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Divine Providence #96

Divine Providence (Dole translation)      

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96. 7. The Lord protects these two abilities untouched within us and as things that are sacred through the whole course of his divine providence. There are several reasons for this. One is that without these two abilities there, we would have no discernment or volition and would therefore not be human. Another is that without these two abilities we could not be united to the Lord and therefore could not be reformed and regenerated. Then too, without these two abilities we would not have immortality or eternal life. We can see this to some extent from the view already given [71-95] of what freedom and rationality are (these are the two abilities). We cannot see this clearly, though, unless the propositions are presented to view as inferences, so I need to shed some light on them.

[2] Without these two abilities there we would have no discernment or volition and would therefore not be human. The only basis of our volition is our ability to intend as though we were doing so ourselves. Intending freely, with this apparent autonomy, comes from the ability the Lord is constantly giving us, the ability called freedom. For another thing, the only basis of our discernment is our ability to discern whether something is reasonable or not, again as though we were doing so ourselves. Discerning whether something is reasonable or not comes from the second ability that the Lord is constantly giving us, the ability called rationality.

These two abilities unite within us the way volition and discernment do, because there is no intent without discernment. Discerning is the mate or match of intending, necessary to its existence; so along with the ability called freedom we are given the ability called rationality.

[3] Then too, if you take away intending from discerning, you will not discern anything at all. You can understand to the extent that you try to, provided you have or have access to the resources called perceptions, since these are like an artisan's tools. When I say that you can discern to the extent that you try, it means to the extent that you love to discern, since volition and love are the same thing.

This may seem like a paradox, but that is only how it seems to people who do not love to discern and therefore do not try to; and people who do not try to discern claim that they cannot. I will, however, be explaining later [98] which people really cannot discern and which ones find it hard.

[4] We need no further support for the statement that if we did not have volition based on the ability called freedom and discernment based on the ability called rationality, we would not be human. Animals do not have these abilities. It may seem as though animals, too, can intend and can discern, but they cannot. There is an earthly desire, basically an impulse, with matching knowledge, that guides and impels them to do what they do. There is a social and moral component to this knowledge, but it does not transcend their knowledge, because animals have no spiritual level that would enable them to perceive what is moral and therefore think about it. They can be taught to do particular things, but this is strictly on the physical level. What they learn is added to their knowledge and to their impulses and is called forth either by sight or by hearing. However, it never becomes something that they think about, let alone something that they reason about. There is more on this subject above (see 74).

(References: Divine Providence 74)


[5] Without these two abilities we could not be united to the Lord and therefore could not be reformed and regenerated. This has already been explained [82-86]. The Lord dwells within us in these two abilities whether we are evil or good, and uses them to unite everyone to himself. This is why evil people are as capable of discernment as good people, why potentially they intend what is good and discern what is true. If they do not have these characteristics in act, that is because of their misuse of the abilities.

The reason the Lord dwells in these abilities in each of us is found in the inflow of the Lord's intent, an intent that wants to be accepted by us, to make its dwelling within us, and to give us the happiness of eternal life. This is the Lord's intent because it comes from his divine love. It is this intent of the Lord that makes whatever we think and say and intend and do seem to be our own.

[6] There is ample evidence in the spiritual world that the inflow of the Lord's intent makes this happen. Sometimes the Lord fills an angel with his divine nature so completely that the angel's whole consciousness is of being the Lord. That is how the angels were filled whom Abraham, Hagar, and Gideon saw, angels who therefore called themselves Jehovah, as we read in the Word. In the same way, one spirit can be filled by another to the point of not realizing that she or he is not that other. I have seen this happen often. It is also common knowledge in heaven that the Lord always works through intention and that what happens is what he intends.

We can see from this that it is through these two abilities that the Lord unites himself to us and works things out so that we are united to him in return. I have already explained how we are united mutually through these abilities and how we are therefore reformed and regenerated, and will have much more to say about this below.

[7] Without these two abilities we would not have immortality or eternal life. This follows from what has already been presented, namely, that these abilities are the means to our union with the Lord and to our reformation and regeneration. It is through them that we have immortality and through reformation and regeneration that we have eternal life. Since we are all united to the Lord through these two abilities whether we are evil or good, as just noted, we all have immortality. However, we have eternal life, heaven's life, only if that union is mutual, from the core of our being to its outer limits. This enables us to see why the Lord protects these two abilities untouched within us and as things that are sacred through the whole course of his divine providence.

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Apocalypse Revealed 427

Divine Providence 74, 129, 161, 249, 251

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

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Divine Providence #129

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129. It Is a Law of Divine Providence That We Should Not Be Compelled by Outside Forces to Think and Intend and So to Believe and Love in Matters of Our Religion, but That We Should Guide Ourselves and Sometimes Compel Ourselves

This law of divine providence follows from the two preceding ones, namely, that we should act in freedom and in accord with reason (71-99), and that we should do this for ourselves, even though it is being done by the Lord--that is, in apparent autonomy (100-128). Since it is not from freedom and according to reason and not in autonomy to be compelled but comes from the absence of freedom and from someone else, this law of divine providence follows directly from the two earlier ones. Everyone recognizes that none of us can be compelled to think what we do not want to think or to intend what we think we do not want to intend. So we cannot be compelled to believe what we do not believe and certainly not anything that we do not want to believe; or to love what we do not love and certainly not anything that we do not want to love. Our spirit or mind has complete freedom to think, intend, believe, and love. This freedom comes to us by an inflow from the spiritual world, which does not compel us. Our spirit or mind is actually in that world. The freedom does not flow in from the physical world, which accepts the inflow only when the two worlds are in unison.

[2] We can be compelled to say that we think and intend something or that we believe and love something, but unless this is or becomes a matter of our own desire and our consequent reasoning, it is not something that we really think, intend, believe, and love. We can also be compelled to speak in favor of religion and to act according to religion, but we cannot be compelled to think in its favor as a matter of our own faith and to intend it as a matter of our own love. In countries where justice and judgment are cherished, everyone is obliged not to speak against religion or to violate it in action, but still no one can be compelled to think and intend in its favor. This is because each of us has a freedom to think in sympathy with hell and to intend in its favor, or to think in sympathy with heaven and to intend in its favor. Still, our reason tells us what the quality is of the one and of the other and what lot awaits the one and what lot awaits the other. Our ability to intend on the basis of reason is our capacity to choose and to decide.

[3] This may serve to show that what is outside cannot compel what is inside. However, it does happen sometimes, and I need to show that it is harmful in the following sequence.

1. No one is reformed by miracles and signs, because they compel.

2. No one is reformed by visions or by conversations with the dead, because they compel.

3. No one is reformed by threats or by punishment, because they compel.

4. No one is reformed in states where freedom and rationality are absent.

5. Self-compulsion is not inconsistent with rationality and freedom.

6. Our outer self has to be reformed by means of our inner self, and not the reverse.

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