Mankind, An Instrument of Use
by Rev. David R. Simons
The Writings teach that people are born, "not for the sake of themselves, but for the sake of others." (TCR 406) Every person is born to become an instrument of use in the hand of Providence. For people are not life, but a receptacle of life, a receiving vessel, an instrument capable of receiving and reacting to life. The whole of human existence is so structured that what is lower serves as a tool for something higher. The body is formed to serve the mind; the mind is ordered to serve the spirit; and body, mind and spirit together are created to serve the ends and purposes of life itself - the Lord. To think of life in any other way is to reach false conclusions; to use life in any other framework is to experience frustration, unhappiness and evil. To take credit to self for one's own abilities or achievements, to feel a sense of merit for the truth we learn or the good we do, is to attribute to self what properly belongs to the Lord.
Tools are instruments of use. They serve to extend man's powers - his ideas and loves - into the outside world. By means of the ax and the saw, for example, the raw materials of nature are hewn down and prepared for the benefit of mankind: for homes, for comfort and warmth, for ornaments of lasting beauty. Tools are agents and means for the carrying out of human purpose. They act only as they are acted upon; they move as they are directed. "An instrument is indeed said to act," we read, "but to believe that these are acts of the instrument and not of him who acts, moves or strikes by means of it, is a fallacy." (HH 432)
People were created for the sake of others, and for this reason the have been endowed with the ability and desire to extend their life to others. That is why people have been from earliest times a maker and user of tools. The very construction of the human hand, with its combination of forefinger and thumb which uniquely fits it to grasp and use tools, testifies that man was formed for uses. Add to this a nervous system which has proved capable of acquiring skills of indescribable complexity and the purpose of the Creator becomes clear. Peopleís desire to extend their life through various instruments has led to the perfection and refinement of tools through the ages, which has brought about the scientific advances of our day. We live at a time when tools and instruments give us ever greater control over space and time and have opened the way to advanced uses to humanity.
The body is the tool of the mind. It is the means whereby the mind can ultimate itself in expressive acts; and it is also a delicate instrument tuned to receive the outside world for the mind and spirit. Thus we are taught:
Physical acts, the acquiring and perfecting of physical skills, the control of the body in acts which serve others - learning to use our bodies as tools for what is constructive and worthwhile - bring satisfaction, delight and happiness to the mind; for it is a law of order that "lower or exterior things should serve what is higher." (AC 5127) For this reason, when the things of the body are reduced into an order in which they serve the mind, that is, when they are "in the last place, a happy and blessed feeling flows from the interior man into the delights of these things and increases them a thousandfold." (AC 5125)
Conversely, when the body is not subordinated to the mind, when the craving and prompting of the senses gain the mastery over the mind, when the tool boasts itself against him who uses it, then dissatisfaction, frustration and unhappiness result. For the body was created to serve the mind, and "no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." (Matthew 6: 24)
The body not only expresses the mind, it is also a delicate receiving mechanism. The senses are instruments by which the world of nature is received, elevated and transposed into the world of the mind. Through the senses - through sights and sounds, tastes and odors, shapes and textures - outside nature is presented to the mind for memory, thought and love. Nevertheless, it is the mind which is the organizer and interpreter of all sensation. It is the mind which derives meaning from an experience. "Those ignorant of the [interior causes of things] believe no otherwise than that . . . the body feels of itself; when yet it is the interior life of man ... that through the organs of the body has sensation of the things that are in the world and thus perceives them naturally. The whole body, with all its sensories, is merely an instrument of its soul or spirit." (AC 1522)
We live in a world in which the senses are extended by complex and powerful instruments. Science has made it possible for man to probe into the very heart of matter and toward the boundaries of space. For the human eye and ear the material universe has been magnified and amplified by devices which increasingly extend the scope of human experience. By these tools a person is brought into contact with new areas and levels of external reality; but lest he be tempted to use these discoveries to boast himself against his or her Maker, let that person remember that, finally, all sensation and experience must be felt and interpreted by people - by the most perfect of all human instruments, the mind. When the evidence is interpreted rightly, a person will see behind all the wonders of creation the Spirit of the Lord; and he or she will acknowledge what revealed truth declares, that `nature in herself is dead, and contributes no more to the production [of uses] than a tool does, for instance, to the work of a mechanic, the tool acting only as it is moved. It is the spiritual [forces from the Lord] which produce [all] the forms [and uses of nature]." (DLW 340)
The human mind, as the most perfect instrument in creation, is so structured that the lower functions may serve the higher. Memory and imagination are ordered to serve reason and love.
Memory, a most valuable function of the mind, makes sensation and experience permanent with us. It may be compared to a versatile camera-projector which can give back visually and at will recorded experience and learning, and can do this in normal, slow-motion or time-lapse fashion for the delight, evaluation and use of the higher mind. Sensation and memory are not a person. They are not uniquely human, for animals have them also. Yet, if used as tools, they make it possible for man to become human, that is, to learn to think and act from truth. Knowledge in the memory is not an end in itself, it is the means to all intelligence and wisdom.
Imagination - the interior sensuous degree of the mind - is far more versatile than memory. (AC 3020) It allows us to cut and splice the film of experience, to order and reorder what we know, until we bring it into harmony with reason and love. To permit our imagination to rule the mind, to center our lives in the "vain imaginings" conjured up by the loves of self and the world, is to let the servant be master. Daydreaming, which is unrelated to reality, needs to be disciplined and controlled lest it rob the mind of its purpose, direction and clarity of thought. However, when the imagination is used purposefully by noble intentions, it provides a workshop for creative endeavors of every kind. Here the search for what is new - for new ideas, new approaches, new ways of doing things, better modes of operation which perfect uses - can go on, unfettered by the shackles of time and space. In the imagination we can hurdle obstacles and extrapolate possibilities to their limits, and thus discover the goals for which we have been searching; and in the privacy of our imaginations we have a world that is uniquely our own - one in which our loves are free to express themselves, uncensored and uncivilized. There each one of us can come to know the quality of the natural man, and to see the need for reformation and regeneration.
Memory and imagination compose the natural mind and above them stands the rational. "The natural mind is distinct from the rational and is a degree below it." (AC 3020) The rational mind is formed to control the natural. It can do so, however, only in so far as it becomes truly rational, that is, in so far as it learns and practices truth. (AC 5126) In a mind that is in order, we are taught, "the rational mind itself is that which disposes all things as master of the house and arranges them in order by influx into the natural mind; but it is the natural mind that ministers [and serves]." (AC 3020)
Reason is to use imagination as a tool to hew out raw materials from the memory and reshape them into ordered conclusions, into what is conformable and harmonious with itself. Reason sets man apart from animals; it makes possible a life that is truly human. The teaching is that "the human in every person begins in the inmost of the rational." (AC 2194) For it is here that a person can see truth and begin to use it in life.
The Arcana makes the following statement in regard to the relation of the rational and natural degrees of the mind:
This means that the natural should be made the tool of the rational. Yet human reason, too, is nothing but a tool. Although in the rational we have the beginning of what is truly human in man, reason is still an instrument which is operated, directed and qualified by the highest quality of the mind - love. "Love is the life of a person," we are taught. (DLW 1) Love is the prime mover of our being. Love is the will which flows through reason and imagination into the expressions and acts of the body. Such as is the love, such is the person. Love is a personís very life, we learn, "not only the general life of his whole body and the general life of all his thoughts, but also the life of all the singulars thereof." (Ibid.) "This," the passage continues, "a wise person can perceive from this: if you remove the affection which is of love, can you think anything or can you do anything? Do not thought, speech and action grow cold in proportion as the affection which is of love grows cold? And do they not grow warm in proportion as the affection grows warm? But a wise man perceives this, not from the knowledge that love is the life of man, but from experience that it so happens." (Ibid.)
Concerning the various loves which are received by the human mind True Christian Religion states:
A personís choice in life is not whether he or she will love, but what kind of love will rule his or her life. It is not whether that person will be an instrument or a tool, but whether he or she will be an instrument in the hand of Providence or a tool in the hand of the devil, of hell. A personís free choice is as to whether he or she will look at life subjectively, that is, taking all credit to himself for his or her attributes and boast him - or herself from the pride of natural reason against that personís Maker, or whether he or she will use his mind to acquire truth and learn to think and act from that truth - from the acknowledgment that all that personís powers of body and mind are from the Lord.
That we may make a wise choice - that we may use our freedom to think from the truth, and, what is far more important, to act from truth, so that what is higher in us may control all that is lower - the Lord has mercifully provided a new revelation of Himself. He has come and is present in the rational truths of the Heavenly Doctrine. This new presence gives mankind the power to look at itself objectively, to see the purpose of life, to understand the quality of true humanity, to fathom the depths of both body and mind. More powerful than any instrument of human origin, this new truth allows us to search into the very well-springs of our being, and to discover that our loves flow either directly from the Lord through heaven into our minds or indirectly through hell, where they are twisted and perverted.
When we take this truth into our rational minds, when we enter intellectually into the full use of our lives as they were given us to be used, subordinating that which is lower to that which is higher, we will become instruments in the hands of the Lord and He will lead us. And, He teaches, "the man who is led by the Lord is in freedom itself and thus in delight and bliss itself; goods and truths are appropriated to him; there is given him an affection and desire for doing what is good, and then nothing is more delightful to him than to perform uses. There is given him a perception of good, and also a sensation of it; and there is given him intelligence and wisdom; and all these as his own, for he is then a recipient of the Lord's life. . . . Man, being a recipient of the Lord's life, is an instrumental cause, and the life from the Lord is the principal cause." (AC 6325)
-New Church Life 1966;86:260-265