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 #197

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197. Whence and of what quality temptations are.

Temptations exist from the evil spirits who are with man, who inject scandals against the goods and truths which a man loves and believes, and likewise they also excite the evils which he has done and the falsities which he has thought (n. 741, 751, 761, 3927, 4307, 4572, 5036, 6657, 8960). Then evil spirits use all sorts of cunning and malice (n. 6666). The man who is in temptations is near to hell (n. 8131). There are two forces which act in temptations, a force from the interior from the Lord, and a force from the exterior from hell (n. 8168).

The ruling love of man is assaulted in temptations (n. 847, 4274). Evil spirits attack those things only which are of man's faith and love, thus those things which relate to his spiritual life; wherefore at such times it is about his eternal life (n. 1820). A state of temptations compared with the state of a man among robbers (n. 5246[1-4]). In temptations angels from the Lord keep man in the truths and goods which are with him, but evil spirits keep him in the falsities and evils which are with him, whence arises a conflict and combat (n. 4249).

Temptation is a combat between the internal or spiritual man, and the external or natural man (n. 2183, 4256). Thus between the delights of the internal and external man, which are then opposite to each other (n. 3928, 8351). It takes place on account of the disagreement between those delights (n. 3928). Thus it is concerning the dominion of one over the other (n. 3928, 8961).

No one can be tempted unless he is in the acknowledgment, and likewise in the affection of truth and good, because there is otherwise no combat, for there is nothing spiritual to act against what is natural, thus there is no contest for dominion (n. 3928, 4299). Whoever has acquired any spiritual life, undergoes temptations (n. 8963). Temptations exist with those who have conscience, that is, with those who are in spiritual love; but more grievous ones with those who have perception, that is, with those who are in celestial love (n. 1668, 8963). Dead men, that is they who are not in faith and love to God, and in love towards the neighbor, are not admitted into temptations, because they would fall (n. 270, 4274[1-2], 4299, 8964, 8968). Therefore very few at this day are admitted into spiritual temptations (n. 8965). But they have anxieties on account of various causes in the world, past, present, or future, which are generally attended with infirmity of mind and weakness of body, which anxieties are not the anxieties of temptations (n. 762, 8164). Spiritual temptations are sometimes attended with bodily pains, and sometimes not (n. 8164). A state of temptation is an unclean and filthy state, inasmuch as evils and falsities are injected, and also doubts concerning goods and truths (n. 5246[1-4]). Also, because in temptations there are indignations, pains of the mind, and many affections that are not good (n. 1917, 6829). There is also obscurity and doubt concerning the end (n. 1820, 6829). And likewise concerning the Divine Providence and hearing, because prayers are not heard in temptations as they are out of them (n. 8179). And because man when he is in temptation, seems to himself to be in a state of damnation (n. 6097). Because man perceives clearly what is doing in his external man, consequently the things which evil spirits inject and call forth, according to which he thinks of his state; but he does not perceive what is doing in his internal man, consequently the things which flow in by means of angels from the Lord, and therefore he cannot judge of his state therefrom (n. 10236, 10240).

Temptations are generally carried to desperation, which is their ultimate (n. 1787, 2694, 5279, 5280, 6144, 7147, 7155, 7166, 8165, 8567). The reasons (n. 2694). In the temptation itself there are also despairings, but that they terminate in a general one (n. 8567). In a state of despair a man speaks bitter things, but the Lord does not attend to them (n. 8165). When the temptation is finished, there is at first a fluctuation between the truth and falsity (n. 848, 857). But afterwards truth shines, and becomes serene and joyful (n. 3696, 4572, 6829, 8367, 8370).

They who are regenerated undergo temptations not once only, but many times, because many evils and falsities are to be removed (n. 8403). If they who have acquired some spiritual life do not undergo temptations in the world, they undergo them in the other life (n. 7122). How temptations take place in the other life, and where (n. 537-539, 699, 1106-1113, 1122, 2694, 4728, 4940-4951, 6119, 6928, 7090, 7122, 7127, 7186, 7317, 7474, 7502, 7541, 7542, 7545, 7768, 7990, 9331, 9763). Concerning the state of enlightenment of those who come out of temptation, and are raised into heaven, and their reception there (n. 2699, 2701, 2704).

The quality of the temptation from lack of truth, and the desire thereof at the same time (n. 2682, 8352). The temptation of infants in the other life, whereby they learn to resist evils, their quality (n. 2294). The difference between temptations, infestations, and vastations (n. 7474).

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