From Swedenborg's Works

 

True Christian Religion #535

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535. VIII. Those too repent who do not examine themselves, but still refrain from evil actions because they are sins. This kind of repentance is practised by those who perform charitable deeds for religious reasons.

Real repentance, which is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, praying to the Lord and starting a new life, is very difficult in the part of the world occupied by the Reformed Christian churches, for a number of reasons which will be discussed in the last section of this chapter [564-566]. So I propose to describe an easier kind of repentance. When anyone is turning over in his mind some evil deed, and intending to do it, he should say to himself: 'I am thinking about this and I intend to do it, but I shall not because it is a sin.' This has the effect of blunting the thrust of hell's tempting and preventing it from advancing any further. It is extraordinary how anyone can scold another intending to do evil and say to him: 'Don't do that, because it is a sin;' but he finds it very difficult to say that to himself. The reason is that saying it to oneself involves the will, but saying it to someone else merely comes from a level of thought not far removed from hearing.

[2] In the spiritual world enquiry was made to see who could practise this second form of repentance; and there were as few to be found as there are doves in a broad expanse of desert. Some said that they could do this, but were unable to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. Yet all those who do good for religious reasons avoid committing actual evil, though they very rarely reflect upon interior matters, which are the business of the will, believing that they cannot be doing evil because they are doing good, or rather, that the good actions cover up the evil ones.

But, my friend, the starting-point of charity is to shun evils. This is what is taught by the Word, the Ten Commandments, baptism, the Holy Supper, even by one's reason. For how can anyone escape evils and get rid of them without some self-inspection? How can good become good, unless it is inwardly made pure? I am well aware that all religious people, as well as those with a sound faculty of reason, will nod in assent when they read this, and see it as a genuine truth - yet still there will be few who actually do it.

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

From Swedenborg's Works

 

True Christian Religion #564

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564. XI. A person who has never repented, or looked into himself and examined himself, ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and what the good that saves him,

Since so few people in the world of the Reformed Christians repent, it is necessary to add this point, that anyone who has not looked into or examined himself ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and the good that saves him. For he has no religious belief by which he can know this. The evil which a person does not see, recognise and acknowledge, lasts; and what lasts grows deeper and deeper roots until it blocks the interiors of his mind. This makes a person first natural, then sensual and finally bodily. In neither of these last two states does he recognise any damning evil or saving good. He becomes like a tree growing on hard rock, spreading its roots among the cracks in it, which ends up by withering for lack of moisture.

[2] Everyone who has been properly brought up is rational and moral. But there are two routes to rationality, one from the world, the other from heaven. A person who has followed the world's route to rationality and morality, and not that from heaven too, is only rational and moral in speech and behaviour; inwardly he is an animal, or rather, a wild beast, because he acts as one with the inhabitants of hell, where all are of this nature. However, a person who has also followed heaven's route to rationality and morality is truly rational and moral, because he is this at the same time in spirit, speech and body. Speech and body have the spiritual like a soul within them, and this activates the natural, sensual and bodily functions. He also acts as one with the inhabitants of heaven. There are therefore people who are rational and moral in a spiritual way, and also people who are rational and moral in a purely natural way. These cannot be told apart in the world, especially if a person is steeped in hypocrisy as the result of practising it. But the angels in heaven can tell them apart as plainly as doves from owls, or as sheep from tigers.

[3] A purely natural person can see evils and good qualities in others, and can also criticise others. But because he has not looked into and examined himself, he sees no evil in himself; and if any evil is uncovered by someone else, he employs his rational faculty to conceal it, like a snake hiding its head and plunging into the dust, or a hornet into dung. This is caused by the joy of evil, and this surrounds him, like mist over a marsh, absorbing and attenuating the rays of light. The joy of hell is nothing but this. From hell it exhales and flows into everyone, but into the soles of the feet, the back and the rear of the head. However, should it be received by the fore part of the head, or by the chest in the body, that person becomes a slave of hell. The reason is that the human cerebrum is assigned to the understanding and to its wisdom, the cerebellum to the will and its love. That is why the brain has two parts. But the only thing which can cure, reform and turn upside down that hellish joy is spiritual rationality and morality.

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