From Swedenborg's Works

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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Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 427

Divine Providence 74, 129, 161, 249, 251

Other New Christian Commentary

Immortality 1


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

From Swedenborg's Works

Divine Providence #249

Divine Providence (Dole translation)

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249. 1. Everyone who worships self and the material world instead of divine providence feels justified in this on seeing so many irreligious people acting out their irreverence in so many ways even as they boast about it, and still not seeing any kind of punishment from God because of this. All instances of irreverence and of boasting about it are instances of permission whose reasons are laws of divine providence. All of us are free, perfectly free, to think whatever we wish, whether against God or for God. People who oppose God in their thoughts are rarely punished in this world, because they are always susceptible to reformation. They are punished in the spiritual world, though. This happens after they die, when they can no longer be reformed.

(References: Divine Providence 237)


[2] We can see that laws of divine providence cause these instances of permission if we recall the laws already presented and look at them closely, as follows. We should act in freedom and in accord with reason (71-97 [71-99]). We should not be compelled by outside forces to think and intend and so to believe and love in matters of our religion, but we should guide ourselves and sometimes compel ourselves (129-153). Our own prudence is nothing. It only seems to be something, as it should. Rather, divine providence is all-inclusive because it extends to the smallest details (191-213). Divine providence focuses on eternal matters, and focuses on temporal matters only as they coincide with eternal ones (214-220). We are not granted inner access to the truths that our faith discloses and the good effects of our caring except as we can be kept in them to the end of our life (221-233).

[3] It will also become clear that the reasons behind instances of permission are the laws of divine providence from the principles about to be presented as follows. Evils are allowed for the sake of the goal, which is salvation [275-284]. Divine providence is constantly just as much with the evil as with the good [285-307]. And lastly, the Lord cannot act contrary to the laws of his divine providence, because to do so would be to act contrary to his divine love and his divine wisdom and therefore contrary to himself [331-340].

If we put these laws together, they can show us the reasons why acts of irreverence are allowed by the Lord and not punished when they happen in our thoughts and are rarely punished even when they are intended and therefore in our volition but are not acted out.

However, every evil entails its own punishment. It is as though there were engraved on the evil the punishment that the unbeliever will suffer after death.

[4] What has just been presented will serve to explain the following other instances cited in 237 as well. People who worship themselves and the material world feel justified in their denial of divine providence when they see the success of manipulation, plots, and deceit even against people who are devout, fair-minded, and honest, and when they see injustice defeating justice in legal and business affairs.

All the laws of divine providence are needed. Since they are the reasons things like this are allowed, we can see that if we are to live human lives, to be reformed and saved, the only way the Lord can keep us from such actions is indirectly. For people who realize that all kinds of murder, adultery, theft, and perjury are sins, this is accomplished through the Word, specifically through the provisions of the Ten Commandments. For people who do not realize that they are sins, civil laws and a fear of their penalties serve as means. Other means are moral laws including our fear of losing reputation, rank, and profit. The Lord uses these means to lead evil people, but he prevents them only from actions, not from thinking about acting or wanting to act. The Lord uses the other means to lead good people not only away from the actions but also away from thinking about acting and wanting to act.

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Apocalypse Revealed 602

True Christian Religion 479


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


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