced from the Arcana Coelestia, concerning the spirits that are with man, because temptations proceed from them.

Spirits and angels are with every man (n. 697, 5846-5866). They are in his thoughts and affections (n. 2888, 5846, 5848). If spirits and angels were taken away, man could not live (n. 2887, 5849, 5854, 5993, 6321). Because by spirits and angels man has communication and conjunction with the spiritual world, without which he would have no life (n. 697, 2796, 2886, 2887, 40 47, 4048, 5846-5866, 5976-5993). The spirits with man are changed according to the affections of his love (n. 5851). Spirits from hell are in the loves of man's proprium (n. 5852, 5979-5993). Spirits enter into all things of man's memory (n. 5853, 5857, 5859, 5860, 6192, 6193, 6198, 6199). Angels are in the ends from which and for the sake of which man thinks, wills, and acts thus and not otherwise (n. 1317, 1645, 5844). Man does not appear to spirits, nor spirits to man (n. 5885). Thence spirits cannot see what is in our solar world through man (n. 1880). Although spirits and angels are with man, in his thoughts and affections, yet still he is in freedom of thinking, willing, and acting (n. 5982, 6477, 8209, 8307, 10777); and in the work on Heaven and Hell, where the Conjunction of Heaven with the Human Race is treated of (n. 291-302).


1. In the original Latin "non" occurs twice in the sentence.

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