Freedom is core.
We have minds that give us the ability to make free choices, minute by minute, day by day.
As far as we can tell, this level of freedom is pretty new, at least in our neck of the cosmos. It seems to be part of the path that life on earth -- call it 'evolution plus' -- is following. Perhaps 80,000 years ago, from what we can tell from archeology, spiritual awareness developed in human beings.
Why? The Darwinian answer would be that humans with dawning spiritual awareness were better able to survive than those who didn't have it. It was an "advance". For people who believe there's a God would probably argue that it happened as part of God's plan and influence, from spiritual "dimensions" into the physical world. And... those arguments aren't mutually exclusive.
With spiritual awareness would have come better understandings of right and wrong -- and people faced new levels of choice.
Free will is one quality that distinguishes humans from animals. Animals cannot be either good or evil because they lack an understanding of those concepts. Humans, on the other hand, can understand the difference between good and evil and can therefore choose which they want to do.
The Lord protects this freedom of will even to the extent that He allows evil, because only loves that are freely chosen can be appropriated to (or belong to) an individual. Because we are all free to choose to do what we believe is right in the Lord's eyes, or choose to do what we want, we can be formed into an image of the love we choose. The image may be heavenly or hellish; it's our choice. No animal has such a choice.
The Lord has always given people a choice. In the ancient Garden of Eden story, Adam and Eve faced a choice -- to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - or not.
To be able to exercise our freedom in a useful way, our freedom is paired with rationality -- the ability to understand, think, and learn. We can learn about the physical world; animals do this, too. What's good to eat? Where is there good water? What shall we do in the winter? What's dangerous? In the case of homo sapiens, our rationality extends to spiritual things, too, so that our spiritual freedom isn't totally uninformed. We can absorb new ideas, new truths.
From our oldest oral traditions, and from our oldest written records, we know that people have received spiritual revelations of one kind or another in many parts of the world, culminating, in the "Christian world", in the Word from Moses, the prophets and the Gospels - what we now call the Bible. The writings for the New Church are a continuation of the Lord's revelation.
Related to "freedom" is the concept of "free will." Our will is what we intend to do or be. It is the core of our life. We have free will to determine what we will do and it is our personal responsibility to decide this. Our free will is so important to God that He was born on earth to overcome the hells, so that our free will is always maintained and is ours to use and act on.
We can't change our loves ourselves. We can't flip back our skull and throw a switch in our brain that makes us love our neighbor - but the Lord can do something like that over time. And without even opening up our skull! But He won't do that unless we want Him to. We show Him that we want it to happen by acting as if He'd already done it. If we force ourselves to act as if we love our neighbor even though we don't feel it yet, we will one day realize that, all unknown to us, He has reached in and changed us a bit. We may have forced ourselves, but free will means that we are free to force ourselves - it's our choice.
Some people may believe that they can't change. Maybe they try for a little while and don't notice anything, so they lose heart. This is a lifelong project. In Exodus 23:28-30, the Lord promises to drive out the enemies in the land "little by little".
All during our life in the natural world the Lord keeps us in a state of equilibrium between the influences of heaven and hell, just so that our will can move us a little bit one way or the other, so that we can remain in control. This is our freedom.
The Lord wants everyone born to come to His heaven. This is what we are born for, but we are all free to decide for ourselves if we will do so or not.
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