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The Ruling Love

by Rev. Lorentz R. Soneson

"I will not blot out his name out of the book of life." (Revelation 3 : 5 )

We read in ... the Apocalypse Explained ...that the "book of life" signifies heaven. Those who will be in heaven are they whose states, in respect to love and faith, are such that they are fitted for heaven. Those who are prepared for heaven are, in fact, already in heaven as to their interiors even while in this world. If heaven has descended into the heart of a man, descending as love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor, that man is kept in this love to eternity. Thus we read: "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life."

But let us examine in closer detail just what is meant by the "book of life." It is a misconception common in the world today that there is actually in existence somewhere, presumably at heaven's gateway, a book in which all the acts and thoughts of each individual are being recorded. This book is referred to when man seeks entrance into paradise, and a judgment is made by weighing all the factors that have been entered in it. A judge, presumably unbiased, comes to a final decision as to the destinations of all those who leave this world. Man's eternal abode, whether in heaven or in hell, is determined by the record of events written in the book of life.

Now in a sense this is, of course, true. There is a record of all that man has ever said, thought and felt; but it is not written in some distant ledger. The book of life is carried within each man and is known as his interior memory. Therein is recorded all that a man experiences while in this world, without any exception. This memory within every man is taken with him to the spiritual world when he leaves his earthly body behind. We are not aware of the process of recording in it while we are in the natural world, yet it is going on every moment of our natural lives. In this connection we read: "The memory of all these things the man has with him when he comes into the other life, and he is successively brought into full recollection of them. This is his book of life, which is opened in the other life, and according to which he is judged. Men can scarcely believe this, but yet it is most true. All the ends, which to him have been in obscurity, and all the things he has thought, together with everything that from these he has spoken and done, down to the smallest point, are in that book, that is, in the interior memory, and [can be] made manifest before the angels as in clear day." (AC 2474)

Man has an exterior memory, too. That memory, of which we are conscious. and which we utilize while in this world, records every personal event as well. However, our ability to recall conscious thought is not always as perfect as we might desire it to be. Nevertheless the memory of our experiences, as well as of the thoughts and affections associated with them, operates continually throughout our lives.

The interior memory, we may say, is the memory of the spirit, while the exterior memory is proper to the body. (AC 2469) These two work as one, yet are distinct from each other. "To the exterior memory, which is proper to man living in the world, pertain all the words of languages, also the objects of the outer senses, and also the knowledges that belong to the world. To the interior memory pertain the ideas of the speech of spirits, which are of the inner sight, and all rational things, from the ideas of which thought itself comes into existence." (AC 2471)

These two classes of things are distinct from each other. Man does not know this because he does not reflect upon it; also, he is in corporeal things, and can withdraw his mind from them only with difficulty. Furthermore, we are told, things of the exterior memory vanish, as it were, when they become part of man's life. When ideas, truths and concepts are brought into one's life, they become part of man's will; and to become part of the will is to become part of the man himself. (AC 9349: 4)

We take special note of this in connection with man's book of life. It is the teaching that all the knowledges which man acquires while he is in this world are arranged and disposed in a most specific pattern. This form and arrangement differ with every man, for knowledges are made one with man according to his loves. As man's loves are changing, so are the arrangements of his body of truths. With a regenerating man, we are told, there is a continual commotion among the truths with him as conjunction takes place between the good of the internal man and the truths of the external. (AC 5881) The arrangement of man's loves is established accordingly into a pattern by what man loves above all else. This general or principal love is called in the Writings man's ruling love.

The Writings speak much of this reigning love in man because it is the very man himself. "The very life of man," we read, "is his love, and such as the love is, such is the life, yea, such is the whole man. But it is the governing or ruling love which constitutes the man. That love has many loves subordinate to it, which are derivations. These appear under another form, but still they are all in the ruling love and constitute with it one kingdom. The ruling love is as their king and head; it directs them, and through them as mediate ends it regards and intends its own end, which is the primary and ultimate end of them all. . . . That which is of the ruling love is what is loved above all things." (HD 54)

All the delights enjoyed by man are from the delights of his ruling love. Whatever satisfies him, whatever pleases him, is the result of some love within him, and that which delights him most of all is that which he loves above all other things. (HH 486) Since no man has exactly the same ruling love as any other man, their variety is as great as there are men and spirits and angels. For this reason everyone's face is different in the other world, for the face reflects man's ruling love. (Ibid.)

Although each man is different, the ruling loves of men can be classified under two general heads, namely, love to the Lord and love of self. Thus it is evident that man's ruling love determines whether he will be in heaven or in hell, or rather, whether heaven or hell is within him! When we read that the universal ruling love in heaven is love to the Lord, we understand that all there have similar ruling loves, though with indefinite variety.

Everyone has many loves, but all are subordinate to and make one with his ruling love - that which brings him the greatest delight. It is this love, ruling in each one of us, that awaits each of us after death. An interior man is being built within us secretly as we make our choices in this world. Our choices determine which loves we wish to confirm as part of us, those delights which we seek for our happiness. Each day we are molding the form in which we will appear in the spiritual world.

In the other world we are not conscious at first of what our true nature is, but come to realize it only gradually. The wiser angels, however, know what our ruling affection is when we utter a few words. Just by hearing him speak, such angels can tell the character of another's life. Our words, and thus our thoughts, convey to the learned observer our ruling love, thus the total man. "[The angels] know also that man's book of life is nothing else." (HH 236)

Man is not so aware of his ruling love while he is in this world. He can catch some glimpse of it, provided he is honest in his examination of him self. The nature of that which reigns universally can be known from the delight one feels when it succeeds, and from the pain when it does not succeed. In this world we are not always successful in keeping the ruling affection from showing in the face. In the other world, that which reigns universally with man makes the visible presence of his spirit. There his affection shows especially in the face. (AC 7648)

"It is therefore the part of a wise man to know the ends that are in him. Sometimes it appears that his ends are for self when yet they are not so; for it is the nature of man to reflect upon himself in everything, and this from custom and habit. But if anyone desires to know the ends that are within him, let him merely pay attention to the delight he perceives in himself from the praise and glory of self, and to the delight he perceives from use separate from self; if he perceives this latter delight, he is in genuine affection." (AC 3796)

This kind of examination is impossible for those who are in the love of self above all else, and who also refuse to be instructed by those who are wise. Those who are in such confirmed evil are also blind to the truth about themselves. (HH 486) The king, or the reigning love, permits only that which aids and expands his court and kingdom. His attendants are falsities, his ministers are as insanities, permitting fallacies and illusions to appear as truths to the ruling love. (DP 113)

One might think that a ruling love is active at certain times, and at others not in command of the man. But that is not so. Every man al ways has something which he loves above all other things. This is constantly present in his thought and in his will, and therefore makes his very life. (AC 8853) For example, one who loves riches above all other things continually ponders how he may obtain them. He rejoices inmostly when he acquires them, and grieves when he loses them, for his heart is in them. The selfish man regards himself in everything. He thinks, speaks and acts for the sake of himself, for his life is the life of self. (HD 55) This love is present even when he is doing something else, and when he does not suppose it to be present in his mind. (AC 8067)

Man can deceive himself by saying that what he knows and understands is also what he loves. Truths may be in the memory, such as the truth that happiness comes through serving one's fellow man unselfishly; but unless those truths have become part of man's life by being practiced, they do not bring delight to his ruling love. (HD 58)

What a man loves is in front of him constantly; it is foremost in his mind. In the other world this is literally true. Although angels turn their faces and bodies in every direction, their ruling love is ever before them. In heaven that is in general love to the Lord, for their love to Him rules with them; but the law holds true even in particulars. Man radiates a sphere of his ruling love all around him. What he loves, therefore, is ever in front of him; and because he cannot change his ruling love once he has left this earth, he remains in its environment to eternity. (HH 143)

He is led to the final abode of his loves through the world of spirits. With each state through which a spirit is led he comes to see his ruling love more clearly. Finally, all is removed from him that is not his, and he is alone with his loves and in the company of those with similar loves. We are told that in the spiritual world ways are seen, laid out like paths in the natural world. Some of these roads lead to heaven, and some to hell; but the ways leading to hell are not visible to those who are going to heaven, and the ways leading to heaven are unseen by those who are going to hell. There are countless pathways of this kind: roads leading to every society of heaven and to every society of hell. Each spirit enters the way which leads to the society of his own ruling love. Thus it is that each spirit, as he turns himself to his ruling love, goes freely and willingly toward it. (DLW 145)

The man who has love to the Lord as his ruling love receives an influx from the Lord which arranges each and every thing in him into a heavenly form. Heaven is in the man because his love is the love of heaven! This is what makes an angel to be a heaven in the smallest form; and when those in similar ruling loves are gathered into societies, they make a heaven in a larger form. (HH 59) Ruling loves distinguish the degrees of heaven. They determine also the degrees of hell, where spirits of similar loves are gathered together. Everything in the spiritual world is oriented according to love.

From these teachings we can see that a man's ruling love is his very esse; and since all that a man thinks and does is from what he loves, then the memory of man is really a record of his loves. Furthermore, since man's knowledges are arranged according to his loves, beginning with his ruling love in the very center, so also is man's interior memory so arranged. The final form of his memory is the final form of man in the spiritual world.

Man's book of life is more than a record and a judgment of his choice of loves while he lives in the world. The whole story of his life is written on his face and form. More important, he appears in the other world as he wishes to appear. He is in the company of those who delight in similar loves and seek the same environment as he does. His ruling love dominates his environment. He desires to be in no other state or place than that which is in keeping with the longing of his heart, that which he holds nearest and dearest to him. Neither judgment nor direction is necessary for those entering the world of spirits. Love leads and conjoins man to his lot there, and nothing is changed within him after he leaves the natural world. This is promised in the words of the Lord given in our text: "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life."

However, our life is not fixed in this world. Here we are free to choose; there we are free only to pursue the ruling love in which we have confirmed ourselves. Our life in this world determines the road we will instinctively follow when we pass into the next world. The knowledges we seek, the goals we pursue, all give subtle clues, outlining to us our ruling love. Let it be our fervent hope and earthly ambition to allow the Lord Himself to be the King in the center of our lives! Let His court in us be administered by truths, and let the delights of heaven reign in us!

Let us sing with the Psalmist, who wrote: "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God." (Psalm 84: 1-3)

-New Church Life 1964;84:301-306

* * * * *

The Apocalypse Revealed, #99: "And I will not blot his name out of the book of life," signifies that they will be in heaven because they are fitted for it. This is evident from the signification of "name," as being the quality of man's state of life (see above, n. 148); and from the signification of "the book of life," as being heaven (of which presently); therefore, "not to blot his name out of the book of life" signifies that they will be in heaven because their state in respect to love and faith is such, thus because they are fitted for heaven. "The book of life" signifies heaven, because a man who is in the love to the Lord and faith in Him is a heaven in least form, and this heaven of man corresponds to heaven in the greatest form; therefore he who has heaven in himself also comes into heaven, for he is fitted for it. (That there is such correspondence, see in the work on Heaven and Hell, n. 51-58, 73-77, 87-102; and Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 230-236.) From this it is that "the book of life" is that with man that corresponds to the heaven with him. Because this remains with man to eternity, if he has become spiritual by means of the knowledges of truth and good applied to life in the world, it is said, "I will not blot his name out of the book of life." In the world indeed it may be blotted out if man does not remain spiritual to the end of life; but if he does so remain it cannot be blotted out, because he is conjoined to the Lord by love and faith, and such conjunction with the Lord as there has been in the world remains with man after death.

[2] From this it can be seen that "the book of life" means that from the Lord which has been written on man's spirit, that is, on his heart and soul, or what is the same, on his love and faith; and what is written by the Lord in man is heaven. From this it is clear what is meant by "the book of life" in the following passages. In Daniel:

The Ancient of Days sat, and the books were opened (Dan. 7:9-10).

In the same:

The people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book (Dan. 12:1).

In David:

Let them be blotted out of the book of lives, and not be written with the righteous (Ps. 69:28).

In Moses:

Moses said, Blot me, I pray, out of the book which Thou hast written. And Jehovah said, Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of the book (Exod. 32:32-33).

In Revelation:

All shall worship the beast whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 13:8; 17:8).


I saw that the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is that of life; and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And if any was not found written in the book of life he was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:12-13, 15).


There shall enter into the New Jerusalem only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21:27).

In David:

My bone was not hidden from Thee when I was made in secret. Upon Thy book all the days were written in which they were formed, and not one of them is wanting (Ps. 139:15-16).

"All the days were written" means all states of life. (That each and all things that man has thought, willed, spoken, and done, even all that he has seen and heard, are with him in his spirit as if written therein, so that nothing whatever is wanting, see in the work on Heaven and Hell, n. 462, 463; and Arcana Coelestia, n. 2469-2494, 7398; and that this is man's "book of life," see n. 2474, 9386, 9841, 10505; and likewise, n. 5212, 8067, 9334, 9723, 9841.

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The Ruling Love

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