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Affirmative and Negative States

by David Simons

The Writings teach that there are two fundamental states of life- affirmative states and negative states. The former lead to all intelligence and wisdom, whereas the latter lead to all falsity and insanity.* Affirmative states are qualified by a willingness to believe, but negative states begin with doubts. A true understanding of these two states of life is vital to the church and to our own regeneration. For, we are taught: "the first means [towards regeneration] is one that affirms, or that is affirmative of internal truth, that it is so. When this affirmation comes, man is in the beginning of regeneration; good causes the affirmation. This good cannot inflow into what is negative, nor even into what is full of doubt, until this becomes affirmative. . . . The affirmative is therefore the first medium, and as it were habitation, of good flowing in from the Lord."**
 * AC 2568. ** AC3913: 5.

The benefits of affirmative thinking are recognized to a degree in the world. It is seen that our minds cannot be focused on two things at once. If we allow them to be filled with doubts and negative things they become muddled and inefficient. If we focus on the positive aspects of life, the other side will pass us by. In our day many books and articles are written on the value of such positive thinking. To quote: "People who live their lives in a negative atmosphere of thought, word and deed, are letting life pass them by. Their vocabulary seems to consist only in 'I don't know'; 'I don't believe so'; 'I'm sorry, that can't be done'; and so on.* Even the natural man sees that he can gain more satisfaction from life if he learns to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." Such is the philosophy that self-love can impose upon itself to gain its own ends. * The American Weekly, October 11, 1959, p. 19.

What the Writings mean by an affirmative attitude is very different, since it is one that springs, not from self, but from a looking outside of self for the truth. It is not self caring for self, but trust in the Lord. It is an affirmation of His leading which presupposes that things are true because the Lord has said so, and that all good is of love to the Lord and toward the neighbor.*
* AC 2568: 4, 2718. {450}

An affirmative state is essentially a state of innocence, that is, one of willingness to be led by the Lord. We read in the Arcana: "In childhood, when he is first imbued with goods and truths, everyone is kept by the Lord in an affirmative that what is said by parents and masters is true. With those who become spiritual men, this affirmative is confirmed by means of knowledges. For whatever they afterwards learn that has an affinity with it insinuates itself into this affirmative and corroborates it, and this more and more even to affection. But it is otherwise with those who cannot become spiritual men. Although during their childhood these are in the affirmative, yet in the age that follows they admit doubts, and so break the affirmative of good and truth. And when they come to adult age they admit negatives, even to the affection of falsity. But the real cause of their admitting doubts and afterwards negative things can be found in their life of evil."*
* AC 2689: 3.

As with all human states, the affirmative and the negative are the products of the loves which dominate the mind. Consequently, the same passage continues, "they who are in the life of evil cannot possibly do otherwise than [become negative]. For the life of every one is his affection or love. Such as is the affection or love, such is the thought."* Specifically, these two opposing states reflect either a mind that is ruled by what is orderly and good, or one ruled by what is disorderly and evil. To quote: "In proportion as any one is in the good of life [that is, in love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor] . . . [he] cannot be otherwise than in the affirmative."** Whereas, "they who incline to a life of evil, [that is, who love self and the world above all things] fall into the negative."*** Between those in a life of good or in a life of evil are those who vacillate between these two states; "who are not in the negative or as yet in the affirmative, but are in [states of] doubt before they deny or affirm."**** Sooner or later, however, in full freedom, these states must be resolved, and each one of us, must take a stand, to be affirmative or negative to the truth.
* AC 2689. ** AC3427: 4. *** AC 2588: 4. **** Ibid.

Because the human mind is free to be affirmative or negative, since it can choose to be led by the truth or by self, therefore it is free to see the world in two distinct ways, that is, from these two distinct loves. It is these loves which completely color, as by clear or dark glasses, everything we see. These are two worlds: one, the world looked at from love to the Lord, and the other, the world looked at from self. {451} The world that is seen from love and the one seen from self, have the same ingredients; the same material elements; the same weight, color, size, tone; the same plants and animals; yet these two worlds are very different. 

The world seen from love to the Lord is an orderly cornucopia of riches. All nature is an instrument in the hand of the Lord for extending good things to man. It is the Lord endowing man with benefits of all kinds: with the wonderful sun whose heat and light cause growth and bring riches and happiness-the perpetual promise of new springs, rich summers and full harvests, and of winters that purify the air, stimulate the blood, and sharpen the mind for energetic work and play. 

Everything has its positive place and purpose. As the poet said: "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world." Even the presence of evil and disorder is seen by those who are in the affirmative of love to the Lord to be but a manifestation of His mercy and love, His will that man shall be free and have life as his own. Every evil form or circumstance is, to the affirmative mind, an object lesson which proclaims the futility of evil, revealing its destructiveness in lessons etched out in the ultimates of life to show man the truth, so that before he loses the opportunity he may choose to be spiritually free in heaven to eternity. The affirmative mind sees the Lord bending evil to good, leading man through misfortune and tragedy to a higher sense of values, to an emphasis on what is spiritual and eternal in life. The progress of life itself, to such a mind, is not a sad losing of all that is of value, but rather is a gradual diminution of the things of this world. A new freedom comes with the ripening of age with its direct leading to interior things, to the things of the mind and spirit, to the things of heaven and the church which are to have no end. 

When looked at from the love of self, however, all these things are seen in a different light, in the distorted lumen of negative thinking. For the entire environment is seen as hostile to self. It is full of problems and threats to man's wellbeing. All things present obstacles which man must overcome to gain the satisfactions for which he longs. Self love, looking through negative eyes, sees the sun and its tremendous releases of energy, and worries about how long it can last; forming for itself negative theories, based on partial evidence: the theory of entropy, that everything, including the sun, is running down-although throughout observable nature there are building up processes which match the ones that run down. All change and inconstancy is the hand of an evil fate, seeking to rob life of its inner joys. Evil and disorder are proofs that there is no ruling Deity. What is undeniably of order is spoken of as a chance result of circumstances, of purposeless forces in collision. Negative thinking has found satisfaction in collecting and emphasizing evidence about this world: that we will run out of space to live in, that we will run out of food and natural resources, that there is no life beyond our own planet. {452} And about man such thinking emphasizes that he is essentially and incurably selfish; that there is no possibility of making a heaven on earth; that there is nothing spiritual, no life after death; and finally, that there is no God, at least no Divine Being who loves man and who is wise enough to care for man's natural and spiritual needs. Such negative attitudes have led man through doubt and pessimism into a hell of his own devizing. 

When the love of self, and its thinking, approaches questions concerning spiritual things its conclusions are futile. For the more it reasons, the more it uses facts, the deeper it sinks in the mud of sensual fallacy. The Writings provide an example of such a mind's ratiocinations about the life after death. "When those who are in the negative as to this being true consult knowledges, they confirm themselves against it by innumerable considerations; such as that brute animals equally live, have sensation and act and in many things more acutely than man; and that the thought that man has above the brutes is the thing that he obtains by coming to maturity later; and that man is this kind of animal; and by a thousand other [like] considerations. Thus it is evident that if those who are in the negative consult knowledges, they cast themselves still more into falsities, so that at last they believe nothing whatever relating to eternal life. . . It is, as is well known, a common thing for the learned to have less belief in a life after death than the simple, and in general to see Divine truth less clearly than the simple. The reason for this is that they consult knowledges, which they possess in greater abundance than others, from a negative standpoint, and thereby destroy in themselves insight from what is higher or interior, and when this is destroyed they no longer see anything from the light of heaven but only from the light of the world. . . . For this reason it was that the simple believed in the Lord but not the Scribes and Pharisees who were the learned in the Jewish nation. (John 7: 40-48)."* It is a curious truth that in "regard to falsities [those who are in the negative] do not reason whether these be so or not, but they instantly affirm them; whereas in regard to goods and truths, they carry on a continual ratiocination which [always] terminates in what is negative."**
* AC 4760:2, 4. ** AC 3224. 

Affirmative states, on the other hand, are not free from doubts nor temptations. They do not go untried or untested. Yet these doubts are of a different character. They are affirmative doubts, or doubts which lead to the sight of truth. When love to the Lord rules, then, the doubts relate to one's own inadequacies, to one's inability to grasp the full significance of a truth, or to understand how it relates to another truth. {453} The doubt is not so much as to whether a thing is true or not, but rather in what way it is true. Affirmative doubts are positive means for strengthening insight and faith. They begin from the principle that what is said is true "because the Lord has said so," and they investigate how it is true. "Real faith, [we read] is nothing else than an acknowledgment that the thing is so because it is true. For one in real faith thinks and says, 'This is true and therefore I believe it'. . . If such a person does not see the truth of a thing he says, 'I do not know whether it is true and therefore as yet I do not believe it. How can I believe that which I do not intellectually comprehend? . . . Cause me to see it! . . . ' The wisdom of the angels consists solely in this, that they see and comprehend everything they think about."* How those who are or wish to be in the affirmative are to deal with what they do not understand is clearly shown: when "they do not perceive [some obscure truth] they defer it and never suffer such a thing to bring them into doubts, saying, that there are but very few things that they can understand, and therefore to think that anything is not true because they do not understand it, would be madness."**
* Faith 2, 4. ** AC 1072:2. See also AC 128, 129, 6479. 

Negative doubts, on the other hand, are doubts that secretly desire to disprove and destroy the truth, and for this reason they inevitably lead to denial. We see these two different kinds of doubts contrasted in two citizens of a country which is at war. One man, from love of country, doubts whether his country will have the power to overcome the enemy. He doubts whether the generals and leaders of his country are doing the wisest thing for its protection and survival. His doubts are affirmative doubts, since he has nothing but the good of his country at heart. The man who loves himself more than his country, however, doubts whether the war is worth fighting. He suggests that the country might as well capitulate to the enemy, and this before he has to undergo any hardships. He readily gives up hope, saying his country has no chance of victory. His negative states focus on self saying "we can't"; meaning, "I don't want to make the effort," or, "Our cause is hopeless," meaning "This will cost me more than I am prepared to sacrifice." Such thinking is unpatriotic and detrimental to the country's welfare. 

Human states, as we have seen, can be described as positions in the world of spirits. Affirmative and negative states, we believe, relate not so much to where our spirits are in that world, as to the direction in which they face. An affirmative state would always face the spiritual east; a negative one undoubtedly faces the west. This is an important distinction. In some respects it is more important than the actual position of our spirits in that world. {454} For the way we face is the way we will progress and develop spiritually, "For in the spiritual world it is the love which turns interiors of everyone. . . [and in so doing] it also turns the face, for the face there acts as a one with the interiors, it being their external form."* When we face the east then, even though our position may be near the west, we open our minds to receive the light of heaven, so that we can be led towards the Lord. As we progress in this journey, our affirmation of the Lord's leading will increase in strength, and our minds will be open to receive heaven's heat from His sun. * HH 272. 

Also, the loves and affections man has are inspired from his spiritual companions. His affirmative states are a gift from heaven, and his negative states have their origin in evil spirits and are inspired from hell. Concerning this we are taught: "The evil spirits who are with man and induce temptations, strongly inspire negations. But the good spirits and angels, from the Lord, in every way possible dispel this state of doubt and keep the man in a state of hope, and at last confirm him in what is affirmative. The result is that the man who is in temptation hangs between what is negative and what is affirmative."* Temptations are here defined as a wavering between what is negative and what is affirmative. Every man, in freedom, must decide which way he will think and live.. And what happens when we do decide is also described: "[For] one who yields in temptation remains in a state of doubt, and falls into what is negative; but one who overcomes is indeed in doubt, but still, if he suffers himself to be cheered by hope, he stands fast in what is affirmative."**
* AC 2338. ** Ibid. 

All men have doubts. The perfecting of all thinking is a process of overcoming obscurity and doubt and the constant temptation -to turn to what is negative. The Writings recognize this saying: "[Man] is so borne by his cupidities, which produce fantasies, that he willingly admits objections [to the truth], of which a single one then becomes stronger with him than a thousand confirmations. Wherefore [if] a man would be true, or in true faith, he ought to be in the opposite state, so that one truth would prevail over a thousand or ten thousand objections. If he thought in this way, evil spirits would flee, for they cannot live in such a sphere."* It is the delight of troublemakers to insinuate doubts about the reputations or accomplishments of these people or things they wish to discredit, and our negative attitude responds to this. An affirmative attitude is the essential of charity. * SD 3614. 

We are further taught that "doubts and sometimes denials are excited by evil spirits who have been joined to man, but in so far as the affection [of truth] prevails, so far he is led to the affirmative. {455} He is then confirmed in truth by these very things. When good flows in in this manner it is not perceived that it came through angels, because it flows in so interiorly and into man's obscurity which he has from the world and corporeal things."* * AC 4096:6. 

The use of every human relationship is advanced by an affirmative attitude, and harmed and ultimately destroyed by what is negative. The support of the conjugial relation, for example, requires an affirmative spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation. True marriage centers in the endeavor of the partners to think and will each as the other, which means placing the other before self. The consent, which belongs to the woman, is an affirmation and acceptance of her partner.* Where affirmative attitudes exist, that is, where there is mutual confidence and friendship backed by the postulate that each is doing their part to eliminate those elements which destroy marriage, there, in such an atmosphere, a marriage can grow. Once, however, what is negative is allowed to creep in, once negative doubts find a foothold in the mind, then the hells can work to bring discontent and suspicion, and ultimately total division, so that unless a spirit of affirmation is restored, the marriage will be destroyed. For this reason what is negative in marriage is to be shunned as a sin against God. * CL 299. 

These things are true also of our relationship to various organizations. When we support an organization, the first thing we should give is our unreserved affirmation of its uses. An affirmative attitude is essential to our support of any use and of the people who perform it. The uses of freedom in our civil life are promoted by a justice which considers a man innocent until he is proved guilty-a provision which protects a man from negative prejudice. Can we do less in our own personal judgment of men and uses? 

As our church and her uses grow, as we lose the intimate contact which brings first-hand knowledge and inspires confidence, we become increasingly vulnerable to doubts, criticism and negative spheres. Since these spheres can destroy uses, it becomes increasingly important that we stiffen our own attitude, that we learn to think affirmatively, freely extending, as we say, "the benefit of the doubt" to both the organizations and the men who run them. The very least we can do is to hold them innocent until the facts are known. For it is only when we do this, only when we make this effort to fight what is negative, that we can protect uses from the hells. For evil spirits are ever present with us working to destroy the uses of the church. The hells are ever present, bending our ears to drink in unfounded criticism and gossip, and our tongues to embellish it as we pass it on. {456} Uses that have been built by years of labor, and men who have worked sincerely to carry on these uses, can be all too easily harmed and destroyed by negative criticism. This should not be taken to mean that there should be no criticism. Far from it! Affirmative doubts, criticism based on a genuine concern for uses, can only build and strengthen conviction and perfect uses. Genuine criticism does not suspect motives. Heeding the Lord's words, "Judge not that ye be not judged," sincere critics are careful not to judge the intangibles of affection and sincerity of those they evaluate, but only the tangibles of word and deed, policy and practice. Such evaluations are useful and necessary and can only promote uses. 

Of this we can be sure, negative attitudes come from hell. The pessimism they breed can only harm our uses. They should, therefore, be shunned as sins against God. And, conversely, affirmative attitudes should be fostered and cultivated. The optimism they generate brings the warmth of genuine charity in which uses flourish and grow. For affirmative states are gifts from heaven, gifts from the Lord Himself, who wills to make all men eternally happy. 


-New Church Life 1980;80:190


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Affirmative & Negative

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