Discrimination Between Uses
by Rev. David R. Simons
The origin of all uses lies in the Lord Himself; "He is [the Writings tell us] the Infinite Sum [or totality] of all uses; in His Essence love, in His form man, in Whom that Sum [of uses] is" (Love VIII). But the Lord does not will to keep His qualities to Himself. His essence is love, and love is an active thing. It desires to express itself, to share what is its own with others. "Love consists in this [we read] that its own should be another's" (DLW 47). The Divine will expresses itself in a perpetual stream of uses to the human race, as we are taught: "Creation comes from no other source than from Divine Love by means of Divine Wisdom in Divine Use; therefore all things in the universe are procreated and formed from use in use and for use" (CL 183:5).
The Lord is indeed the center and soul of all uses, but the very quality of His love, that He should give what is His Own to others as their own, causes Him to form men, a human race, capable of responding to His love, receiving His wisdom and performing uses from love. In this way man can become a form of use and thus a true man, an image and likeness of his Maker.
It should be understood from the very beginning that while the Lord is the origin and source of all uses, while it is His love, His wisdom, His power and life which are behind all uses, still He has mercifully provided that angels and men shall share in His work - shall be agents through whom He operates.
That the Lord Himself is the author and source of all uses He amply demonstrated by His Own life on earth. He revealed His inner love by constantly performing active uses for men - for their bodies, for their minds, and for their eternal spirits. To show that He Himself is the soul of every use, He entered into the various levels of occupation which are open to men.
For men's bodies the Lord provided food and drink: He broke loaves and fishes and fed multitudes; He turned water into wine. He healed all manner of sickness and disease, freeing the halt, the lame and the blind, and even raising men from death. The Lord did menial tasks too: what more menial function could there be than washing the feet of another? Yet He said unto Peter, who protested, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (John 13:8).
The Lord also performed manifold uses for men's minds. His teachings challenged and stimulated rational thinking and paved the way to wisdom: "How think ye? If man have an hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and ...seeketh out that which is gone astray?" (Matt. 18:12) "What think ye of Christ, whose son is He?" (Matt. 22:42) Concerning certain Galileans whom Pilate had slain, He asked, "Think ye that they were sinners above all?" (Luke 13:4) By His every question, the Lord encouraged the use of intelligence and logical thought. His words are full of cause and effect reasoning which leads to conclusions. "If ye continue in My Word [What will happen?] then are ye My disciples, indeed" (John 8:31). "...know the truth [What is the consequence?] and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). The whole point and purpose of speaking in parables, or in parallel ideas, was to stimulate and develop powers of reasoning and insight which could rise above external, earthly things - above wheat and tares, above the mustard seed, above talents as money - to the internal things which relate to the mind and spirit - to the heaven that is within. The human mind was imprisoned by lust and the fallacies of the senses, by the misleading appearances of external things, so the Lord, as the greatest of educators, visited it, gave it the truth which could set it free. Men were strangers to the truth, and the Lord took them into His confidence revealing the secrets of His kingdom. For those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness He provided food which filled the mind and promoted its growth. The power of His words to speed the development of the rational mind, to challenge and stimulate intelligence, even apart from their spiritual implications, is beyond belief.
The Lord performed uses for the human spirit. He opened men's understanding to the things of heaven. He forgave their sins, freeing them from bondage to the hells. And He moved their hearts to acknowledge Him as their Lord and their God. These things are the essential burden of the New Testament.
The Lord, then, as a man on earth entered into the whole range of human uses. He acted to help men's bodies, their minds, and their eternal spirits, and in so doing proclaimed that the Christian life is a life of uses, and that He Himself is the author of all use.
The Lord alone performs all uses. Yet His infinite capacity to give what is His Own to others as their own is reflected in the truth that He has endowed men with the ability to perform uses, each in his own way, and in so doing to receive the delights of such use.
The teaching of the Heavenly Doctrines shows that the Lord does things in two ways: He performs uses immediately, that is, without the mediation or help of any angel or man; and He also does them mediately, that is, through others. "That the Lord does all things from Himself, [we read] immediately and mediately through heaven is not because He needs [the help of the angels], but that the angels there may have functions and offices, and consequently life and happiness in accordance with their offices and uses. From this there is the appearance to them that they act from themselves, but a perception that it is from the Lord" (AC 8719). As in heaven so on the earth, the Lord Himself really performs all uses. It is literally true that "a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27). This is why certain angels said, "We define use as doing good from love by means of wisdom. Use is good itself. Since these three, love, wisdom, and use, flow into the souls of men it can be evident whence comes the saying, `that all good is from God.' For every deed done from love by means of wisdom is called good, and use is also a deed. What is love without wisdom but something fatuous [something foolish, illusory, inane]? And what is love together with wisdom without use, but a state of mind? But with use love and wisdom not only make man, they are man" (CL 183:3).
Looked at from within, the call to be of use to the neighbor is a privilege and a blessing. It is a privilege to work for the Lord and it is a blessing because when we work for Him, He is brought present and His qualities can flow into our lives. The need to perform uses, when looked at from a true sense of values, is an opportunity to do that very thing for which man was created. This is why we are taught that "When one performs the duties of his calling, sincerely, uprightly, justly and faithfully, the good of the community is maintained and perpetuated... This is to `be in the Lord' because all that flows from the Lord is use" (DLW 431).
But all men do not receive the Lord equally, nor are all uses of equal importance. If we are going to acquire a genuine concept of use, we must learn to distinguish between one use and another. This we can do only by a right understanding of the doctrine of degrees as revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines. If we want to learn to discriminate intelligently between uses, to be able to evaluate them and thus to increase our power to promote uses, we have to recognize that there are many layers to life. We are multi-layered creatures. Our minds are spiritually stratified. There is what is higher or more interior as well as what is lower and more exterior. Life is not, as it might appear on the surface, a one level proposition. Every thought and every act are not mere surface reactions to the world of experience, but they stem from a complex of inner causes.
And it is a wonderful thing for us that this is so. For how could we be free? How could we grow in the performance of uses if we could only serve in externals without seeing the inner extension of our work, its relation to higher uses, and to the Lord as the source of use?
Concerning the various degrees of use, we have the following teaching in the Writings: "All things created from the Lord are uses in the order, degree and respect in which they have relation to man and through man to the Lord from whom [they are. These degrees are] ...uses for sustaining the body; ... uses for perfecting the rational [mind] ...and uses for receiving the spiritual from the Lord" (DLW 330). Every worthy occupation that the human mind can think of or do relates to one of these three degrees of use. Since uses ascend in importance as they "relate to man and through man to the Lord from whom they are" (ibid.), therefore uses to the body are the lowest, those to the mind next, and those which serve the spirit are the highest. Our work, then, is a good use when it is organized, directly or indirectly, to promote the physical, mental, or spiritual welfare of our fellow men. And in an opposite sense all evil uses calculate to destroy the body, disillusion the mind, or pervert the spirit.
Understanding the relative values between uses is simply the ability to be able to discriminate between what helps the body, mind, or spirit. It also includes the judgment of knowing when to place first things first. Our scale of values is clear. When we make our decisions of life according to them, then we can act to promote the greatest use. Essentially, we can tell the relative value between uses by weighing them against eternity. Where does such a thought or habit lead? What permanent value has this idea or act? Does it fulfill the needs of the body, the mind or the spirit? In satisfying the body does it harm the spirit? When we ask ourselves these questions, then we can discover the use of a thing and know whether to promote it or not. The important thing is the end in view. This will qualify even that which must come first in time. By weighing our ends in the balance of eternity their real value comes to light. As the Lord said, "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26) "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19).
However, if we are going to learn to think in the perspective of eternity and thus to discriminate between uses, if we are going to know the true values of life, then we have to know what eternal life is. And only Divine Revelation can tell us this. It was for the sake of the perfection of our uses that the Lord made His second coming and revealed a new set of values for the human mind and spirit. In so doing He provided that His kingdom in the heavens might descend on earth, that His doctrine might be applied in the daily lives of men. And His kingdom descends as men learn to perform uses and to promote uses according to their true value. When they learn the relative values that the body exists for the sake of the mind, and that both the body and the mind exist for the sake of the eternal spirit, and order their lives from this knowledge, then heaven comes on earth.
Just because uses themselves are separated according to their particular value in eternity, we are not to conclude that those who perform them are thus separated. The importance of the form of a use to society and to the man who performs it are two different and distinct things. To think otherwise might lead us to the mistaken conclusion that all New Churchmen ought to be ministers, or that a society of ministers would be an ideal society, whereas one composed only of those who care for the needs of the body would be the least ideal. Obviously such ideas are untenable. The Writings teach, and experience confirms, that before higher uses can even exist, lower uses must be fulfilled. Before we can do the higher use of serving the neighbor, we must first help ourselves, "For unless a man acquires for himself the necessaries of life, he is not in a condition to exercise charity" (TCR 406). Before there can be the expanded uses of education and worship, there must be the raising of food, the making of clothes and the building of houses. Our physical necessities must come first in time, although if our values are straight they will be last in end. "Every man ought to provide his body with food; this must be first that he may have a sound mind in a sound body; and every man ought to provide his mind with food, namely, with such things as pertain to intelligence and judgment; but the end should be that he may thereby serve his fellow citizen, society, his country, the church, and thus the Lord" (TCR 406).
However, this is a two-way proposition. Lower uses serve higher. They are a foundation on which higher uses rest. But it is equally true that higher uses serve lower. When the needs of the body are cared for, then the mind is free to grow and develop to the point where it can care for the body more intelligently. Education and research - the mental uses of society - elevate and perfect the lower uses which support them. Modern progress is the direct product of the perfection of uses to the mind.
But the series must not stop here. If the full man is to be served, then the intelligence of the mind and the energies of the body must be focused to the needs of the spirit. The mind needs to learn the truths of religion and more especially needs to acquire the discipline of the will which will free it to perform uses from the Lord. When we learn this; when, as we noted in the previous article, we learn to shun evils as sins and to do our work honestly, justly, and faithfully, then all the uses to the mind and all the uses which serve the body will be made living from within. Men inspired to do their work from religious principles are inspired by the Lord and will perform the highest uses of all, thus bringing His kingdom on earth.
The first step in this process is the shunning of evil and the doing of whatever work we are called to do with sincerity, but we need not stop here. For, to paraphrase another teaching of the Writings, now it is permitted to enter intellectually into the performance of use - by which we mean: now, from the Writings, we can see the extent to which every use affects every other use. For they are bound together by the Lord. For what is useful to the mind also serves the body and the spirit. And what is useful to the spirit also serves the mind and body. Consequently every man in every occupation has the opportunity of seeing in his work the highest use, and thus of doing it for the sake of the highest end, that is, for the spiritual welfare of the neighbor, thus for the Lord. The teaching is that "every use is representative of all the uses of the whole body, and thus in every use there is the idea of the whole, and thereby an image of man. From this it is that an angel of heaven is a man according to use; and if it is permissible here to speak spiritually, it is from this that a use is a man-angel" (Love XII:2).
This familiar anecdote can illustrate the profound truth which can elevate our ideals of use: three men were working on a wall. Each in turn was asked the same question, "What are you doing?" The first replied, "I'm laying stone." The second answered, "I'm building a wall." But the third proclaimed, "I'm constructing a cathedral." It is the end seen which qualifies our work. It is the end understood which can have the power to elevate our minds and our hearts to the fullest performance of our occupation. It is the sight of the inner goals of life which can spur us to new determination and effort, and this regardless of how external or menial our tasks in life may be. Did not the Lord Himself perform external uses? Is not the Lord Himself behind all uses? Any New Churchman, regardless of how he is employed, need not be concerned as to how external or how internal the form of his occupation may be, since he is now free to see the inward extension of all uses. He can become increasingly aware of the internal uses which this particular form of occupation promotes; how the Lord through man's small efforts multiplies the results so that they extend into eternity. From the Heavenly Doctrines he can enter intellectually into the performance of use.
One example of how this teaching applies in daily living is the use of mother in the home. What could be more external than the care and feeding of a family? This use relates directly to the uses of sustaining the body. Yet it certainly does not end here. A balanced diet, adequate clothes, and harmonious surroundings bring health to the body. But this isn't the end. The way in which mother serves the meals, mends the clothes; her spirit of care and devotion; her consistency and sense of values - these things, far more than we ordinarily realize, have a lasting effect on the persons in her care, on their minds and on their spirits, as well as their bodies. For whether she likes it or not, whether she realizes it or not, the way in which she performs these uses spells out the fundamental values of life. And with infants her most external acts - handling her baby, talking to him, feeding him - are transposed by the Lord into the inmost blessings of all, into the heavenly delights called remains.
When we understand these things we can be freed from an abject slavery to our occupations and we can perform them from thought and purpose, from the truths of revelation, that is, from the Lord. Certainly no New Churchman need say to his Lord, "When saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" (Matt. 25:44) For from the Heavenly Doctrine we can see the Lord in all uses, and that "inasmuch as [we] have done it unto one of the least of these [His] brethren [we] have done it unto [Him]" (Matt. 25:38, 39). Now that the Lord has made His second coming men can enter intellectually into the performance of use in fulfillment of the Lord's own words, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:15, 16).
If we can perform the highest uses in any occupation, does it matter what occupation we choose to perform? Is there not a right occupation for every man? Does necessity take away our freedom in the performance of uses? We hope to provide some answers from the Writings to these questions in our next article.
-New Church Life 1981;91:577-583