The Moral Life
by Hugo Lj. Odhner
Second edition, revised
Published by the General Church Publication Committee Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania 1985, Copyright, 1944
First edition, 1944, 1500 copies Second revised edition, 1957, 2000 copies Third edition 1985. 1000 copies
ISBN 0-910557-08-X General Church Press. Bryn Athyn. Pennsylvania
DEDICATED to the Parents and the Young People of the New Church
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
Part One: Morality
II. Morality and Behavior 9
III. Non-moral Attitudes and the Moral Sense 21V. Moral Rights, Duties, and Values .... 47
Part Two: The Moral Virtues
IX. Morality in Uses 108Conclusion 124
Appendix: The Cultivation of Courtesy .... 129
Key to REFERENCES
to the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg
PART ONE: MORALITY
THE Doctrine of the New Church makes clear that in the realm of human life there exist three distinct planes of motives or of initiative. "There is civil good, there is moral good, and there is spiritual good" (Life 12). Civil good is what a man does from the civil law. It makes him "a citizen of the natural world". A "civil man" knows the laws of the kingdom in which he is a citizen, and lives according to them (DP 322). The civil man seeks such truths as relate to life in the world--not only statutes, laws, and rules which bind men together here on earth, but also matters of judgment in regard to the governments of society: he seeks what is just and equitable (HH 468). He may do this from fear or from other motives. The criterion of such civil justice and equity is lodged in the civil law and in its appointed magistrates and courts. He who commits trespass against such laws is subjected to fines and penalties in proportion to the severity of the transgression. A modicum of civil good is thus actually enforced by civil government.
Moral good is quite distinct from civil good. Civil law only prescribes fairness among men, and outlines certain general rules of behavior which can be enforced by the civil government. It usually leaves the citizens free as to most details of private habit and personal choice, although the more complex society becomes, the more need is there for civil regulations of various sorts. Still, in most matters, man is free to act from his own choice and taste. A man's private "immorality" is seldom punishable by civil law; his personal attitude of benevolence or ill will to others and to society is not prescribed by that law; "dishonesty" which acts within the limits set by the law is not punished; impoliteness, greed, lasciviousness, intemperance, or laziness can be indulged to a great extent without incurring any penalty from any court of public justice.
Moral good as therefore that good which is done by a man with his own rational consent, or "from rational law" (Life 12) . A moral man sees certain acts and attitudes to be evils "hurtful to the commonwealth and thus contrary to the laws of humanity" (Life 108), and desists from them. Such good is rational good, and is what makes man to be human (Char. 57). The motives within moral good are therefore not mere fears of civil vengeance, or of outward punishment. The motives include something of a recognition of the good of society and a desire to cooperate with others as brothers and associates (Char. 57). Behind these motives there may be deeper ends, partly hidden. Society may be esteemed by man mainly because he wants its approval; he may cultivate virtues in order to build up a reputation for sanity or rationality, or to build up his own self-respect, his feeling of personal worth and dignity and merit. These selfish ends do not prevent his being classed as a moral man, so long as he acts from a rational insight into the good of humanity and champions what is honorable and becoming.
There are moral truths which have respect to the various moral virtues. And the touchstone, the criterion, of moral good, is always that "public opinion" which judges us before our fellow-men. The penalties dispensed by this court are often more exquisitely gruelling than the fines, the imprisonment, and death imposed by civil governments.
But a totally superior plane of motives is opened when whatever is harmful to the commonwealth, or to the neighbor, is shunned because it is a sin against God's law and God's will. What is done from such a motive is called spiritual good. The kingdom of spiritual good is the Church, which is also called the kingdom of the Lord; and all things in it have reference to the Lord's eternal will--His preparation of a heaven in the spiritual world as an everlasting kingdom of uses. The "religious" motive--the love of the Lord and the desire for conjunction with Him--is what characterizes this plane of human life. In itself, the spiritual kingdom concerns only the affections and perceptions of spiritual truth; which is the truth about the will of the Lord. And the new motive which is formed around it is called the "Conscience of what is good and true".
These three realms of motive, civil, moral, and spiritual, are thus utterly distinct and indeed discrete; even though in ordinary life they seem so interwoven that few will stop to analyze their motives as to whether they act from one or the other. They seem confused. They blend. They qualify one another. Yet they are thoroughly and at all times discrete. The wisdom of life consists in clearly distinguishing between such motives in oneself, and in the proper subordination of the two lower realms under the higher.
Thus with those who love truths because they are truths, the knowledges about God and about spiritual truths rise up into the highest region of the mind, where the light of heaven is shed. "Moral things, theoretically contemplated and perceived, place themselves immediately under those, and thus in the second region, because they communicate with spiritual things." And below moral things, thus in the first region, matters political are placed (TCR 186). But with those who love truths about religious things only for the sake of the glory of their own fame, there is disorder. Matters theological dwell, with these, only among scientifics in the memory, at the door of the mind. Political things are under these, but moral things under the political, all in the lowest region of the mind, and all in disorder (TCR 186). We would suppose that with such a man, his religious knowledge will to some extent affect his outward policies and public acts, but it does not reach to his moral life or his rational judgment. There is no enlightenment from heaven, because there is no order. The spiritual and moral planes have not been opened with such a man, even though he may possess both spiritual and moral truths.
From what has been said it may be clearly seen that in the mind these three planes are interdependent. Not only is it true that when the realm of spiritual good has been established, this will inflow to dispose and illumine and order the plane of his moral good and its perceptions, and thus also his civic consciousness and his desire to comply with the needs of society as constituted. Not only is it true that a development of the perceptions of moral good is necessary for the enlightenment and ordering of the civic state, and for the formation of a body of laws which are "just" and "fair" (or equitable) ; since the moral virtues upheld by public opinion are the only internal sustaining factor in making fair and equitable civil laws enforceable, and since it is public opinion which gives to men their only final earthly reward--the esteem which men long for more than for wealth or power. But it is also true that the spiritual kingdom of the Lord can be built up only on the basis of the moral and civil kingdoms. A Church cannot become effective without the civic guarantee of liberty of worship and liberty of instruction. A Churchlike the New Church--cannot be built except upon a basic morality of its own which can express its faith in terms of living rational attitudes and flexible forms, or--what is the same--in terms of human virtues.
To divorce morals from religion is the great error of our age. Thus--in the world about us--the source of true morality has been dammed up and mankind has been endangered by moral chaos. Confusion has swept over the world--modified only by Common Sense which still happily survives and is critical as ever of great extremes.
But there is also a danger lest we should confuse morality with religion. It must be admitted that an atheist may possess striking moral virtues, yet his spiritual state is not bettered by the fact. There may also, in the Church, be those who mistake their own moral virtues for genuine signs of spiritual good. So to rely on external good would eventually be fatal. The things of rational culture and social virtue can exist and often do exist apart from the religious motive.
But neither can we dismiss the subject of Morality with the thought that if only we worship the Lord and cultivate a spiritual love of the neighbor, the problems connected with moral life will somehow vanish! For they will not so vanish. Morality is not obtained without thought and reflection and study. It is true that celestial angels expend no thought upon rational or moral principles, nor upon civil matters that regard justice and equity, because they see these things from the truths which are ingrained in their lives (SD 5587). They live--they alone can live--spontaneously. But we cannot commence where they leave off; we cannot act as if we had hearts of pure gold. Our dross has not yet been through the fire. The celestial modes of life, if applied to our present race and state, would result in destruction and insanity.
Thus we--differently from the celestials--must obtain spiritual good through doctrine, through ordered thinking. And similarly, we must give thought to the whole realm of moral good, or to the moral virtues towards which we must aspire by exercise of rational judgment and self-discipline. And before we can exercise judgment in moral matters, we must have as wide a knowledge of them as possible, so that our reflection will take in many elements, and not be prejudicial, partial, one-sided, haphazard or irresponsible.
The Writings speak of "moral truths" or "moral laws". These are statements of the principles of moral life, or of the moral virtues. Taken together, these moral truths would make the laws of the moral kingdom or plane: not to be confused with spiritual laws, which are revealed as doctrines, or as the laws of the spiritual kingdom of the Lord. Still, the moral laws which have to be formulated by the reason of man ought to be inspired by doctrine, and thus be concordant and correspondent with the spiritual laws, so that they will increasingly be the means of carrying the spiritual laws of charity into effect, to the benefit of humanity and society.
The future New Church will undoubtedly possess a more ordered idea of this field of moral good, and a clear illustration as to moral life and its place in preparing for the Spiritual and in expressing the Spiritual. It is our intention, however, in the following pages, to give a brief survey of this field--in the light that we have today.
We propose to note the theory of morals which is beginning to govern in the world today and how it differs from the old moral theory of the old Christian
Church as well as from our New Church principles. We propose to draw the general distinctions between customs and morals, and analyze to what extent man may be said to have a moral sense. We propose to discuss the various moral virtues and their relation to our lives, social and individual; and also their different bearing on men and on women: always with the view of seeing their import to society on the one hand and to the regenerating man on the other.
In doing this, we shall not presume to lay down any fixed customs as the standard behavior of the New Churchman. Moral behavior is not a fixed thing. It is a flexible thing, an attitude. It is the very antithesis of fixed custom. Customs will change. But the laws of making such customs for ourselves will not alter. Those laws, founded in the workings of that special human faculty which regards liberty and rationality, are the laws of Morality.
The world today is not turning upon the New Church with attacks upon its doctrine, as such. The old dragon has been cast down upon the earth--and makes war on the seed of the Woman by subtler means. Our future as a Church in the next generation will largely depend on our success to withstand the pressure of the world's morals upon us and our children.
II. Morality and Behavior
Like every church in its beginnings, the early Christian Church taught only one doctrine--the doctrine of charity, in which all things of faith are involved. This is very clear from the life of the early Christians--whose faith was practice, and whose whole concern was to live as brethren, to live in purity and mutual service. Faith, then, was judged according to works.
But in the Church as it became organized by the Roman papal hierarchy, "good works" were stressed as meritorious and took on a more stereotyped form. Morality became a prescribed routine dictated by the authority of the Church, and the moral value of every act was catalogued with deadening exactness. Individual morality became submerged in a network of ordinances and penances.
A bold reaction came in the 16th century. The Reformation especially brought in the attitude that man's works contributed nothing to salvation, because Faith came, it was believed, gratuitously to man as a grace of God, quite apart from actual repentance or works. And thus, the Writings inform us, the doctrine of charity was separated from the doctrine of faith, and was degraded into a science called 'moral theology'. (AC 89893, HD 257, AC 2417, AE 7892, 7962)
Underlying this distinction lay the feeling that man was really a creature of heredity and circumstance. By heredity his whole being was in "original sin", which condemned him utterly in the sight of God: Adam and Eve had sinned, and the curse of God rests ever afterwards upon all men. Man, it was thought, had no "free will" in spiritual things, but was "as a stock and a stone"; and so only those whom the Lord arbitrarily selected to receive the gift of grace to believe in the vicarious sacrifice of the Cross, could be saved. It did therefore not depend on man whether he would receive the saving gift of Faith or not. His works, his behavior, his life, mattered not at all as far as salvation was concerned. A hardened sinner, at his deathbed, might suddenly be made pure by a "call of grace"--a confession of faith in "the atonement of the blood of Christ".
This extreme view was confined to certain churches--but the general thought permeated the whole Protestant world. It was claimed by many that when a man had once and for all received the gift of grace and thus faith and confidence in his own sanctification, his works were thereafter the works of the Holy Spirit, and he could not sin (except by involuntary error or mistake). He was then the instrument of the Holy Spirit. This involved the doctrine of "assurance", and sometimes the doctrine of a "total sanctification". (DP 340)
One root of this thought came from the claim of Luther, Calvin, and others, that no man can fulfil the law or decalogue by spiritual life, but only by civil and moral life (Life 63) ; the consequence of which was that the shunning of the lusts of evil was not doctrinally encouraged, but only the suppression of evils before the world. (Ib.) The Ten Commandments were impossible to carry out, as a requirement for salvation. Therefore the covenant of Grace was established by Jesus Christ as an easier form of salvation !
It was however not denied that a moral life was necessary from the point of view of public policy. Protestant theory allowed, quite apart from salvation, the "natural" or "inferior" doctrine (AC 93003) that a life according to the commandments of the Decalogue had to be encouraged. Much was always said about "Christian virtues". But the minds of Christians were in utter confusion about the actual relation of a man's religion to his moral behavior.
Quest for a Theory
More and more, therefore, there was felt a need, on the part of thinkers, to find a theory of moral life which might answer the questions that occur to every man, "What is right and wrong? Can a man see the difference ? By what faculty ? and how does he come to possess such a faculty? And if he does have the power, should he exercise it? or in what way?" And, "What relation is there between the established customs of his age, the satisfaction of his own instincts, and the good of society?"
Now every young man and woman must begin life with these questions more or less unanswered in mind, even though he or she starts with a faith in spiritual truth, or with the purpose of shunning evil and doing good! On the answer which a youth gives to those questions will depend the whole philosophy of his life, his conduct, his success, his friendships, his character. They have to be answered differently by every individual. The answer is personal, free, rational. Every moment of conscious life is part of that answer,--every situation compels a temporary answer. Spiritual Conscience determines, it is true, an inner attitude, an inner love, an inner resolve. But unless man can determine what right and wrong are in the actual situations with which he is faced, the Conscience is indeed helpless to guide his Charity into benefit to others. Thus even the New Churchman requires a system of ethics--a "moral theory"! New Church education must mean also the organization of a basis for full moral consciousness, and instruction in such knowledge as may make life seem less of a muddle. It must furnish a chart by which men may freely and intelligently map out their life's course or select their life's philosophy.
In the world about us, the search for a theory of morals has been going on, with the result that a wealth of reflection has been written down on the subject; but from such different angles that the moral world is in far greater confusion than are the economic, political or scientific worlds! This confusion is due to the original fact that the Christian Church separated the doctrine of life from the realm of faith, and disowned the spiritual value of morals, and failed to take into account the fact that spiritual life influences our moral choice, and builds the social customs which protect it.
Despite the confusion, however, there is a common perception which has governed among practically all writers on morals, as to certain characteristics of moral life.
Thus it has been clearly seen that there is a wide difference between animal behavior, social behavior, and moral behavior.
Animal behavior is conduct prompted simply by instinct, or by inborn corporeal appetite, or by pressing physical necessity. Animals act from such motives. A starving man seeks food--and property rights are forgotten. There are other natural instincts with man seeking their gratification,--the inborn love of sex, the love of one's own body (a self-protective instinct), and the love of one's own group or larger self. This latter is often called the "herding instinct", for it is common also to all the herding animals and leads blindly to remarkable self-sacrifice on the part of the individual. Because of its blind and passionate character it appears also--with men--as "mob-instinct".
Such purely animal instincts, if let loose with men, would lead to social chaos and destruction--and the human race would soon vanish, or sink to a merely bestial level. The fact is that the infant manifests little else than "instinct". Yet the child can be trained. Even animals can be trained to a certain extent, yet without any change of motive. The environment itself curbs the instinct. A lion exercises self-control while it stalks its prey. So also a man, without any real exaltation of motive, can practice sobriety and courage, gentleness and industry, in order that he may eventually find gratification for his corporeal appetites.
This makes a semblance of social action possible even among brutish and evil men; although in a society organized merely on the basis of self-interest, continual struggle, turmoil, and disorder are bound to prevail. For human beings, this would be the life of hell. Such a society is bound to perish. (LJ 10)
Social behavior is something more than this. It is conduct which accords with the standards of those around one, a life which accepts the customs in vogue without analysis. It is advocated in the proverb, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". It is true that even animal behavior, or conduct from mere instinct, might be at times perfectly in accord with sanctioned customs. Yet this does not make it social behavior; for social behavior requires an element of intelligent recognition that a man is acting with the group of which he counts himself a member, and in which he feels a joint interest.
It is characteristic of social behavior that it acts according to habits, or customs, or routine, and those who so act solely with the group are apt to be biassed and intolerant, and regard as im-moral anyone who departs from these customs, or even questions them. Indeed, the term "moral" is derived from the Latin word "mores" which means "manners". But the term "moral" has grown to mean more than mere subservience to customs and is now used in a superior sense. There may be evil customs or obsolete, worn-out procedures. A change in customs is often needful, and must not be confused with "immorality"! It may in fact be quite immoral to persist in a custom that was once quite proper. Certainly this is the case as children grow up from infancy to adult age. But on the other hand, we must also stress the great use of "customs"--their profound meaning for the human race! There is no progress in sticking to mere forms; but neither is there any possibility of advance or development, unless each stage--while it matures--be protected by customs serving various purposes: at times serving as a matrix, at other times as skin, as clothes, as a defensive shell, and usually also as that stiffening bone-system upon which the living parts of the human form are constructed in order that they may have leverage and power and not sink back into a spineless jelly comparable to merely instinctive animal reactions.
Social behavior--based on a common heritage of customs, usages, and traditional modes of thinking--is the backbone of Society. To use a different simile, it forms a tremendous and relatively stable gyre of action and thought (from memory) with a very compelling sphere : an individual can hardly resist it unless he makes an intensive effort and is favored by circumstances; and if he does resist this force of custom in some one particular, he is yet torn away by the stream of common thought and common social habit in other particulars! He cannot be a consistent rebel. He is still the child of his age.
We need to reflect, as New Churchmen, on the tremendous power of this sphere of the age, or of modern Society, into which we are placed. As Grote shows, the world about us is an aggregate of attitudes:
"This aggregate of beliefs and predispositions to believe, Ethical, Religious, Esthetical, and Social, respecting what is true or false, probable or improbable, just or unjust, holy or unholy, honorable or base, respectable or contemptible, pure or impure, beautiful or ugly, decent or indecent, obligatory to do or obligatory to avoid, respecting the status and relations of each individual in the society, respecting even the admissible fashions of amusement and recreation--this is an established fact and condition of things, the real origin of which is for the most part unknown, but which each new member of the group is born to and finds subsisting. ... It becomes a part of each person's nature, a standing habit of mind, or fixed set of mental tendencies, according to which particular experience is interpreted, and particular persons appreciated. . . . The community hate, despise or deride any individual member who proclaims his dissent from their social creed. . . . Their hatred manifests itself in different ways ... at the very least by exclusion from that amount of forbearance, good will, and estimation without which the life of an individual becomes insupportable. . . . 'Nomos (Law and Custom), king of all' . . . exercises plenary power, spiritual and temporal, over individual minds; moulding the emotions as well as the intellect, according to the local type . . . and reigning under the appearance of habitual, self-suggested tendencies."
The Writings seem to confirm that this enforced conformity to customs is on the whole, or in the long run, not without its blessings, because Society demands always a certain modicum of obedience to the common good. Rewards come to those who--at least externally live a good life, a useful life, as seen through the spectacles of the age. And ill-doing is punished. Therefore, we are taught, "it is not so difficult to live the life that leads to heaven, as some suppose" (HH 528). There is in the main little outward difference between the behavior of those who are evil and yet are compelled into good social conduct for the sake of self-advantage, and those who obey the same general code of behavior for the sake of spiritual life and from love of God! But this cannot always hold true! The more Society lapses from good customs and falls into evil ways, as is the case when a Church declines, the more difficult becomes the way of the just and the path of the righteous. Then it must be remembered that blind conformity with social behavior will become destructive! and that only he is blessed "who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly nor standeth in the street of sinners, nor sitteth in the seats of the scoffers". (Ps. i. 1)
In other words, merely "imitative" morality is "worth nothing" (SD min. 4546). "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exod. xxiii. 2). In so far as we must live among robbers and adulterers, mere conformity with the ways of those around us would be deadly and would never lead us to better things. And indeed, merely social behavior, if not sustained by something higher, would gravitate back towards the level of instinctive, animal behavior, until even the forms of moral and civil life would be broken down. Men therefore must form standards for themselves, must individually examine the character and trend of the habits of those around them. From being merely social automata, they must become moral men, men conscious of a responsibility in selecting for themselves and encouraging in others the kind of customs which they rationally see that they should adopt.
Moral behavior has to be the result of reflective, rational thought, and must therefore be individual and free, governed from within instead of from without. True or individual morality is the characteristic of an adult state. The moral virtues are indeed cultivated with children, but as habits of behavior, habits of thought. Children are nearly always subject to one sphere or another--and both their virtues and their vices are so far "amoral", i. e., without much moral significance. In youth, however, as the rational faculty develops, moral attitudes and moral judgments at first faltering, later more sure--begin to show themselves. An indication of this is seen in that restless attitude common in adolescence: discontent with customs and proper modes and conventions. Adults are apt to judge this rather severely--for it seems to be a rebellious mood. And indeed it is ruthless and lacking in discrimination. It regards with suspicion all existing social customs which restrain their instincts from ruling.
In appearance, the choice before the youth at this critical juncture is not a pleasant one: it might often appear to a youth as if he must either clip the wings of his imagination, thwart his natural instincts for liberty, for stimulus, for sex-interest and for self-assertion, and simply creep into a tight little corner of a hard world which he has had no part in making, and remain there a slave to set, prescribed customs and mechanical routine for the rest of his life! or else, he might think, he has, as his only other alternative, the choice of foregoing all chance to gain wealth, comfort, or distinction from this unsympathetic world, but to give his precious, fleeting youth up to a wild flight which he knows is likely to end in disaster, but which will yield him, for a while at least, the thrill of what he then mistakes for perfect liberty and the satisfaction of those forces that hunger in his body. In other words, he feels that he has to choose between Social Customs and Natural Instincts. Whichever of these extremes that he chooses, his life would become a failure, a barren thing. Whichever he chose, he would be drinking only the dregs of his mistakes, instead of the wine of life.
What he does not except vaguely understand, is that both these things--both the natural instincts and the social customs--are only parts of the lowly mechanism of life, and that the real problem which he is beginning to face is how to use both these tools in the service of human, rational life. He is really being challenged to see their proper meaning, their separate uses and functions ; challenged to see a ratio--a rational connection between them, and to find his freedom and delight above them! and then to re-organize and purify them for his use and for that of his fellow-men, and thus become what is called a moral man.
We have already discussed the differences which exist between "animal behavior", which is described in the Writings as sensual-corporeal life, "social behavior" or natural life, and "moral behavior", which latter is rational life and is based on the recognition of rational law and on the effort to live according to the "laws of humanity" and to avoid "what is hurtful to the commonwealth" (Life 108).
All these degrees of behavior exist together within nearly every civilized man. We have sensual reactions, social reactions, and moral reactions. They may all exist with men whose spiritual motives are as yet entirely undeveloped.
As we also pointed out above, the apparent choice which lies before the youth, when, before his moral awakening, he faces the adult world, is one between following customs or following instincts. The fact, however, is that the real challenge before the youth is to see the proper meaning within customs, and the proper use and purpose of his instincts. This new understanding is the token of a rational and moral state.
But because a vast number of people do not take up the challenge of Morality, and therefore evade the moral issues, it is not surprising that in the world of today we find widely different theories of living intellectually defended and practically applied even to great extremes! And each theory is at the same time a theory of education--for education has life in view, and is a preparation for that which educators regard as complete living.
One tendency of education is thus towards social conformism. The individual is led or forced to comply with certain rules of etiquette, certain conventional ways of acting, certain ritual forms of devotion.
Such a theory of life is often adopted as the sole guide. And indeed we see the fruits of it everywhere around us. We see "ladies" and "gentlemen" uselessly employed in social rounds for which they have been perfectly educated; we see men and women following the forms of friendship and echoing the empty salutations which everyone knows to be without meaning. "Fashion" has its sway merely because one does "as the Joneses"--one conforms to a social code. Every profession is liable to be turned into a formal routine of doing and saying certain things, instead of remaining a living search for better, deeper, and wider usefulness.
The motive behind all this is usually based on the fact that it requires less effort either of brain or of body to follow beaten paths, than to display initiative and think out one's course of behavior.
Such "conformism" is apt gradually to develop into a hardened attitude towards human welfare. (Institutions such as efficiently conducted hospitals or orphanage-asylums, schools, factories, and business houses, even "charities", often instance such a tendency.) Insistence on a set standard is also apt to breed class pride, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, bigotry and bias, and even moral prudery such as that of the self-righteous Pharisees--the moral examples of their day. It encourages lip-service and hypocrisy on the part of the followers as well as on the part of the teachers. In the churches, it may degenerate into an exaltation either of ritual or of external imagery as the essential thing of worship and life, and breed the persuasion that literalistic loyalty to man-made creeds is what constitutes genuine "orthodoxy".
To us of the New Church, it is quite plain that this elevation of customs, procedures, and formalities into on end in themselves, is simply an abuse of what has a proper place in life. But to certain others it has been an argument for overthrowing all formalities, and adopting the opposite extreme--the theory of rebellious Individualism.
This theory of living is frankly selfish, and usually invokes one's rights to "self-expression", or one's right to differ from the ways of society. It has never been consistently carried out except in part, for--like most revolutions--it always ends with a compromise with Society. If a group of such individualists were left to colonize a deserted island, you would doubtless find, after a few generations, a community with as strict laws and customs as anywhere else, although different. One reason for this is that Society is quite a normal and irrepressible result of certain important instincts which man wants to "express". Strict "individualism" is therefore a contradiction to human nature. But on the other hand, the precious instinct for freedom in the human heart causes him to seek--within the compass of social order--a legitimate expression of himself as a form of use, as an individual contributor to the common good. Such socialized individualism belongs, however, to the moral stage, and is not what is here called "selfish".
We recognize the pervert type of individualism in the plea, recently much advanced, to do away with the barriers and the inhibitions which restrain the primitive instincts of man.
The theory to which we refer is that of Dr. Freud, which--with its various modifications--has been called the "New Psychology", or the "Psychology of the Subconscious Mind", and has been carried into official practice under the name of Psycho-analysis. As a force behind this movement there exists the partial recognition of certain important truths which are presented in fulness and in proper relationship only in the revealed Doctrine of the New Church.
The breakdown of social habits during the first World War gave an exceptional opportunity for the spread of this philosophy of the Instincts. All civilized life was interpreted as mere sublimations of hereditary bodily instincts, and especially of the "sex urge". The suppression of such instincts was represented as very dangerous to the mental and physical health of the individual. Self-restraints or inhibitions were pictured as abnormal. The result was a general speeding up in the loosening of the "moral code" of our generation, a profound change among the educated in their attitude towards marriage and in the mutual relations of men and women, as well as a growing hardening against the idea that the individual had definite obligations to society or family. Far more dangerous than remaining in a static social behavior, this movement threatened for a time to sweep us into utter chaos--into undisciplined license. Reticence, modesty, reserve, courtesy--all went out of fashion. And nothing--seemingly--remained sacred to this philosophy, which was founded on the premise that man's mind was but the outgrowth of jungle instincts, and was not created in the image of God but in the image of the beast.
In youth, the ultra-individualistic philosophy of life the acting on impulses, the craving for an immediate satisfaction of one's urgings--has a very great appeal. This is the reason why a heroic side is then seen to a life of crime, and why so much youthful delinquency occurs. The commencing reason is keen to recognize that in the forms and staid customs of society there is little which "corresponds" to the impatient demands of youth ! It even suspects--often not without reason that the adults themselves are hypocritical in maintaining such customs! Therefore youth often slips into a state wherein the older generation is regarded most unsympathetically--and condemned as "old fogies". The Past is made responsible for all the failures of the Present. There is impoliteness--lack of gratitude or appreciation. There is unbounded confidence on the part of the young that they can and will make a new world out of the old; yet this vision is clouded by periods of utter irresponsibility and discouragement: the Past is too strong for them! Conceit, sophistication, moodiness--these states are almost inevitable in youth. Every extreme is adopted--in styles or fashions or in mental attitudes. There is a loss of idealism, a delight in "debunking" the institutions, the heroes, and the glories of the past. Anything modern is apt to appeal, especially if it is radical! For the whole spirit we are describing is a futile striving against confining forms! Frankness is regarded--in such states--as the only real morality! It is, in fact, mistaken for the deeper virtue of Sincerity. And because of this confusion, the "sins of our youth" (which we later so humbly pray that the Lord "remember not") are most frequently the sins of impatience-the sins of not realizing the need for gradual introductions to the real uses of life, the need for preparation before we lay hands on holy things, the need for pause to examine before we fling away customs and forms as dead, useless things, or laugh at them as mere masquerades!
And the fact remains, as every generation finally grasps, that there can be no gradual introductions into life, no preparations, except by means of formalities, the internal content of which we at first do not fully realize. The further fact also remains, that we cannot come to see the internal content and intent within the formalities with which life is filled, unless we approach those formalities in an affirmative spirit: any more than a man could have proved that Jehovah dwelt in His Tabernacle, by rushing in with lighted torch into the Holy of Holies, tearing down the veils as he went!
The cynic will take one of the holy rituals, the orderly procedures, or the ordained ceremonies such as mark the mile-stones of our life--and with a blast of sarcasm it is reduced before his audience to a meaningless mummery, its holy contents utterly destroyed! That is spiritual "magic" and so appears in the world of spirits! Any fool can desecrate what it takes ages to build up. The more precious a thing is, the fewer are those apt to be who really appreciate and understand its value; the more fragile is it, and the more easily lost!
How, then, is a man brought to see the subtle meanings, the inward purposes of the true customs and the decorous externals of society?
Every man is equipped to see the inner meaning of the formalities of life. The most ancient people communicated solely by gesture and deeds, the Ancients expressed spiritual devotion by rituals. Our formalities today are not so purely formed, the knowledge of correspondences having long been lost. But our rational mind is still so constructed that it can discern the meaning within most external forms.
When the rational mind is opened with a youth or man, he is also ready to see moral truths. In the old Christian Church, it was often taught that man has a moral "conscience" from his very birth, and thus that this inborn conscience told him what was right and wrong. But the Writings reveal that the moral "conscience", like the spiritual conscience, is not innate but acquired. It is acquired through truths,--through moral truths.
It is a law of Providence that that truth which is most urgently necessary shall also be most accessible and easy to recognize. Life is not meant to be difficult. The truths necessary for man's salvation are therefore plainly in view even in the letter of the Scripture. And similarly, moral truths can be recognized by any rational man.
In general, this is true of all abstractions. In the complex situations of life, it is often impossible to tell what is the right and what the wrong application of some principle. But to see the principle itself, apart from its applications to present problems, is relatively simple.
"In the civil and economical affairs of a kingdom or republic what is useful and good can be seen only by a knowledge of many statutes and ordinances there; or in judical matters only by a knowledge of the law; or in the things of nature, like physics, chemistry, anatomy, mechanics, and so on, only when man has been well instructed in the sciences. But in things purely rational, moral, and spiritual, truths are seen from the light of truth itself, provided man has from a right education become somewhat rational, moral and spiritual. This is because every man, in respect to his spirit (which is that which thinks), is in the spiritual world and is one among those who are there; and consequently is in spiritual light, which enlightens the interiors of his understanding, and as it were dictates. For spiritual light is in its essence the Divine truth of the Lord's Divine wisdom. From this it is that man can think analytically and form conclusions about what is just and right in judicial affairs, can see what is honorable in moral life and good in spiritual life, and many other truths which are sunk in darkness only by confirmed falsities" (DP 317).
And pointing to the instincts in animals, the Writings ask, Why should not man from influx also know some of the necessities of rational, human life, which concerns what is moral and spiritual? The human "instinct" is thus to recognize abstract principles of truth--axiomatic truths. And among these are reckoned moral truths.
It is clear, then, that every man can see moral truth "provided from right education he has become somewhat rational, moral, and spiritual". In another place, the Writings tell us that "every man rightly educated is rational and moral" (TCR 564). A proper education elicits the use of one's Reason and enables a man to think, so to speak, in the abstract--i. e., to think apart from personal prejudice, temporal self-interests, or local considerations. And the rational is thus the birth-place of moral consciousness, or of moral perceptions. The rational is able to view man's self from the point of view of others, from the point of view of Society! Thus man comes to see what is good, without direct reference to self! He comes to see himself as others see him; to see the humanitarian values of all men, all things, all knowledge, all customs and all institutions.
It is thus that a youth enters into the adult world, the moral plane of life, the specifically human type of life.
The True Christian Religion summarizes the successive growth of Morality in a telling paragraph, as follows :
"Every man learns from parents and masters to live morally, i. e., to act as a civil person and to perform the offices of honesty which refer themselves to the various virtues which are the essentials of honesty, and to produce them by its formalities, which are decorous. And as he advances in age, he learns to superadd rational endowments and through these perfect the moral things of life. For moral life, with children up to first adolescence, is natural, and becomes afterwards more and more rational". (443)
The habits of moral life with children are not morality itself, but are a natural form imposed from without by mental training and instruction. Only after "reflections upon the manners of men" and the use of rational concepts and rational freedom, does morality begin (AC 4558).
And even so, a man may become "rational and moral" from the world only, and not from heaven (TCR 564f). While it is the normal thing that a man who becomes "moral", should become "spiritual-moral"--by "a life according to human and divine laws at the same time" yet morality is also possible to every natural-rational man, since he can elevate his understanding into the light of heaven sufficiently to recognize moral truths (TCR 445).
Those who are merely moral "from the world", live morally because they have a sight of moral law and a recognition of the good of society; yet only so long as they regard society as their group, whose welfare will benefit them. The final test of such morality is the feeling of merit. If they ascribe the merit of their virtues to themselves, their state is not spiritual, and their inward evils remain untouched by this their polishing of the outside of the cup and platter of their lives.
This distinction, between a life from spiritual conscience and a life from natural morality, is not generally perceived by the students of Ethics at this day. But it is recognized by many that from those that are acclaimed as the "most virtuous" there is often a backwash of a subtle conceit--a pride of virtue that cannot be wholly hidden. There is the echo of the Pharisee's words, "I thank Thee that I am not as other men. . . ."
What is meant by the teaching that every rational man can see moral truths in their own light? Does it not imply that moral life has its laws, even as nature has laws proper to nature ? that human relationships are ruled by the Divine Providence according to a certain order, which cannot be broken without a definite loss of the human quality, a loss of human status, human rights, and human rewards? We believe it means precisely this. The individual who is becoming conscious of his place as a moral being is--in his own experience meeting up with some of those laws at work. He finds that he cannot possibly be satisfied with merely imitating what others do; that he cannot simply adopt the set of customs that prevail about him or in his group, and expect it to serve as a common standard whereby to judge others, or whereby to translate his understanding of his obligations or ambitions into terms that others will understand. He must seek a more pliable, adaptable standard than custom. He finds that even many of his own habits are such that they are really meaningless and purposeless. He needs a law which shall guide his social action.
Moral laws must be perennial. They must have held good in all centuries, among all peoples, whatever shifting customs may have been in vogue. Moral laws must be universal--applying in a versatile way to all situations, to all ages and states and persons.
If they are such, then they would indeed furnish a common standard and a common goal for social progress, and tend to unite and harmonize the lives of men and to break down the unfortunate isolation in which individuals find themselves, and increase mutual understanding without breaking down the respect of man for man or destroying the privacy and individuality and use and freedom of any one.
Such a universal moral law is actually well known among men. It has been formulated in various ways, among the ancient Chinese, among the Jews in the postexilic era, and vaguely with other peoples. But its Divine formulation is given in the New Testament and is widely known and accepted by Christians, Jews and Gentiles--seen in its own light of truth, accepted on first hearing, by all who are "somewhat rational and moral": "all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matth. vii. 12).
No critic--to our knowledge--has ever dared to pick flaws in this sublime statement; none has been able to improve upon it. Even to many who deny His Divinity, the Lord Jesus Christ yet stands as the most enlightened moral teacher that the world has ever known.
On analysis, the statement--which the Writings describe as the universal law of morality (TCR 444, AR 634, AE 9023), and which the world calls the Golden Rule--loses its hackneyed familiarity. The fact that it is constantly on the lips of insincere and self-seeking men does not affect its Divine dignity. Its prime purpose is a challenge to thought. And its meaning deepens the more we reflect. What is it that we would that men should do to us ?
THE UNIVERSAL moral law is contained, as noted above, in the Lord's own words, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them". This law challenges us to reflect, not for a moment, but continually throughout life, as to what it really is that we would that men should do to us. Our every action--to be moral--must come from a considered point of view, which leads us inevitably to deeper reflections as to what may be the highest good, the inmost goal desired by the soul of man. For we realize full well that the good which we seek from others is not that they should always cater to our momentary impulses, or satisfy our clamors for this or for that; for, as we know from experience, these impulses have often led us to the brink of misfortune. What we actually desire from others, is such action as will promote our lasting good, our eventual, permanent happiness. And the moral law then requires that we act towards others in a way that will promote their lasting welfare.
The history of civilization is largely the history (a) of the conceptions of men as to what constitutes the Highest Good, and (b) of the conflicts between these conceptions. The application of the Golden Rule, or the universal law of morality, is therefore accompanied with unending problems, just in so far as we are ignorant of that which would be for the permanent good of others, and of oneself. Life--despite the general law would then become a mere laboratory, where one learns by one's mistakes and bitter experiences, through the method of trial and error. The Good would come to light only accidentally, as a consequence of some chance action. A cynic would thus look back on the whole history of mankind's morals and see in it nothing but a series of experiments in human happiness, and incidentally, experiments which have taught the human race very little! And by this he would confirm his idea that there is no real Good--no law or pattern of happiness, no goal of life. To him, good appears only as the ephemeral pleasure of the individual. Life would be a bitter struggle--at best an armed truce, a barren compromise.
Now it is of course obviously true that it is through experience, or in the course of life, that we learn to recognize the moral values, the truths of moral perception ! But the other phase of this observation is, that besides the fact that Divine Revelations have ever pointed out the general law of moral life--man is furnished with the faculty of reason and thus of seeing moral truths and of drawing moral deductions from experience! And this means not only seeing the general truth of the "Golden Rule", but seeing the particular truths which enlighten us as to what would promote our lasting good, and therefore, also what would promote our neighbor's welfare.
The essence of the moral law is, that what is good for one is good for all: that the individual is not born for himself, but for his neighbor, for use. The Divine end, the Doctrine states, is good for all. The moral truth which man, if he so desires, can see, is that what is good for the whole--or for Society--is ultimately best for the part--or for the individual. What the individual therefore is concerned about, fundamentally, is to see the things, the qualities, which in the varied circumstances of the life of humanity have rendered the greatest services, the greatest results for lasting happiness, to the community; or--what is the same--to see those qualities in the individual which have contributed to the common good.
These abstract qualities (for we are not speaking of specific practices or acts or customs) are called virtues, and here we are specifically referring to the moral virtues. There are also spiritual virtues, which look to the spiritual and eternal good of mankind and of the individual; and which therefore refer to love to the Lord and to love of spiritual truth, and thus to the eternal ends of creation. But although we may describe such spiritual virtues, may preach about them, may hope that they might become lodged in our hearts, yet they cannot be expressed in practical life--or in the common life among men--unless man is also in the practice of the moral virtues which must serve as vessels and agents for carrying charity into rational effect.
The Writings therefore make the statement that "the goods of charity are nothing else than moral goods". (D. Wis. xi.) The goods of the love to the Lord, however, are distinct even in form.
Morality is said to consist in two things, honesty and decorum. The various moral virtues are simply the "essentials of honesty" (TCR 443). We hope to speak of some of these virtues later, in some detail. But here we must be content merely to show that honesty (honestas), as used in the Writings, is the general term for that which Society honors in a man, that which makes him a good citizen. "Honest--as" is therefore quite properly translated "what is honorable". It implies beauty of character, worthiness. In English, "honesty" is confined in its meaning to the particular virtue of not having anything to conceal, and being free from fraud, especially as relating to business transactions. But we can hardly so confine the meaning of the term as used in the Writings.
"Honesty" is the complex of all the moral virtues (AC 2915). It is defined as "wishing well to others from the heart in relation to the things of civil life". It is thus an attitude of good will towards society.
This good will enters into all the moral virtues: into justice, equity, sincerity, rectitude; into chastity and temperance; into truthfulness and prudence. And just as honesty is the complex of these virtues, decorum--or the decorous formalities, the decencies and proprieties of life--give to all these virtues an external form, and show a person's good will, or honesty, "in speech and hearing" (AC 4574). His honesty will display itself "in every least thing" of decorum or behavior.
A wide view of the importance of honesty and decorum is gained when we read that the Lord can be even with those to whom He is unknown. If they "live in the good of charity, and in what is just and equitable as to civil life, and in what is honorable and becoming (decorous) as to moral life, they are such that the Lord ran be with them: for the Lord's presence with man is in good, and therefore in what is just and equitable, and further in what is honorable and decorous--the honorable being the complex of all the moral virtues and decorum being simply its form; for these are goods that succeed in order, and are the planes in man on which conscience is founded by the Lord, and consequently intelligence and wisdom. But with those who are not in these goods (that is, from the heart or affection), nothing of heaven can be inseminated. . . . The Lord's presence is predicated according to the quality of the good; the quality of the good is according to the state of innocence, of love, and of charity, in which truths of faith have been implanted or can be implanted". (AC 2915) We can thus see why the Lord "looked" upon the rich young man of the parable and "loved him" (Mark 10:21).
The presence of the Lord is according to a man's honesty and decorum. And thus we may judge as to all those states and acts in which our behavior does not express our honesty, our honorableness, our charity, our faith, our sincere intentions. Thus viewed, decorum becomes a very vital thing--the ultimate of our conjunction with the Lord, whose presence as it were recedes in proportion as innocence is absent, or in proportion as our speech and bearing belie our sense of what is honorable.
Honesty has to do with motives. Decorum has to do with actions. Morality therefore has to do with both of these, not only one. It looks towards an integration or unification of the whole conscious personality. But in actual life we are constantly confronted here by a grave moral problem: Shall we judge men by their works, or by their will ? How shall we deal with them ? According to their intentions? Or according to their actions? We shall speak of this as the Problem of Motive and Act.
Morality, besides, implies an attitude of good will toward Society, or a recognition of the rights of others. This is inherent in the "Golden Rule". What, if any, are our rights ? How shall we reconcile our rights with those of others ? This problem we shall refer to as that of Rights and Responsibilities.
Finally, the moral law, as we have noted, asked us to ascertain what is that good which we would that others should do unto us; so that we might know how to act rightly towards them. And this brings up a third important quandary, which is the Problem of Moral Values.
These three problems ought to be given some reflection, before we try to define what the moral virtues, each by themselves, really are. For the honorable attitude which takes account of these three problems is what makes such virtues to be virtues.
Relation of Motive to Act
In order that a man may become moral, he must from rational light learn to discriminate between act and intention. This he can do, because he recognizes in himself a conflict between his inner desires and his outward actions, which are frequently restrained by fears and by customary training. Some time during childhood or more happily later, in adolescence, he is suddenly shocked into the recognition that all is not as it seems. He finds that someone has done good hypocritically, with a bad intention. Earlier in life, he has already realized that his own innocent intentions sometimes led him to do things for which he was punished instead of praised. Gradually it dawns on him that man is not judged only from motive, but from his actual accomplishment and results. And from that time on he begins to judge others rather cruelly, sometimes from the strict standard of external perfection, as he then imperfectly understands it. Yet he is bewildered, for he knows that the motive (certainly, his own) must be taken into account.
It is thus that "manly judgment" grows from infancy (AC 60892, 6751). And this comes as a development of the natural mind, and its judging must ever be confined to the things of the natural mind!
The Writings definitely state that moral judgments must be allowed, lest society perish. It is the part of morality to peer beneath the surface. Even the courts of justice inquire into the probable motives of an act. Therefore Swedenborg notes in his Diary that "it is allowable to judge concerning the interiors of a man which regard his civil life".
"Sometimes I have discussed with spirits whether it is allowable to judge of the interiors of a man. And when they consented that it was allowable, it was said to them that it is indeed allowable to judge of their civil and moral life, but not of their spiritual life, of which the Lord alone can judge, because He alone knows it. Inasmuch as in the world societies are thus formed, it is allowable to explore men's moral and civil life from their words and actions, that it may be known whether one ought to associate with them for various reasons and to various ends; otherwise, as things now are, a man might easily be seduced into evils and robbed of all his goods. ... By moral life is understood all honesty in respect to society. But how far a man's moral virtues cooperate with faith, and of what quality his interiors are in respect to faith, concerning these man cannot judge." (SD 1220.)
From this it appears, that we must sometimes speculate as to the honesty of a man's intentions. Yet never except for the practical purpose of some use in hand. We are allowed to judge the sincerity of others in civil and social matters. And we will be right according as our moral judgment and ripened experience have made us good judges of character; not--necessarily--according to the degree of our regeneration.
But as to the spiritual motives that lie behind that moral virtue in others, we are not allowed to judge.
We must distinguish between good and evil in their moral manifestations; but it is not our function to impute evil or guilt, or even virtue, to others. (See CL 523, AE 62914, AC 22843, SS 515, De Verbo 153.) We can judge the morality of a person's act, yet refrain from judging that person's spiritual state as to faith and charity. For this the Lord alone can do. Thus we read:
"I have frequently spoken with spirits as to how it is to be understood that one is not to judge concerning others; and it was agreed that everyone may judge concerning another as to his civil life, and also as to his moral life so far as this regards the civil, and what associations to enter into; and it is to be found out how far others are to be trusted, what is suitable to one and what is not, lest one be deceived. For there are pretenders, deceivers, hypocrites, adulterers, and every kind of evil men; there are those who are wise and those who are stupid; there arc those who esteem the public good as nothing, but prefer themselves; and there are others who are different. Thus without reflection, thought, and thus the exercise of private judgment, no one could ever carry on in civil life. And especially on the question whether this man or that is fit for discharging some public office, one can have no discernment without making private judgments about others.
"But in respect to the interiors, as to the life of faith, and similar things, concerning these we must not judge; the Lord alone knows them. A thousand persons may appear alike in externals, nay, may speak alike, and yet be altogether different as to those things, and in those respects the ends of each one of them can never be known. To judge from actions concerning them is to be deceived. ... I spoke with spirits saying that in the other life there is altogether another kingdom, another form of government, another regime, other laws; nay, other wars wars against evils and against infernal spirits; and other consociations, which are according to the interior ends of life; these never stand forth before others in the life of the body; wherefore concerning these things one is not to judge. From much experience I learnt that some which the world had condemned as evil interiorly, were among the blessed, while others whom they had judged good, are among the unhappy." (SD 4425, 4426.)
Since it is thus allowable to estimate the acts and speech of our fellows in the light of their probable moral intention, we do the same with ourselves. We fail in some good enterprise, and we console ourselves, save ourselves from bitterness and discouragement, by the reflection that we at least intended well. We ask our friends to take the will for the deed. And in turn, from a general judgment of their character, we concede that they intended no harm by their unfortunate words or clumsy action.
This principle of Tolerance, however, has its limitations in actual application. Moral judgment cannot confine its full attention to motives. In a world of uses waiting to be done, a man must not only be good, but good for something. Ineffective idealism that produces no uses, is not for this world. The scoffer calls men that walk in the clouds of impractical dreams "too good for this world", and the expression, "He means well", disguises the judgment that his honesty is not expressed in the proper decorum. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", is the saying. It would be truer to say this of the road to heaven. Yet a road is of no use unless you follow it--walk on it in actual life. Moral virtues, to be such, must be practical. The tree is, after all, known only by its fruit.
This is unfortunately one of the lessons which it takes us a long time to grasp. We necessarily sway in our moral judgment back and forth, between an estimation of the motive as the most important and a stressing of the act as being most important. It seems almost a recurrent, and insoluble, problem.
Suppose that we harbor a motive which looks to the good of society or of the Church. How far will that justify our acts--the methods by which we proceed to reach our goal? Shall we convert the heathen by the sword, as did the kings of the Dark Ages? or shall we slay our opponents by poison, as that code permits which claims that "the end justifies the means"? The ostensibly good motive is herein made to condone various evil acts. This principle is thus false--since good has for its object to shun evils. A good end will select good means. The end will qualify, purify, the means! It will select the best possible mode; the least hurtful, if nothing remains but a choice between evils. In modern life, the same problem takes other forms: Shall we use unfair business methods to maintain our support of worthy causes? or is there a moral quality in the act, as well as in the intention?
We believe that the very definition which the Writings give for morality supplies the answer. The honorable, clothed by the decorous, constitutes a moral act. The very expression, "an honorable intention", implies a good motive seeking a proper and orderly way of realizing itself, a decorous mode : not an impatient overthrow of all obstacles, without concern for others.
There is another philosophy than this, one which so stresses the actual result that it claims that the motive does not matter in the least. Modern materialistic civilization is gradually encouraging this attitude. Efficiency has become the god of a great many. Who cares why an inventor works, if he only produces new contraptions? Let the motive be fear or gain or fame, so long as we--mankind, society--reap the benefit! Such a philosophy is utilitarian, purely. It is, however, not very farsighted even on the material plane; for unless there be a moral motive the external accomplishments are soon apt to take unsocial directions.
The motive is important in the act. The happiness which we receive from an object given to us from friendship or from a high consideration of use, is incomparably greater than the satisfaction of simply acquiring that object. Every event or act is valued, as we shall see, largely from its motive. Even the cruelties of war which we impose on our enemies are condoned as an evil necessity when we act not from hatred or lust of conquest but from the compulsion of self-defense. And when our country has been attacked, it may be that an offensive proves our best defense. It is the end in view which gives character to an action. (Char. 164, TCR 407)
On the other hand, an act may in itself have a specific moral meaning. Acts which are the natural forms of evil are called immoral even though they may be employed (in the exceptional case) in the cause of a moral purpose. The Ten Commandments forbid certain acts. Under the heading of killing, adultery, theft, and lying, are forbidden all cruel, lascivious, fraudulent, or deceptive acts. Those acts are wrong, not as to the bodily motions employed, but considered as organized procedures which are forms of evil and correspond to evil intentions and thus invite the influx of the corresponding hells. Such acts are opposed to Decorum, and are not the proper ultimate expressions of what is Honorable.
"Decorum" is a Latin word which combines in it the meanings of "suitable," "proper," "fitting," "seemly," "becoming" and "correct." Decorous action is orderly, and therefore it invites the presence and general influx of heaven, with all its blessings. It also gives protection among men--protection against enmities and misfortunes. It makes possible a continuance of a broad freedom in all phases of life and use. It gives a basis for friendship and for all human relationships.
Society has, from long experience, recognized certain acts as destructive of human welfare. And the function of morality is to show more clearly the principle on which this discrimination between good acts and evil acts rests, so that the individual may intelligently cooperate with society. For there is nothing in man's most private life, which will not eventually affect society in some way or other.
In the next chapter we propose to inquire more definitely what are the Human Rights of the individual in this complex scheme of cooperation which we call Society.
ALL CIVIC cooperation is based on the recognition of the need of order in human life. But morality is founded on the further recognition that each man must allow for the freedom of others, must grant to others the "rights" which he so readily claims for himself, or--in the terms of the universal moral law--must "do to others" as he would that men should do unto him (Luke vi. 31).
We cannot conceive of morality existing under an "absolute" autocracy. For Human Freedom would be a meaningless phrase unless it implied a common recognition that the individual man has certain definite "rights". Since an "absolute" democracy which should claim that the rights of all individuals were equal, would similarly be irreconcilable with the moral point of view, it is clear that we cannot separate the idea of human "rights" from the concept of human "freedom".
Into the great Charter of the United States this moral concept enters, when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are held up to be the "unalienable rights" of man. In so far as any rights can be said to be unalienable these must be so recognized.
It is notable, however, that nothing is mentioned in the Writings of the New Church about human "rights". Human "faculties" or "powers", yes! Prerogatives which men have above beasts (SD 3820), yes! But no intrinsic human rights! Among the angels, we are told, there is no thought about prerogatives or privileges. (SD 2935, 2516.) This silence about man's rights is eloquent. We interpret it to mean that man, as an individual, possesses no intrinsic right merely by virtue of the fact that he is human. Whatever rights are vested in him, belong to him not as a person, but as a use. This, no doubt, is the reason why, in the spiritual world, no food is given to the slothful.
Whatever "rights" we seem to possess, then, are properly the rights of the use or the place we fill in society. Therefore society gives us our rights and privileges, according to the functions we perform. And those rights cannot be the same for all, nor can they be unlimited. They are constantly being re-defined, and controlled by society. This is a tangible and sometimes a painful fact. It is so with individuals, with institutions and corporations, with cities, even with nations ! If the use we perform is not valued by society, our freedom is retrenched, our supposed rights infringed upon.
And society, being composed of men, may be in error in not valuing our contributions more highly. Yet this social control is on the whole fortunate. It creates a balance, provides a check upon those who insist upon their rights to the embarrassment of others. If we were to insist that our rights were self-derived, intrinsic, and absolute, anarchy would arise, and in its wake persons or groups would enforce private monopolies which would enslave mankind in one manner or another.
After all, it is society which gives protection and opportunity to the individual, and enables him to perform "uses" and to reap their rewards. To claim that society cannot limit the opportunities which it gave in the first instance, is hardly compatible with sound reason. But it is true that society has no Divine rights, intrinsic in itself. It is the administrator of its use, and comes under the same law as the individual. It cannot evade its responsibilities. When it acts unjustly, its very right to exist is challenged, and a judgment awaits it.
It is very essential to recognize that human rights are not intrinsic, but are "assured" to others by a consensus of opinion. Still it is necessary, in practical life, to think of the essential needs which others have for performing their uses in the world, as "their proper rights".
The Ten Commandments thus contain concise statements of all the moral rights of man. In the fourth of these precepts, the basic rights of society are proclaimed in the simplest possible form, when it is said: "Honor thy father and thy mother!" There must be a positive acknowledgment of indebtedness to society, both spiritual and natural, before there can be any motive for shunning the evils which society detests; or before the rights of the neighbor can be considered.
A man's right to life and limb, to physical safety, to health and protection, are next noted, in the words, "Thou shalt not kill".
His right to mate, to establish a home and to have children, are implied very clearly, by the precept, "Thou shalt not commit adultery".
His right to own property is vouchsafed to him by the law against theft.
His right to protection against defamation or unjust accusation is shown in the precept against "false witness".
The two last precepts--the ninth and the tenth--give, not his moral rights to civil protection, but his moral right to moral protection: "Thou shalt not covet" implies a recognition in heart of the neighbor's right to moral freedom, his right to be different.
The human rights with which morality is concerned, may be considered as falling also into two planes of life. There are physical rights, and there are mental rights.
The Physical Rights of an individual--rights to life and limb, to exemption from assault, to free movement are protected since olden days by the provision in law of an act of "habeas corpus". But in morals it is of wider significance, forbidding us to do anything that risks accident to others, imposes cruelties, or prevents others from leading a wholesome life. Morality rebelled against slavery. It rebels against any industrial conditions wherein profit is made at the expense of human life or human safety. (From the moral viewpoint, the use of an industry is not profit, but service. Use is indeed above man, and if use calls for sacrifice even of life, it is noble to respond to that call. But profit is not a use in itself; wherefore the Writings call such business as is carried on merely for profit, "Jewish trading".) The Writings clearly allow to the State a legitimate right to limit the individual's right to protection, or physical life. Imprisonment and even the death-penalty are thus not condemned in the Doctrine.
The neighbor has also Mental Rights which must be considered. Excessive, gruelling, or debasing labor grinds down man's character and produces a mental stagnation which negates his opportunities to develop in truly human directions. Utter idleness also tends to produce degeneration in the mind's poise and power. Too great luxury and lack of responsibilities have similar effects. So far as it depends on us, we must therefore not encourage such conditions with those who come under our proper authority.
Children have a right to a proper education, for this looks to a future use intelligently performed. Denial of a right to some kind of education is thus in itself immoral. In the New Church, the right of the child to instruction in worship and doctrine is implied in the baptismal act.
Mental rights are largely associated with that freedom of thought and speech and press and religion and education, which is ever the bulwark of progress. Such liberty is also recognized as a guarantee against disorderly rebellions: for it shows that the ordering of the State is in the hands of those who can persuade acceptance of their ideas and support for their plans.
Actually, such freedom is founded on Tolerance--on the perception, ingrained in a people, that men must have the right to differ in thought and sympathy. Therefore we see in the rights of minorities a visible proof of the measure of liberty which a nation offers, and an indication of its moral opinion.
No human rights can be formulated which are devoid of exceptional features. Supposing that some religion believed in human sacrifice, it could not claim a place in our commonwealth, since it transgressed a fundamental moral precept. Similarly, while speech is free in our country, there is a law against libelous remarks. This law is for the sake of moral freedom and is not directed against it. For moral freedom implies the right to a certain privacy, which indeed is respected by all moral men. And similarly every society has its rights to protect itself by rules against the abuse of freedom of speech and act.
Human rights are not the same for any two people. Rights pertain to uses; they are not lodged in the individual. A use well done is like a mantle of protection which falls upon a person and makes him valuable in the eyes of society, causes him, indeed, to be associated into the invisible structure of function which is called the Grand Man. As long as man is as to use a part of that organism, he has rights. Even a child, if he acts like a child, is protected because of the embryonic use which he represents. "Woman's Rights", so much spoken of some years ago, are, properly speaking, the rights which are gained by her performance of those uses for which Woman stands: and those feminine rights are on that account quite different from man's rights in many respects.
It is clear, therefore, that a person's rights are evenly proportioned to his uses; or, conversely, that every right carries with it a responsibility. The moral sense is never devoid of this feeling of obligation, or the sense of Duty.
The sense of duty--like all moral ideas-originates in the rational mind. A contemporary writes, "Any person who is capable of putting before himself an idea as a motive of conduct, who is capable of forming a conception of something he must realize, is by that very fact conscious of a sense of obligation." This sense of duty is so outstanding a fact of human nature, that one philosopher even goes so far as to call it a "categorical imperative"--meaning an unqualified, absolute, commanding condition of the rational mind. Swedenborg shows that the very fact that the understanding or reason of man can entertain the idea of what is right and true, places man in freedom to will the truth, if he chooses to will it. But man is still free not to carry out his sense of duty! The rational mind is simply able, temporarily, to assume a heavenly order which invites the influx of the heavens--an influx of power to will according to that order. And this will can then proceed gradually to pave the way for its own realization, by curbing the appetites and desires of the external man. It is so that every use is fostered. Moral progress is never possible except by entering the strait gate and the narrow way--the way of self-control, of discipline, of arduous labor. Sometimes, indeed, our duty lies along the way of natural impulse, natural ability. But impulse and pleasure are very unsafe guides to point out the way of duty! It is impossible to attain accomplishment in any profession, if one merely relies on native ability and not on hard work. Think of the arduous exercises and training that the expert pianist or the expert linguist laid as a foundation for his art or use.
The consoling fact is that the love of an end begets a love of the means. Time sped fast for Jacob while he served seven years for his Rachel. The end-in-view happily sheds its prophetic glory over the hard tasks. The sense of duty, once conceived and accepted, will normally remain and will lend so new a meaning to life that no man can turn his back upon it without a feeling of having committed a treason to himself as well as to society.
To accept responsibility is thus the essence of a moral life. With a spiritual man, this means responsibility to the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer. With others, it means at least a responsibility towards that network of social uses which are maintained for the sake of mankind's welfare and progress. It means a responsibility towards the rights of one's fellowmen, in their uses and functions.
It may seem a very simple thing--this Duty. But in practice, the "rights" of one use are modified by the demands of every other. We have ourselves so many uses. All cannot receive equal attention, or deserve an equal part of our time, energy and support. A man may be a husband, a father, an employer, a businessman, a church-member, and a citizen--all at the same time. His duties are thus complicated and his moral sense is called upon to discriminate between all these obligations, so as to serve them adequately. The Writings therefore point out that in all moral virtues "justice and judgment must dominate; justice is of moral wisdom, and judgment is of rational wisdom" (CL 164).
The Writings here refer to the fact that there are degrees of value in uses.
Students of ethics have always realized that moral judgment means choosing the best. It has always been seen that a person may value even material things in various ways. We are often faced with a choice between an immediate material yield or a longtime investment of money, time, or labor, which has a greater "survival-value" or has the advantage of eventually producing greater good. In our personal life, we can follow a higher rational principle, or we can let our lower, irrational elements--the cupidities--usurp the leadership and in consequence bring us into moral disorder. In social relations, we can act selfishly or we can at times act with self-sacrifice for the sake of the wider interests of society.
The moral choice, in each case, seeks the greater good. And thus it is of need to know whether we can, at all times, determine what is the greatest good.
This was attempted by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a utilitarian moralist who took Pleasure as the end of every action, and believed that we might in a manner determine moral values by measuring the quantity of pain or pleasure in a proposed act by a sort of calculus. To illustrate, let us consider whether we should take a child to a certain motion-picture exhibition. We should then ask ourselves:
These questions might indeed be useful in assisting us to determine the moral value of an act. But they are far from adequate, especially since pleasure is not the real end in life. The last of his questions he felt to be the specific thing that a political State should consider for government was to provide "the greatest good for the greatest number". This phrase, which has been adopted since then by every political orator, is very persuasive. Yet the New Churchman is not alone in realizing that no mere multiplication can convert a material good into a moral or, still less, into a spiritual use! Other moralists have therefore tried to add a question as to quality: "What is the quality of the pleasure to be derived?" But the system breaks down in spite of this, because of the lack among men of any definite knowledge of discrete degrees.
The New Churchman then comes back for enlightenment to the doctrine concerning Charity. This doctrine indeed allows that there are on every plane degrees of greater or less good, between which a wise choice must be made. Thus ten dollars is better than one dollar. But any amount of dollars should mean nothing whatsoever in a question of honesty, friendship, love. For the latter things are of discretely higher values.
The doctrine of Charity prescribes that the neighbor who is to be loved is to be conceived not only as an individual man, but also as a man in the collective sense, or as human society, greater or lesser (HD 91). A society is more a neighbor than an individual, our country is more a neighbor than a society or group, the church is more the neighbor than the country, and the kingdom of the Lord a neighbor in a still higher degree. "What is prior or superior is to be preferred to what is posterior or inferior" (HD 96).
This law, evidently, cannot be interpreted as a mere application of the multiplication table. It implies something more than the principle of "the greatest good for the greatest number". Indeed we find here discrete degrees of good in successive order, a society standing for civic and social good, the country for moral good, the church for spiritual good and the Lord's kingdom for celestial good.
The real neighbor is not the person, but the use, or the good; and the distinct statement is therefore made elsewhere that "a society, smaller or larger, is the neighbor according to the good of its use". "One's country is the neighbor according to its good, spiritual, moral, and civil," and a foreign country according to the good of its religion, and according to the good that it performs to one's own country and to itself.
The moral values of any act are thus quite complex, and cannot be calculated in the manner that Bentham suggested. Indeed life would lose its meaning, its variety, its beauty, if all moral issues were so definite that all could see them the same.
The Doctrine thus indicates that we must strive to distinguish between spiritual, moral, and civil uses or goods. A New Churchman cannot--as I interpret the teaching in the posthumous work on Charity (n. 86) love his country (as it now is) because of its moral and civil good, so far as this depends for existence upon its spiritual good. But so far as it does not depend upon this, he can, even if his country hates him. He must, with this in view, love it and consult its good so far as it is good for it, not consulting it in such a way that he confirms it in its falsity and evil.
Perhaps a hopeless feeling comes over us when we thus find that while each degree of the neighbor must be considered in its order of importance, yet an individual's spiritual good is even more important than a whole society's natural welfare. Yet there is, we are sure, no actual conflict here. In the Lord's government, the natural welfare of the world is never so much endangered as by spiritual evil. No country is ever harmed by our struggle for high moral ideals. Let us by all means "give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"--civil obedience, willing cooperation in the duties of citizenship; yet in every act let us also "render unto God the things which are God's".
Since both spiritual and moral considerations thus cut across every discrete degree of neighbor and make every proposed act an intricate complex so that we can never be completely satisfied that we actually recognize all the moral values involved, it is clear that we cannot estimate the moral character of anyone (not even of one's self) merely by his success in seeing such values; although we realize that such good judgment is a sign of real rational wisdom. But we are willing to condone a mistaken judgment of values, when we take into account the moral virtues, the point of view, the attitude, the subjective state of the person who acts.
PART TWO THE MORAL VIRTUES
VI. Human Virtues
SO FAR we have endeavored to center our thoughts around certain general facts which may be summed up as follows: There are three clearly distinct realms of human motives, which construct about them the three kingdoms of human life--the civil, the moral, and the spiritual kingdoms; each of which has its characteristic laws and its own criteria of judgment. Moral behavior, which flows from rational reflection and a free recognition of the good, is quite distinct from merely social behavior, which is based on habits and customs, and still more distinct from merely animal behavior, which arises from bodily desires and instincts. The tendencies toward a dead social conformism on the one hand and, on the other, toward an extreme individualism that finds an expression for self at the expense of society, are both non-moral, if not immoral, attitudes. Moral sense--the sense of an obligation to society, the recognition of a law of right and wrong, a law of reason higher than expediency--is implied in the fact that man possesses a rational mind. The rational faculty develops by degrees throughout childhood until it can freely recognize the abstract virtues or laws of morality; all of which are comprised within the words of the Lord, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them". The moral virtues, in their complex, are called Honorableness, and their form is called Decorum or becoming behavior. Reflection is necessary for the execution of the moral law; and such reflection, which characterizes morality, is always confronted by three ever present problems. The first is the problem of estimating the relative importance of the quality of the motive over against the nature of the act. The second has to do with the rights of each man, each group, or each use, and thus with our responsibilities towards uses--our own and that of others. The third major problem is that of recognizing the degree of moral value or of use which various acts have, so that we might always choose the greater good rather than the lesser; considering in the choice both discrete and continuous degrees, as these exist together in the untold complexities of human situations.
We thus find that it would be a super-human task always to take account of all the precise values of each of our actions or each of the acts of others. In practical life, therefore, men are esteemed and trusted according to their general attitude, i. e., according to the virtues which make up their apparent character and personality.
Within the Church, the virtues which we esteem most highly--discretely above all else--are spiritual, such as "love of Religion, charity, truth, faith, conscience, innocence, and many others" (CL 164). The signs by which the possession of these spiritual virtues may, to a fallible extent, be inferred, are--the Writings show "all things that pertain to worship" (Char., ch. viii). For a moral life without these manifestations of piety testifies only of natural good. Spiritual virtues thus flow from a love to God and to the neighbor, and inspire into the moral virtues a regenerate good from the Lord through heaven which transforms them into goods of charity, and makes them not only of worldly but of eternal worth.
The angels retain the moral virtues which they had infilled with regenerate good during their abode on earth. Indeed, individual angels are named according to their moral and spiritual life (TCR 300). The very garments which they wear testify to the nature of the moral life which is theirs (AE 195s). But if no spiritual life had infilled the moral principles according to which a man had lived, he would be regarded in heaven as one without a "wedding-garment", and would be stripped and cast out if he succeeds in forcing his way in.
Yet all goods, on all planes, are from the Lord. Just as we may love infants and children for the promise which they represent, so we may love moral goods--moral virtues--as the possible basis for receiving the goods of heavenly use.
The Rational Psychology--a manuscript which Swedenborg drafted some seven years before the publication of the Arcana Caelestia--devotes a great deal of space to the description of the various affections of the soul, the animus (or natural mind), and the rational mind. In treating of the rational mind, he shows that none of its affections originate with itself, but are derived from the lower mind or from the soul (superior mind). The goods and evils of the lower mind--as well as the loves and hatreds which inflow from the spiritual world through the "soul"--are not virtues or vices except so far as they are received freely in the rational mind. "Thus all morality, like all vice, is of the rational mind alone." Human virtue--moral virtue--must be accompanied by a rational intuition as to why the good is chosen. You cannot make a virtue out of a necessity, or out of a merely automatic action, such as the act of an insane person. A mere machine cannot give assistance to the poor and thus be called virtuous! (R. Ps. 335.)
Swedenborg thus shows that the actual elements from which the rational mind constructs what is called Virtues, are, many of them, connate affections, i. e., hereditary, natural goods or native abilities; while others are acquired by training or from the habits of the environment in which a man is brought up. Virtue, however, can never be inherited, nor be the result of training: but the natural affections which combine to display the moral virtues,--these may come from parents or be acquired by education. Thus the impulse of avarice may be an inherited tendency with a man, and extravagance may be a habit imposed by his early training. The rational mind pairs these conditions of the mind and balances them to allow the virtues of Prudence, Benevolence, or even Generosity to exist in the rational mind and express themselves in the life.
It is only in the human being that there is a rational mind which serves as an umpire in the election of what is best. An animal is predestined as a form of a specific hereditary natural affection. But man's character can be formed--under the direction of his free reason--into a balanced perfection of various hereditary and acquired affections, according to the decision of his free will. And the decision depends on his choice to receive either of good or of evil, which both inflow from the superconscious realms of the spiritual world.
It is true of moral goods as it is true of spiritual goods, that no good is genuinely acquired except through the shunning of the opposite evil. Virtue thus comes from shunning whatever impulse or habit that seems to work against the good of a use or of society. The reason must restrain the impulses of the natural affections and tame them into obedience. The natural mind--from resembling a jungle, or at best, a barnyard or field, containing so many animal affections must be transformed into a new order of use which may be seen as human. Such a quality as Courage is not always a human virtue under all circumstances: it may be only the inborn ferocity of the lion in a human disguise. It may however be moral courage, and then it is generally acclaimed as a social virtue; but only if it is balanced by other virtues. For no single virtue can be virtuous by itself.
It is the rational mind which judges as to the balance of these elements--so as to produce what at best amounts to an approximation of the real good, the real object of life (DP 77). And the reason judges according to its light from the appearances of truths that are brought before it. Therefore Swedenborg wrote in his Psychology, that "all that which is good and true in itself is Divine. All that which is good and true in appearance and semblance is human; thus the just, the sincere, the honest, virtue, etc." (R. Ps. 332). For men can never arrive at pure truth. There is, therefore, no absolute virtue in man. His virtues are all relative. Therefore the Lord asked the rich young ruler--that pattern of morality who had addressed Him "Good master""--Why callest Thou me good: one is good, namely God." The acknowledgment of the Lord as alone good is the beginning of spiritual morality, as contrasted with natural morality.
In the Writings two lists of moral virtues are given. One begins with Temperance, the other with Justice.
For in all virtues, justice and judgment must predominate (CL 164, D. Wis. xi. 8: 5a). As a moral virtue considered, justice is not confined to civil affairs. It sums up a moral attitude. The just man views a situation as a whole, apart from self-interest or prejudice. He attempts not to be misled by appearances. He is impartial, and likes to view his obligations in the light of the truth. He is fair-minded or equitable: which means that he distributes his attention to all sides of a question and takes equal account of the reasonable claims or objections of each factor.
Justice is thus needed in every decision. It silences any too obtrusive natural affection, so that the eye of man's mind may see clearly. "If the mind were not ruled by the animus and its desires, man would know from himself what is just and equitable, and a perpetual harmony would rule" (R. Ps. 416). Justice is what produces in the mind that suspension of judgment, or that moral equilibrium, which is necessary for wise decisions. Therefore justice is said to belong to moral wisdom (CL 164).
A just man is also truthful. And when a man is known to be truthful, his word is accepted and relied on, while those who are given to habitual lying, misrepresentation, or exaggeration are continually under suspicion, never quite trusted. Indeed, truthfulness is the foundation of a man's character. Only he who respects and loves the truth can realize his mistakes, escape from his faults and fancies, and progress towards perfection. The love of truth is essential if one wants to become a rational and moral member of society, learn some trade, or advance in one's profession. But it is also indispensable in the life of regeneration. For only by loving the truths of spiritual life can we be lifted out of ourselves into the light of heaven.
The habit of lying is born of fear and is overcome only by the nobler fears which love and truth call forth. But the petty lies of childhood, unless stemmed in the course of growth and education, may turn into habits of deceit which utterly eat out the marrows of man's character and poison his whole life. We can therefore hardly overestimate the need for establishing truthful habits at an early age. For it is truth that makes one free.
It is wise to distinguish truthfulness or sincerity from what is called frankness. To be frank is sometimes admirable and sometimes necessary. But to say all that we think or show all our unruly feelings, often leads to premature judgments, offends the innocent, and testifies to a lack of self-control and charity.
Temperance is used in the popular parlance in connection with pleasures, especially that of drinking. But the wider meaning is that of moderation in all things.
The principle of moderation was recognized by Aristotle in his doctrine of the "mean"--"the golden mean".
Any one-sided development, even of virtue, falls short of the standard of true wisdom. The middle between two extremes is apt to be most desirable. One has to strike a mean between asceticism and over-indulgence, for instance, in order to lead a rational life. But the weakness of human nature is such that one seldom recognizes one's own extreme tendencies, but very readily labels the positions one does not like, as "extreme". It is important, then, that we really investigate what the real extremes are, before we try to take up a middle position. And even so, virtue is not the result of two extremes, or of two opposite pervert affections; but virtue is a thing which is above both, and which governs, curbs, or moderates both!
Intemperance, such as luxury, etc., is, Swedenborg states, always a vice: all excess--in pleasures and in opinions--presupposes a defect, an abuse of a useful, good thing, and thus a perversion (R. Ps. 281, 288). Pleasure (or delight) has its purpose and thus its place and its time. "Temperance" is derived from the Latin root tempus, time, division. There is a time for pleasure. But its end is for the sake of a healthy mental life in a healthy body; and to regard the means (pleasure) as an end in itself, inevitably leads to intemperance or excess. Swedenborg refers to excess in eating and drinking when he warns us that the temperance of one person may, with another, be his intemperance! But this is true in all things.
And, he states, there is spiritual intemperance. Not that we can be intemperate in our desire for true Virtue, for this itself means Moderation. But we can fail to recognize the limitations of our state, and seek, in an immature state, to reach out for the fruits of maturity; we can fail to recognize the limitations of our natural minds, and seek to penetrate by means of mere sensual scientifics or philosophical reasonings into the spiritual mysteries of faith. This the Writings ascribe as the cause why Noah had to be represented as found drunken in his tent (AC 1071). Spiritual intemperance also includes any attempt of the mind to become as the soul! as when it seeks to rely on its rational perceptions as if they were the perfect dictates of the soul (R. Ps. 286).
Thus temperance and moderation beget other virtues modesty, prudence, chastity, as well as a sense of proportion and a sense of true values.
Especially is temperance concerned in moderating and avoiding various undue excitements.* These need controlling. For every affection, as it is stimulated, brings with it an intense desire to grow out of all bounds. In the discharge of his wrath about something, a man has a "sense of expanding power" which is very pleasant to his proprium. There is a similar pleasurable stimulation in the case of other emotional discharges. There is thus a "thrill" in not taking account of consequences, in not being rational; as in hazardous undertakings which may lack any rational purpose--in speeding, gambling, exploring, and generally testing what is the last limit from which there can yet be a safe recovery! Pride of self is behind this. Vanity also has its sense of power; passion and crime have their extraordinary thrills. All these tendencies would cause the affections and the native abilities and natural gifts of a man to run wild, and life would be irresponsible and trivial, flippant and superficial, reckless, and eventually tragic. For man's trust that he can by skill or luck or rational strength recover, is often mistaken. Always, therefore, popular wisdom has seen the need for moderation. The Greeks had a love for the beautiful as an accessory motive for such temperance, the Romans a love of dignity, the Catholics a desire for purity. It is obvious from history that none of these sufficed to produce the wisdom of a balanced moral life. In general, however, there must be higher affections to rule the lower ones. And in the spiritually moral man, the moderating reason is inspired by the love of the Lord and of His kingdom of human souls.
In the list of moral virtues with men, the Writings place Sobriety immediately after Temperance. Drunkenness is given as a cause of vitiation of mind (CL 252). And a judgment from the other world is cited in the Spiritual Diary as follows:
"I was speaking with spirits concerning drunkenness, and it was confirmed by them that it is an enormous sin, for thus man becomes a brute and no longer a man, since it is owing to the intellectual faculty that man is a man. Thus he becomes a brute, besides which he brings injury upon his body and so hastens his death; wasting, moreover, in extravagance what could be of use to many. . . . And what mortals have persuaded themselves to accept as a civil [custom], appeared to them (the spirits) so filthy that they abhorred such a life" (SD 2422).
The enormity of this sin depends, no doubt, upon the degree of deliberateness involved in it. Yet the drunkard presents, in society, the picture of the infernals of the lowest order, whose rational life has been drowned in sensual and corporeal lusts. This should be enough to dissuade the New Church man. And the moral sense of mankind, in proportion as it is awakened, also recognizes the bestiality of intoxication--the pathetic loss of human reason, the moral blindness to decorum and order, and the impairment of bodily health, which overindulgence brings with it.
Yet Sobriety does not mean merely a resistance to the temptations of the cup and to gluttony. Continence must be exercised in other things. A sober mind resists being intoxicated by various spheres of pleasure and levity; it declines to be drawn so far into the gyre of light-hearted recreational occupations that one cannot--if duty calls--at once return to more serious affairs and meet their problems with a clear recognition of their import and with a poised mind. To carry over one's moods of levity into the midst of serious matters, and thus show flippancy and giddiness of thought where responsible opinion and dignity of attitude are called for, is the sign of an immature or undisciplined mind.
Another moral virtue which is related to "moderation" is Modesty. It is an acquired grace in man, and a connate quality characteristic of woman (CL 164, 292, 218). Modesty bespeaks a rational recognition of the fact that the individual is not important, over against Society. His place, when he passes over into the spiritual world, is usually readily filled by others. Scarcely any man has any opinions which would forever remain unborn merely because he did not utter them. There are indeed times when zeal for truth or for the general welfare must overcome modesty. But generally the time for this is indicated by the demand of others, by their call for his opinion or his orderly leadership, and by the common perception of the needs of a situation; and it is not often indicated to a man merely by his own feeling of an urge for self-assertion. Modesty is becoming, even to the great. And those who are great usually possess it to a surprising degree, having become great in the eyes of others because their time and energy was not wasted upon self-contemplation, but spent upon wider problems of social cooperation.
Such men will be marked also by another moral virtue, which the Writings call Probity. This word implies the characteristic of one whose integrity is proved, a man whose reliability, especially in matters of honesty, is unquestioned, and whose judgment is not warped. It is such men who are trusted with the responsible tasks within our social structure. But in the more delicate decisions of justice, another virtue becomes necessary, viz., Rectitude, which is also an essential phase of man's morality.
The Writings teach that there is with man a kind of perception relating to civil and moral things, called the perception of what is just and right, which exists naturally and may thus be called a "common sense". "They who have the perception of justice, can, at once, from a few things which they know, perceive whether a thing is just or not. But they who have the perception of what is right (or of rectitude), are not able to do so in this way, but do so from the laws and from such things as they have learned." The perception of rectitude is thus not so excellent as the perception of justice, because rectitude is judged with reference to a knowledge of laws or principles and not so directly from the light of justice itself. (SD min., 4644)
Rectitude, sometimes translated "uprightness", takes the law for its rule (AC 2235). A man is right when the law is on his side. Such a man is strong in his convictions, unswerving in his allegiances and in his loyalty to his principles; for he is "a man of principle". He lives a life of truth, and if he fails at times to live up in all respects to his high principles, he will at least admit his failure and try again. And because of his faithfulness and integrity of devotion, and thus his sincerity as regards the law which he makes his rule, he has illustration in perceiving the shades of meaning within that law, even though he may not at the same time possess that quicker perception of justice which some may have apart from the law.
Such strict rectitude must, however, be colored by benevolence and patience, and, like all virtue, be accompanied by Prudence. Prudence is also one of the virtues (CL 164), but it must be a servant to the rest (DP 2102). "Be ye prudent as serpents", the Lord advised, "but harmless as doves." Even a man of the highest principles may find it necessary to be silent about them at times, or to simulate interest in matters for which he has no liking. We are not called upon to advertise all our convictions, lest we "cast pearls before swine". Hence a permissible prudence is described in the Arcana Coelestia as "simulation and cunning with good as an end" (AC 399312). This is stated not to be evil. But it is explained that the evils which are mixed up in it are such as "can be mingled with good". (Ibid.)
Thus it may be seen that the principle of Temperance, Moderation, and Justice, enters into our moral life at all points. Only in the Lord, who is infinitely good, is there Virtue itself. Only in His service is it possible to learn how to temper justice with mercy, courage with prudence, alacrity with patience.
The principle of the "golden mean" has served to introduce us to one group of Virtues. The next group centers around the thought of Good Will, and involves the problems and the standards of morality which concern the relations of men and women in their social contacts.
SINCE the chief function of the moral virtues is to moderate the various affections of the natural mind--those cupidities, appetites, and instinctive or acquired inclinations which tend, if left without rational control, to run amok and destroy not only society but even the body itself,--it is easily seen why the very word "immorality" is often used in specific reference to the inordinate welling up of the instincts of sex. "All joys and all delights, from first to last," can be gathered into the conjugial life when these instincts of sex are reduced to servitude under the moral virtues, and thus conspire to make conjugial love the ornament of human life, the repository of the Christian religion, and the proper foundation "of all loves, celestial, spiritual, and natural therefrom" (CL 64-69). But it is equally true that no instinctive cravings in man can plunge him into more exquisite tortures which gnaw at the very depths of his being, and cause more prolonged misery and more irreparable harm to individuals and societies, than the inborn love of the sex; and this in the exact degree that this instinct is not subordinated under rational virtue and guided towards the proper end.
In the Divine mercy, the New Church is given, within the body of the revealed Writings, one volume which Swedenborg once referred to as treating "not of theology but chiefly of morals". This book is entitled "The Delights of Wisdom concerning Conjugial Love; after which follow the Pleasures of Insanity concerning Scortatory Love", and is designed as the means by which the ideals of love truly conjugial shall be restored to the New Church.
It is in this book, therefore, that we learn most specifically concerning the moral and spiritual virtues. For these all enter into conjugial love and qualify it. These are what attract a man and a woman to one another and cause them to regard each other as "similitudes". These virtues are what conjoin wife and husband more and more. But the absence of some or all of the virtues is responsible for the various complications of married life.
Both men and women have virtues, and in respect to the element of justice, or moral wisdom, they are "for the most part akin", in both sexes (CL 165). With the husband they partake of his "intellectual urill" with which the will of the wife conjoins itself in a marriage union. But "because the wife knows these virtues with a man better than the man knows them with himself, it is said that the conjunction of the wife with them is from without" (CL 165) ; which we presume to mean, by deliberate recognition and appreciation.
The husband, however, has another element in his virtues which comes from the judgment of his rational wisdom, a wisdom connected with his intelligence and based on the sciences or knowledges peculiar to his sphere of forensic use; and this "climbs into a light in which women are not" (CL 163, 165). Yet something responsive to it is present with wives, who love to listen when such matters are discussed and "inwardly recognize and favor those things" when they hear them from their husbands and thus conjoin themselves with this judgment "from within". (What this phrase means we shall leave the women to explain to themselves.) The wife has also a perception of the affections of the husband, and, fortunately, the highest prudence in moderating them unbeknown to her husband, and this for the sake of conjugial love, friendship, and confidence; which is of the wisdom of the wife and cannot be given with men (CL 166, 167, 168).
The list of moral virtues is given as follows: "Temperance, Sobriety, Probity, Benevolence, Friendliness, Modesty, Sincerity, Helpfulness (officiositas), Politeness (civilitas); as well as Sedulity (sedulitas), Industry, Alertness, Alacrity, Munificence, Liberality, Generosity, Earnestness (strenuitas), Courage, Prudence, and many others" (CL 164). Among the "many others" might be included Truthfulness, Patience, and Chastity, which are yet involved in the preceding.
We have already discussed those virtues which centered about the golden mean or about the idea of Moderation. We will now call attention to a series of virtues that flow more directly from the will, such as Benevolence, Friendship, Modesty, Sincerity, Helpfulness, and Politeness. We can say little about each singly, but wish to point out that it is these especially that govern in our social life, even more than in our forensic calling or civic relations. And social life usually either looks towards marriage or else is centered around the uses of married couples.
The fundamental, underlying attitude of a man or woman in social contacts, must be one of Benevolence, which simply means Good Will. "On earth peace and to men good will" was the angelic greeting on the occasion of the birth of the Prince of Peace. This good will among men is the essential of morals. It desires no personal profit which is to the harm of society, no pleasure at the expense of someone else's discomfort.
This attitude of good will towards others makes possible what is here termed Friendship.
The Writings give an immense fund of information on what Friendship is and ought to be, in this world and the next. "Mutual love differs from friendship in this, that mutual love regards the good which is in a man . . . whereas friendship regards the man; and it, too, is mutual love when it regards a man from good"; otherwise it partakes of self-love (AC 3875). To love a man merely because he is good to one, is not interiorly to love him. To love another from friendship alone, is to conjoin oneself "with his person and thus at the same time with his evils" (Doc. Faith, 21).
Friendships are sincere just as far as they derive something from charity (AC 11582), and the delight from such friendships is called in the Writings "the good of the Natural" (AC 2184e). The sphere of this delight is sometimes mixed with flattery, which is not so evil if it is innocent and has a permissible friendship, or the pleasure of social intercourse, in view (AC 1517, 53882).
But again and again the Writings stress "the great injury done to the spiritual life of man by friendship, if the person is regarded and not what is good" (AC 4804). "Those who in the life of the body have preferred the delight of social intercourse to every other delight", neglecting their spiritual and natural duties for the sake of social delights, choosing friends "without caring whether they were good or evil, provided they were agreeable" (AC 4804), form various kinds of "societies of friendship" in the other life, which are most detrimental to the good. For "evils can be inspired into the good, but not goods into the evil" (TCR 448).
The statement occurs, that "everyone may indeed be friendly to others, but still he must be most friendly to what is good" (AC 4804). The ordinary courtesies of life must be extended to all: we need not stop to inquire into their moral good or their spiritual virtues! But we must not place ourselves into false positions, in which our association with evil people serves to cloak their evils and make their faults respectable, or estranges our hearts from use or virtue! Morality involves serious responsibilities here, each case having to be judged on its own merits. Civil life forces us into many external associations with people who are of questionable moral character. And we infer from the Writings that where uses rather than pleasure dictate such intercourse, there is a sphere of protection extended from the the spiritual world. Thus when we associate with those of other religious beliefs, we can appreciate their goods of charity although we should not become imbued with those goods or conjoin them with our own truths. (AC 5117 end) For each man's concepts of duty must spring from his own conscience and his own faith.
The love of mere friendship is one of the most pervasive affections at this day. In the world of spirits societies of friendship which have no end of use, except pleasure and complete self-indulgence, exist in "incredible number"! (AC 4054). The effect of their influence is likened to the stupidity caused by a clogging of the brain; for they induce a dulness, or a languor, which deprives one of affection and ends in sadness (AC 4054). Such spirits are described as curses and pests, no matter how polite and clever they had been in this life. The societies of friendship tend to take away the delight of life from others and convert it into their own delight (SD 4524, 4439; see also SD min. 4749, 4716). Some of them are what has sometimes been called "mutual-admiration societies".
Friendship, as a virtue considered, does not involve the need of this dangerous tearing away of a man's mind into a social whirl which often is injurious to health and usefulness, and results in the exhaustion of his capacity to enjoy the moderate social delights which really recreate his mind and body. It does not mean the continual seeking of new excessive thrills. It merely means the spirit of wishing well to those in whom we see an admirable and worthy character; those to whom we are drawn by sympathies, spiritual and natural, and amongst whom we can trustfully exhibit our intimate affections or inner ambitions without fear of harsh judgment or broken confidences. We show our love in various ways, and to all. But friends we "select" or "acquire" (R. Ps. 213), and "cultivate" so far as uses permit and distances allow, and so far as prudence dictates.
Helpfulness is a virtue which is universally appreciated ; it is an ornament of childhood, a grace of youth. But it is especially a mark of friendship. Where friendship exists, there is also a greater freedom to offer help; and a freedom to accept it without incurring any undesirable obligations.
Modesty has already been spoken of. In social life, however, it shows itself in unobtrusive behavior or in not intruding one's own will, one's own opinions; not insisting on one's own tastes being followed; not deliberately displaying one's strength, superiority, wit, or beauty; and generally, in not being more conspicuous than the occasion calls for. "Reserve" is actually the most prudent course, in social life as well as in the strategy of war. The quietest waters are often found to be deepest. If somebody's virtues or powers were suddenly displayed to the full, it might indeed call forth with us a momentary enthusiasm. But of such a person much is expected thereafter, and unfortunate is he who has shot all his bolts and has no reserves! Prudence as well as modesty thus calls for a certain reserve, which implies a patience to await the most useful time for the expression of our opinion or our powers.
A tendency to prudence and modesty is connate with the fair sex (CL 2922). Unconsciously, as well as deliberately, womanhood protects the sanctity of conjugial love--that "friendship of friendships" which is designed to increase in depth during a whole life-time and indeed to eternity--by presenting the intriguing promise of an inexhaustible reserve, a mysterious reservoir of ever fuller loyalty, ever keener understanding, ever deeper intimacy as life goes on. In this lies one of the secrets of Romance. For true romance is founded in delicate modesty, not in the sudden flares of passion.
In the brutally frank life of savages or primitive peoples there is very little of romance. For among them there is no modesty, no reserve, and there is little freedom on the part of their women even to exercise their connate prudence. Unbiassed observers have similarly said about the modern back-to-nature movements which advocate "nudism", that they utterly put romance to rout. That some can harden themselves to a life of nakedness does not testify to their innocence (De Conj. 68, SD 5180). For evil spirits strip themselves of clothes when they desire to feign innocence (AC 165, SD 1206). Even in the heavens they "blush at nakedness before the eyes of others, because it excites what is lascivious" (De Conj. 67). Only among the celestials of the third heaven is this not the case. With the spiritual, "conjugial love begins from the externals", however, and they are therefore clothed (SD 4719). Modesty of this type is even there recognized as a social necessity, and the angels are provided with spiritual garments according to their moral life. They are actually clothed in the principles of moral truth, in their principles of moral perception, and considerate moderation! (AE 195s) And it is these very things that our garments in this world are meant to express, quite apart from their material use of protecting the body from the inclemencies of the weather.
Closely allied to Modesty is the virtue of Civility, also called Courtesy or Politeness. Courtesy implies an unwillingness to compel others to an action. It expresses a desire to leave them free, and not to interfere with their employment or pleasure or state. It is an attitude of mutual deference. Particularly do those older than ourselves or superior to ourselves inspire us with the desire to show them honor, and society has ordained certain modes which plainly convey that attitude. Even the Hebrew Word commands, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God" (Lev. xix. 32). Such respect for age is the foundation of stable society, and implies the recognition of those gifts of wisdom which, in Divine Providence, we receive from the past. And such courtesies as we show our own contemporaries imply no merely servile attitude, but an appreciation of peaceful intercourse, if not friendship.
The modes of politeness differ in many respects in different countries and in different social groups. But the spirit of courtesy is recognized by others only when we are willing to follow the procedures which are accepted as "polite".
What is commonly known as "manners" is even instrumental in conjoining or disjoining married partners (CL 246, 330). For with human beings it is not faces, but habits--refined, cleanly, peaceable, etc.,--which indicate similitude. Good manners contribute to make children lovable to those who are spiritual. (CL 405)
Since politeness is an unwillingness to compel or disturb another, it is of especial importance that it be used by the male sex,--the more turbulent, assertive and clumsy sex,--to modify its rude strength when in the company of women. Men must exercise a special solicitude not to intrude, not to be over-bearing. They must be deliberately gentle, observant, courteous, and considerate to the so-called "weaker" sex. Man's understanding can seldom cope with the subtleties of woman's needs or woman's states, which are beyond his scrutiny. And he has to fall back, therefore, on established procedures which he knows to be proper.
The forms of social propriety are therefore especially designed to protect women: to protect women from the rude instincts of men; and also to protect women from the spontaneity of their own affections, against which their moderating prudence could scarcely stand up unless assisted by the sphere of social formalities.
Enough has been said to show that although morality is a rational virtue which is quite superior to mere customs or social usages; although morality has its unchanging laws, while customs come and go with each generation, or at least alter for better or for worse; yet morality can never be conceived of apart from a body of customs, flexible indeed, yet ever present, to strengthen and confirm virtue and thus set virtue free to effect its end of good in a social environment which protects it. For nothing is free if it is without protection.
Here the common objection might occur to our minds, that there is something very artificial, and sometimes insincere, or even hypocritical, in living up to formalities not prompted by one's whole heart. But the formalities of which we are speaking are not insincere, except with the evil. It is not insincere to recognize the weaknesses to which flesh is heir to, and then prudently guard against them. To deny our weakness is far more hypocritical--or else simply foolish. To see the need of certain general rules of courtesy, especially in the social sphere where the love of the sex is active, would be hypocritical only if we should pretend that in following a particular custom we were satisfying our chief delight. Social procedures are not so interpretable. They are signs of self-control, the guards of virtue and decorum.
The frank expression of our unruly appetites at a social feast would scarcely be compatible with charity. And in the absence of any understood custom or procedure, charity itself would find itself in a quandary! In this, as in every other field of human endeavor, in every profession or use, there must be accepted codes and forms and understood rules which are to help to relieve the mind of responsibility as to the small details of life.
Sincerity is indeed an important virtue in social life. But it has to do with the purpose which is present in the mind. There are some who from childhood have practiced to "make a show of sincerity", yet are insincere in their spirit (SD 5042, 5043, 5044, 5398, HH 492, Char. 195). The truth is, that no morality is really sincere in the sight of heaven, unless it contains a spiritual motive, gained by shunning deception as a sin against God. Yet sincerity is a moral virtue whenever there is a desire to express one's good intentions without fraud. And a sincere man therefore avoids social subterfuges or dissimulation whenever possible, i. e., whenever the neighbor will not be injured by his so doing. But from reason he may none the less observe the reserve of politeness. We are told concerning the inhabitants of Jupiter, who are of the celestial genius, that while their faces are never at variance with their minds, they show a friendliness to all: yet they never conceal "whether their apparent friendship is sincere or forced". (EU 55)
There is the statement that it "is not difficult" to live the life which leads to heaven. We are only required "to live sincerely, in our calling and out of it, with every person and in everything" (SD 5541). This involves the essence of the law. And it is carried out not by evading the ordinary formalities which society requires, but by using them in the spirit of the intention that is within them, and thus living from justice and according to judgment.
We have spoken, so far, of the virtues which particularly create the sphere of social friendship. It is in this sphere that conjugial friendship can develop and lead towards marriage, and that the foundations of the moral life of the next generation are laid down. The choice of our social life in late youth will determine the choice of our ideals, which will either look downwards towards the love of the sex, as such, or upwards towards a love truly conjugial. The beginnings of a new society, a new regenerated world of men and women, is involved as a hope in the social life of our adolescents; not a new world which possesses more and more perfect machines, or wider and more particular knowledge of natural things; for true civilization does not mean more inanimate machinery! but a new world in which the animal instincts with man will be civilized and tamed for their intended use, and where the evil hereditary inclinations toward rebellion against reason and morality and mutual love will be modified and tempered more and more in each generation. For there is a law of Providence that no good once given as the fruit of victory over evil shall ever be lost. In conquering ourselves we win victories for the future race, as well as the delights of a real human life for ourselves. This is done when conjugial love is desired and prepared for from youth up,
by shunning what is immoral, undisciplined, and irrational in human relationships not only as a thing harmful to human society, but as a sin against God. (CL 49)
Conjugial love is the fundamental of all celestial, spiritual, and thence of natural loves; and into it are gathered all joys and delights even to the most ultimate. The reason for this is that the responsibilities of marriage include the pre-eminent use of perpetuating the human race and of educating the young. By Divine provision, supreme delights are offered only as the rewards of the most excellent of uses. (CL 68, AC 7038) To steal the delights without performing the uses can lead only to tragedy and disillusionment.
. It is therefore vital that the development of conjugial love, and the inversion of the love of the sex into a love of one of the sex, be protected by due modes, and that the progressive states of conjugial love proceed in such an order that injury be not done to the sanctities which belong to the foremost use for which society exists, viz., the use of serving as a seminary to the angelic heavens.
These orderly modes of courtship, and the virtue of Chastity which they involve, together with some of the moral problems raised by the world's thought on the subject of marriage, will be discussed in the next chapter; before we turn our attention to those moral virtues which have more especial reference to the uses of our forensic occupations.
IT HAS been pointed out that every moral virtue has two necessary elements, Honorableness and Decorum. Honesty and Good Will could not exist as social virtues except in the garments of a behavior which corresponds to them or represents them in outward form; and thus in a form which not only expresses them but protects them. Such modes make one with the modes of charity, such as were prescribed by the Lord when He said:
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matthew xviii. 15-17).
This is the mode, or procedure, of Friendship. Every virtue has such modes, that it may not perish but may protect itself, in times of test and temptation, and may progress in depth and power. And this is uniquely true of that virtue of Chastity which is the special guardian of Conjugial Love.
So important are the modes by which the love of the sex, which is a merely natural love, is inverted to serve as the womb in which conjugial love is born, that the work on Conjugial Love devotes an entire chapter to the orderly procedures that should be followed in the courtship which culminates in marriage. We refer to the chapter on "Betrothals and Weddings".
It is to be noted that the procedures given as orderly in that chapter are not procedures which are to be enforced by any ecclesiastical authority. Indeed, Swedenborg writes, "the things written in this book have for their end that the reader may see truths from his own rational, and thereby give his consent, for thus his spirit is convinced; and those things in which the spirit is convinced, are allotted a place above those which, without consulting reason, enter from authority or the faith of authority" (CL 295). We are not merely to follow authorized procedures without rational comprehension, thinking "like the crab walks, the sight following the tail"! (Ibid.) Nor is the Church to compel obedience, but to lead people to act in freedom from reason, which is to act from morality. Therefore, Swedenborg now recounts many things which are "established customs", "in order that man may see from his rational that such things are inscribed on conjugial love, as requisite to promote and complete it" (ibid).
Before speaking of these customs, something must be said about the attitude which should prevail before courtship. It is the glorious promise given to the New Church that the Divine providence is operating to provide true marriages even here on earth for "those who from early youth have loved, wished for, and asked of the Lord, a legitimate and lovely companionship with one of the other sex, and who spurn and reject wandering lusts as an offense to their nostrils" (CL 49). For such a one is given illustration from the Lord to recognize the partner of his life, to see the "similitude" corresponding to his own inner soul. Yet, he will not depend on any "miracle" to reveal his partner to him, but will follow the indications of order, and seek for one whose friendship can reach deeply, and whose companionship will extend into the spiritual things of life. If he does this, not being blinded by impulse or momentary passion, but acting both with heart and sound reason, he will find the "miracle" of love more lasting.
It is obvious that it is usually in the sphere of social life that the partner is met with. The type of social life which we cultivate is perhaps the first step in the choice of a partner. Yet the atmosphere in social life would be forced and embarrassed, if social life among unmarried people was regarded merely as a means for finding a partner in marriage. Social life is for the sake of friendship, and for the sake of recreation, pleasure, interchange of opinions not only serious but jovial, not only about momentous issues but about the arts and various matters of taste. And social life is genuine and successful just in so far as Charity predominates,--a charity which makes one wish not merely to be entertained but to give pleasure and happiness to others. Social life within the Church should therefore, we believe, especially among the young, not tend into small cliques or permanent groups; for this tends to warp one's sympathies and one's character, as well as one's opinions. It tends to social intolerance and to future misunderstandings. Incidentally, it also limits the conjugial choice. All this does in no wise prevent that more intimate friendships be cultivated, along with the wider, general social life. For close friendships are precious things. But what we here point to is the fact that exclusive friendships are unwise, especially in youth. They are indications of selfishness, or will be so regarded. And especially is it often unwise, where a boy and a girl are concerned. One of the rules of etiquette for young men, cited by the late Bishop W. F. Pendleton, was therefore--"Do not appropriate the society of one girl exclusively, especially not without a ripened intention to ask her in marriage."
Yet the time comes when this intention is formed. And on the man's part, this should be delayed, so far as possible, until he has a definite use in view. This is indeed a rule that has great wisdom within it. Still, love comes unasked at times, and all that man can then do is to use prudence and common sense. For his happiness and that of his chosen one can easily be endangered without self-discipline and patience.
"His chosen." Choice, we are told, belongs to the man. This is a custom which the Writings desire us to see as a rational necessity. "It is not unbecoming for men to speak of love and to make it manifest" to the one whom they choose. But for women to do so is unbecoming, as well as imprudent and immodest, as their inborn instinct to protect conjugial love tells them: to protect it not only in themselves, but in the race, thus also in men. Men therefore declare their love; or, as we say, they "choose", they court, they entreat; humbly, and with all the politeness, concern, and sometimes even flattery, that they can muster (CL 296, 297).
But the woman, we are told, also chooses: Not aggressively, but passively; not by seeking, but by selecting, by favoring, by consent. And this consent on the part of the woman is not to be extorted or compelled, either by parents or by suitor; nor is it to mean a mere giving in to a physical attraction no longer resistible. The consent must be free, and thus not a mere emotional breakdown. It is therefore recognized by society as of the greatest importance to protect women from situations where their choice is not free. Honor thus compels men to follow certain codes of etiquette which allow women freedom from too much intimacy. These codes differ very much with different ages and states and conditions. Chaperonage by older people is one of these provisions that are required in good society. It is indeed a cumbersome and unpopular provision, but the wisdom of the ages sanctions the need of its prudent use. Its object is not to take away freedom, but to protect freedom! Not to put a straight-jacket on social life, but to give an opportunity for young people to mingle and to get to know each other so as to ensure a delay of the "choice" and the "consent" until their minds are ripe enough to really know each other and know what they are doing. For the conjugial choice is the most important decision in life,--unless we include the spiritual issues of regeneration. And the forces of the love of the sex--which are so easily sublimated into an unfounded "idealization" of individuals of the other sex, and so easily stirred up into storms of passionate desire--are strange and difficult to manage, in youth. And while it is indeed true that men are particularly charged with this disturbing love of the sex, and that women are born with instincts for conjugial love, or the love of one of the sex; yet it is also a fact that "with daughters in their first marriageable age and also in their second, love waits upon the longings of the senses, and not as yet upon the desires originating in a chastened mind" (CL 299). This is given, in the Writings, as a reason why a daughter before she deliberates with herself and gives consent to a suitor, "ought to consult her parents or those who are in the place of parents" (CL 298). Other reasons are, that her judgment is not clear, and is as yet in ignorance about the conjugial life and deficient in the knowledge about men; and that she is not always in a position to judge the suitor's character. This is doubly true in modern industrial society, where young women are thrown into contact with men of widely different moral backgrounds. Consent is never free unless it is fortified by knowledge, and given in a rational state of mind.
All the moral virtues, all honor and decorum on the part of both sexes, take on a special importance in the social approach of the sexes to each other, when this begins to look towards marriage. Never is reserve more essential. For the approach must be gradual. A wholesome comradeship must not become rudeness, or turn into familiarity of the sort that later breeds contempt. Gentleness and courtesy must not degenerate into such cheap sentimentality as what is popularly called "Petting". "The sense of touch is dedicated to conjugial love, and is its special sense" (CL 210). It is not dedicated to the love of the sex; and so far as it is used to satisfy the instincts of sex, so far it is an affront to virginity, and is denied to conjugial love, and so far marriage loses sanctity and power and delight. Caresses, so far as the Writings ordain, have no part to play in the social intercourse which looks toward a marriage-choice. Only after free consent is obtained is there an orderly progress toward the conjugial state.
This teaching in the Writings may seem to stand in severe contrast to the license in sex-relations which exists in the world around us, especially in the postwar era. But even the world, so far as it thinks rationally, has discovered the tragedy of this loosening of the moral fibre, and is striving to check the tendency to rebel against the natural laws of order without which monogamic marriage cannot be established and preserved. Such wild theories as "Free Love", or easy Divorce, or Trial Marriage, have been found to give no social solution to the problems of sex, but to lead to bitter failures. The ideals of the Church, in this respect, are recognized as ideal in a world which instinctively sees their truth, but has no motivating faith whereby to bring about their realization. We are certain from the Writings that our only hope as a Church is the establishment of Conjugial Love as the firm foundation of our lives. And this love is from the Lord. The Lord provides and leads the order in which that love develops.
What, then is the orderly mode which is to be followed, from rational conviction, in the New Church? We omit any discussion here of such suggestions as that, after consent, pledges ought to be given. For love itself dictates such customs. But the next procedure, that "consent is to be strengthened and confirmed by a solemn betrothal", constitutes a distinctively New Church ceremony. There was in the early Christian Church something like our betrothal, but this soon merged into the nuptial service. Betrothal is, however, dictated by the doctrine concerning conjugial love, which is a celestial and spiritual love and not merely a natural one. It is a ceremony, conducted by a priest,* solemnly to confirm and recognize the mutual consent or intention to marry, and thus to make of the pair a Bride and a Bridegroom. But more than this, it is a state, which begins with the consent and lasts until the nuptials. It is an approach to marriage in the spirit of conjugial love, and thus prepares the minds of the two for a spiritual union, so that, first of all, "the interior affections may be mutually known, and, by applications in the inward cheerfulness of love, may be applied" (CL 301). Thus the spirits of the two may be united, in growing intimacy and understanding, and their love--conjugial love--can proceed and grow from its spiritual origin in a just order (ibid). And its spiritual origin lies in a common love of the things of religion, the same religion.
* This is done in both worlds. See CL 21 (at end) and 301.
It is this descent which makes the quality of conjugial love chaste, and without it it is not chaste. There must be an elevation of the mind and the heart first, in the betrothal state, before there can be such a descent of purified love, which sees the spiritual responsibilities and spiritual purposes within marriage, and looks to an eternal union which death shall not part.
This state must therefore be of the mind and spirit. Marriage is also of the body. It is "not lawful" to enter that state during betrothal (CL 305, SD 6110: 48), for thus the order of conjugial love perishes. Betrothals must therefore not be unduly protracted; neither must they be made mere matters of form by shortening them unduly (CL 305).
The principle involved in this ritual of betrothal is this: that all that precedes with a man and a woman enters into their succeeding states, and composes their later life. If there be unchastity or disorderly progressions, before marriage, so far there are also states of cold in the marriage (CL 313). For life is orderly. No man can disentangle himself from his past, even by repentance.
We have no time here to speak of the Nuptials, which the Writings class as an essential solemn ceremony; beyond stating that the wedding ought to include three elements: a civil contract; a religious contract, performed by a priest who not only is the chief witness but who also administers the blessing of the Lord upon an orderly covenant; a festive celebration, to bear witness to the delights of conjugial love.
"Conjugial love, precipitated without order and its modes, burns out the marrows and is consumed" (CL 312). That is, "if a man and a woman precipitate marriage, without order, not looking to the Lord, nor consulting reason, throwing aside betrothal, and yielding only to the flesh",--the love becomes external, not conjugial. There may indeed be repentance. But this must come from a new commencement, and it cannot wipe out the past.
Conjugial loveor the Christian conjugialis chastity itself. "There is no chaste conjugial except in the Christian world; and if it is not there, yet it may be there." Polygamy cannot be called chaste, nor can a celibacy that comes from an aversion to marriage. Neither should we confuse chastity with the innocence which attends a childish ignorance. It is religion that makes marriage chaste. (CL 142, 155, 150.) The perception of what is chaste departs with the unchaste. Where the sense of the holiness of marriage is lacking, there is no lasting protection against unchastity, even though a strictly scientific or artistic detachment be adopted in regard to the things of marriage. The world to-day is subjected to an influx of unchaste literature, drama and art. Our minds are all in danger of being dulled to the perception of what is pure and what is impure. We cannot rely on not being affected by the adulterous spheres that are everywhere active, and complacently declare that "To the pure, all things are pure!" "Conjugial love entirely pure does not exist with either men or angels; there is still something not chaste and not pure which adjoins and subjoins itself to it" (CL 146). The only defense against evil is to shun it, renounce it, abominate it.
We have tried to point out that it is to the state of marriage that all morality leads up, as to a supreme use, in which all other uses of society are imaged as in a least form. The Family must be taken as the unit of any true, moral society. And therein converge both spiritual and civil uses. Both Church and State must logically regard marriages as the focal points of their uses. The stability of marriage is of utmost concern to both. Marriage is therefore protected by laws and by customs, so that it may be permanent. For the use of marriage is not temporary, but is consecutive; it is an organized chain of uses which involve the whole lifetime of a man and a woman. It is a use which, once entered into, is irrevocable in its effects. It involves, for woman, and also for man, an entire change of state in body and mind. Its permanence is therefore essential.
The vows of fidelity given at marriage can therefore not be revoked at will. A partner is released from them only by the death or the actual unfaithfulness of the other partner. The law of divorce is stated in the Writings with unmistakable distinctness (CL 255, 468, Matth. xix. 9), for our rational, moral guidance.
It is the attitude to marriage, and thus particularly the status of woman, which characterizes a church or a nation. Certain people with the most carefully developed moral concepts and customs, have utterly failed to show any esteem for the feminine sex, and thus for conjugial love. The Chinese, whose moral code was gathered by Confucius, stressed sincerity and courtesy but placed woman outside of the pale of moral consideration. In the Hebrew and Christian ages, woman was held in contempt because she was supposed to be the cause of the fall of Adam into sin. The age of Knighthood to some extent helped to dignify and idealize womanhood. But in all past historic times, the tributes to woman's social importance were officially confined to acknowledging her supremacy in a limited sphere which the Germans quite solemnly describe by the words "Kirche, Kinder, Kiiche, and Kleider" (church, children, kitchen, and clothes). Yet as a matter of fact, in all ages, woman has privately had a status quite superior to this generalization, and this just so far as the special function of woman as the form of conjugial love has been appreciated. So far as the conjugial life is valued as the essential, central factor in society, so far the status of woman is elevated. It is not necessarily elevated by merely external concessions which give her a freedom to compete with man in forensic uses. For that freedom is merely an adjustment made necessary by the fact that many of the uses of the home were taken over by factories through machine production, and the tasks of the home became artificially limited to less absorbing routines.
"Equality" between the two sexes is, of course, as much of an impossibility as equality among individuals; and any morality which is blind to the differences in the minds and uses of the two sexes, must soon break down. In the Writings the rationality and intelligence of women is not at all negated. But it is pointed out that their use of these gifts differs essentially from the manner in which men use them; and this has its effects in the character of feminine uses or functions.
This circumstance also accounts for the fact that the morality of a woman is judged by a different standard than that of a man. Those who in modern times have attempted to stress the equality of the sexes, have sometimes pointed out the injustice done to women by the existence of a "double standard of morality". And in actual fact, men have excused and exonerated themselves of serious crimes against the conjugial, by the argument that the standard of morality does not apply to men in matters of chastity.
Now the strange and disturbing thing is, that in recent years, since this injustice has attracted considerable notice, and a "single standard" has been advocated, the effect has been not to judge men according to the purer standard of women, but to lower the standard of feminine virtue to the level formerly condoned only in men: or, in short, to advocate a single standard of immorality, instead of a single standard of morality! But whatever is advanced or practiced, the fact remains that the personal and social results of such immorality will affect women with graver consequences, more tragic, lasting and profound, than is the case with men who commit similar offenses. And behind this fact lies a law not of man's making.
We are told that in heaven young men are loved for their morality, and maidens for their beauty (CL 442). This is, among these heavenly youth, the ground of a chaste love of the sex. Beauty, in heaven, is from conjugial love. And women are the native forms of that love. It is this that makes them lovable (CL 22) and is their fundamental virtue on which all their uses rest. Youths in heaven, on the other hand, are forms of certain other virtues which are more generally called Morality. This moral excellence in the youth and the beauty and elegance of manner in the maidens "correspond to each other, as mutual and co-adaptable forms" (CL 44=).
The moral virtues which specifically are fundamental to each sex are therefore not the same. Men's uses, which we call forensic, utterly depend on such virtues as industry, civility, truthfulness, courage, temperance, honesty and dependability (probity), and sincerity, With a man, such virtues as these are the starting point of all other virtues, such as chastity and friendship and loyalty. If a man loses the primary masculine virtues, and proves dishonest and lazy and cowardly and treacherous, then he destroys his usefulness and loses his very soul, along with the respect of his fellow men. A woman, however, can be forgiven for incivility, evasion of truth, dissembling, extreme judgments, and unreliability in many things. Yet if she squanders her virtue as to chastity, she gives up, with small hopes of recovery, that which with her is the center and mainspring for all the other virtues. Her reputation and honor and safety, yea, her very salvation, are then endangered, and her use in life is impaired.
Men and women are judged differently, by all who see from mercy and reason. The source of virtue is a different source in each sex. Yet morality implies that no man, no woman, shall hide behind the weakness of his or her sex, or pamper such weaknesses. But it is of Providence that all are not alike, equally strong in every moral excellence. For the regenerating man or woman, by self-exploration and repentance, recognizes his or her own weakness, and so comes to look with admiration and love to one in the opposite sex who possesses those virtues that are lacking in him or in her. Marriage is therefore the normal state in which the complete human life can be found, and by which two individuals freely merge their virtues and their uses until they two are seen as one angel-form.
And yet the cynics tell us that marriage is a failure. But what they know as marriage is but a parody of the real marriage. To expect happiness from a matrimonial venture both of greed or passing illusion or sudden passion, is to be blind to all human experience and deaf to all moral laws. For people who have grown weary of waiting for love to come, or have put little curb on selfishness, or simply look for economic convenience and a merely external congeniality, for such the intimacies of marriage must mean only a striving for domination, increasing opportunities for irritation, or at best a retirement of each partner's mind into hiding from the other, while affections and opinions are suppressed for the sake of an outward toleration.
Joining the church cannot assure us of salvation, without a faith of charity. Even heaven cannot bring happiness to those who, unprepared, enter its gates. How, then, can marriage bring its real blessings unless we make it a marriage in spiritual reality?
In the New Church we are given the promise that the marriage of conjugial love shall be restored. It will be given to those who follow the clear directions which the Lord has provided in the Writings. But it cannot be appropriated except by partners who shun, as sins against God, the evils of adultery, the love of dominating over others, and the practice of deceit. "These three things, especially, do those shun who will be of the New Jerusalem" (SD 6053). And where conjugial love reigns in a home, there will also be a love of use, and a grateful readiness to assume the responsibility of rearing children and watching that their tender minds grow to love the things of wisdom. In this and other uses of the home, the partners will be united more and more in mutual confidence and in internal blessedness of life.
It is the formative stages of such a real marriage which are described for the New Church in the work on Conjugial Love. These stages are marked with certain customs, rites, and sacred ceremonies, which we are to consider so that we may rationally consent that they "are inscribed on conjugial love, as requisite to promote it and complete it" (CL 295). All the moral virtues combine to urge that love should follow this order, that the uses of marriage may be protected.
Marriage is the supreme and most comprehensive of all natural uses. Through the growth of external civilization, however, the uses of the family have been distributed by specialization into Society; and in the following chapter we shall touch on a final group of virtues peculiarly necessary in forensic uses.
IX. Morality in Uses
An attitude of wishing well to Society is the kernel of moral behavior. All the human virtues in their complex thus express themselves as a love and a zeal for the uses which will benefit humanity: a zeal on behalf of one's married partner, one's children, one's parents, one's fellow-citizens; a zeal for one's country, for the public good, and for religion (CL 164). In such zeal there is an image of Mutual Love, a love of others above oneself, which takes a permanent form in the performance of uses, but also an occasional and temporary form in punishing the evil.
All uses, therefore, all offices, functions, professions, and employments, profess themselves as forms of service to Society. But since the human virtues are not exactly balanced in any one man, the love or the zeal of each person is unique to him, so that no two people can perform a given use in exactly the same way, nor form the same combination of motives. The Writings indicate that in a man's works or deeds are contained all his affections. Indeed, man being merely a vessel of life, an instrument of use, all that is of real use, i. e., what is of eternal consequence, is not at all man's, but comes from the Lord through him. Nevertheless, in the sphere of man's finite cooperation with the Lord, man's character and thus his virtues and faults limit the ostensible uses which can be openly performed by him for other men. Some of these virtues and faults are innate or hereditary, some are acquired by habit in the course of his moral or spiritual life.
Since man is so composite a being, it is impossible for anyone to explore the full moral contents and, still less, the spiritual contents of any single use that man performs. "Man is in so obscure a perception and idea, that he is even unable to know whether he has charity, because he is not much sensible of affection; nor, if he has it, does he reflect upon it; but it is known from his zeal towards good and truth, and towards what is just and right." If he, for instance, "is in the zeal of punishing the evil to the end that they may become good, and that the good may not be hurt, and that the community might be freed from such, then he has charity, although it does not so appear; nor is he himself able to know this" (SD min. 4547).
In the zeal for uses, the spiritual virtues which man may have furnish the inmost motive, and these operate to stir up the moral virtues. But so far as man's natural degree is not reformed and regenerated, the moral virtues must call into service the subjugated but as yet unregenerate natural affections. Few, if any, at this day regenerate as to these sensual affections. And when they are permitted to be active on behalf of some use, they often appear as anger or as pride or as intemperate moods. This is what particularly appears in zeal. Yet all of these affections, spiritual, moral, and natural, are present together in a man's uses.
We call attention to this mixed state of the affections at this point, because the strength and intensity of our natural affections play an important part in forming those moral virtues which enter especially into the field of man's forensic uses. Virtues are not merely natural talents, or natural tendencies or hereditary affections, nor are they matters of training. But our moral virtues result from the way in which our rational mind takes advantage of the existing tendencies of our natural mind, and groups and develops and governs those tendencies to the benefit of the uses before us. So far as man afterwards regenerates, so far there is an actual change in the organization of the natural mind, and spiritual motives will displace the unregenerate natural affections by creating spiritual-natural affections in their stead, although the old natural affections still remain, modifying and limiting.
A man's usefulness, judged from the moral standards of society, comes largely from the energy with which he pursues his work; although the moderation and temperance, modesty and prudence, that he possesses, elevate the quality of his use and give it the necessary elements of wisdom and understanding and judgment. Energy is derived from love or affection, and is a measure of quantity. We express a man's energy in terms of Industry, Courage, Generosity, etc., that is, in terms of action.
Unfortunately for many, mankind has little use for misplaced energy; this, however extensive it may be, is merely waste action. With children, and in times of recreation, we suffer a certain amount of it. Yet even there it must be limited. Mere blind action, mere purposeless talk, mere excitement, mere boisterous noise or confused movement, are devoid of any moral meaning. Natural affections, unless rationally controlled, are signs of immaturity or of insanity, be they ever so energetic.
But morality, without energy behind it, is but a word! It is ineffective, futile; harmless, perhaps, but pure sentimentality none the less. True morality must, first of all, have Courage.
Moral courage is not merely the effervescence of physical, or even mental, recklessness! Swedenborg tells us that physical courage is mostly due to heredity or to temporary excitement, although it can be acquired by some, on occasions, through self-compulsion (R. Ps. 246-251, Char. 164). In either of these cases, however, it is not a virtue if it tends to recklessness, or senseless bravado, or cruelty, or a love of dominating. Ignorance often boldly intrudes where wise men fear to tread. What is recognized as moral courage is not the absence of fear, but the control of one's fears. It is the energy that springs from a sense of duty. " It has therefore been spoken of as "the executive side" of every virtue, although its most obvious form is seen in the warrior-patriot. Just as much moral energy is required to stand up against one's friends, or to refrain from "following a multitude to do evil", as to face an acknowledged foe. It is often harder for the soldier to remain inactive under hardships, boredom, and discipline, than to face danger. It is often braver to refuse to do what is wrong, than to do what is right.
There are thus many forms of courage or moral energy. We shall later consider them as they are combined into the concept of Industry, which specifically points them to a definite use. The Writings mention, for instance, Alacrity, which means a cheerful willingness and promptitude. An instant response comes from a full heart. In the heavens, spiritual angels must be convinced of their duties, and perceive their obligations by degrees as their reason is clarified. But the celestial angels, although indeed taught through angels of the spiritual kingdom, receive the Divine truth immediately into their lives: with them there is no argument, no hesitation, no doubt or delay. They act with alacrity! and so do we all when love urges us to haste. Alacrity, punctuality, instant volunteering for a service, are signs of a love of use. Love does not count the cost in terms of discomfort or time. It sees the need, anticipates the difficulties; while the faint heart hangs back, love goes ahead to smooth the way. Alertness expresses somewhat the same characteristic. It bespeaks a wide-awake, attentive readiness to perceive the needs of the neighbor, and to provide for them. And while alacrity and alertness are recognized as necessary elements of ordinary social courtesy, yet they are especially significant in a man's employment or office, as indications of the degree of intensity which his love of use possesses.
If we are really devoted to a use or a cause, we become earnest in its behalf. Our love of it will not tolerate half-heartedness or vacillation or irresponsible, flippant attitudes to it. It becomes a work, a set task, not merely a "hobby". We are willing to commit ourselves quite totally to it, to sacrifice our own welfare for its success. Firmness and decision then characterize our labor. We resolve to "see it through". We act from a conviction that it answers a real need. And this earnestness must not only contain moral courage, but must spring from true sincerity.
Sincere men may be mistaken and may act from very imperfect and partial understanding. But even though they may be in the light of some illusion, they will possess, while they are in it, a loyalty, a constancy, and a faithfulness which are admirable. It is true of all the virtues which have to do with moral energy, that they are genuine virtues only when they are accompanied with wisdom, intelligence and reason. Loyalty is thus at times the foe of progress, and delays the judgment of false positions and of evil undertakings. It is the loyalty of sincere men that makes possible the existence of the fictitious "heavens" in the spiritual world. Loyalty of such a kind is from persuasive faith which is untempered by intelligence. It asks no questions, but obeys or follows blindly, with abiding and unswerving devotion to something which it does not fully understand.
Wisdom dictates that we should give our unqualified loyalty only to Truth itself, and that we should place loyalty to uses and principles above loyalty to persons. Nevertheless, nothing worth while would be done unless there were those who had simple loyalty. All cannot understand everything! But it is important that every man should clearly understand the general principles which point to the common good. And when he resolves to support this with his loyalty, he may have to be satisfied to have faith in those whom he regards as more expert, until they are seen to be wrong.
He who is loyal to a use or an office, also possesses what the Writings call Assiduity. This word means a "close and continuous application or effort", personal attention to duty, perseverance in labor. Sedulous care in one's work is the road to progress, and this implies resistance to the distractions of pleasure or to the call of more immediate advantages. Assiduous labor is the rock on which man's uses are built. No amount of native genius or natural brilliancy can make up for the lack of hard work. It is when genius and assiduity are combined that something really great is accomplished.
Moral courage is often recognized as a continual persistence against opposition and difficulties. Then we call it Fortitude or Patience. To stand up against hardship tests the courage of our convictions and the inner reserve of energy in our moral will. Strength of character is seen especially in adversity. It is then that the real moral victories are won over oneself. And "he who conquers himself conquers all". It is easy to fight with the goal within reach; but to fight on in an apparently losing battle is real bravery, provided that the underlying faith is not an illusive vision beyond the realm of reality. Then it is only insanity.
Patience means self-control in still another sense. It is a struggle to refrain from acting before action is wise or beneficial. It requires strength of purpose. A weak man cannot wait. There is, in the moral realm, a need also for mental patience, for delay in forming opinions before all the facts have been made clear. We call this a suspension of judgment, and it is imperative in all intellectual progress. Impatient judgment partakes of materialistic thought, i. e., it is colored by the thought of time. If we have no patience, we are apt to judge from prejudice, from bias, from appearances, and especially from untamed natural affections or runaway passions.
Moral energy dictates patience before we commit ourselves by a final decision; constancy in carrying it out; and again patience with opposition. But moral wisdom dictates that we shall also pursue truth above all else, and bow to it at all times.
Courage, in all its forms, is founded on faith: not merely faith in self; but faith in the Truth and in the Good, faith that these shall, in the providence of the Lord, eventually triumph, because true strength comes only from virtue. Courage thus begins as Hope, or aspiration, and grows into Faith; it is not blind to the difficulties of its task, but it is optimistic because it is sure of the eventual use for which it is fighting. And because of this high faith, true courage does not become unscrupulous. It feels that it can afford rather to wait than to use unworthy means to gain a more immediate victory. It declines to accept the slogan that "the end justifies the means". It is not satisfied with any hollow victory brought on merely by brute force or compulsion through fear.
When we regard the virtues as to their quantity, we note that some men are praised because they are prudent and frugal, while others are esteemed for their generosity. For circumstances make that a virtue which best protects the uses which we perform. Munificence testifies of a heart full of benevolence or gratitude. Deprived of reason and wisdom, this virtue becomes utter profligacy which senses no responsibilities beyond those of the moment.
Liberality has a wider implication than munificence. Munificence denotes a love of giving gifts, or of lavishly rewarding others. Liberality includes, besides this, one's desire to interpret favorably the deeds and words of others, and to be tolerant and grant freedom to others even as he desires freedom for himself. A liberal-minded man desires to listen to ideas even contrary to his own, to judge them on their merits, and (if possible) put them to use. This often testifies of a love of truth. But equally often it testifies of a confused vision which cannot decide what is truth. Such "liberals" are easily swayed by any current of opinion. And in the world to-day, a "broad-minded" man usually means one who is so confused as to what is true or false, that he is tolerant and as it were "charitable" toward everything, especially if it is somewhat unpopular. Often he is for "the under-dog", right or wrong. He may immerse himself, with sympathy and tolerance, into any sphere of thought, and at the end, finding that he cannot really determine any truth, he becomes a prey to indifference.
True liberality is not mere sentimentality, for it does not blind itself to truth, and does not give up what it knows as true principle in order to enter sympathetically into a foreign sphere of thought. It may feel pity for a criminal and strive to understand criminal psychology in order the better to assist him to reform; but it will not permit itself to forsake the principles of justice or to ignore the public welfare.
The virtue of Generosity goes further, and grants forgiveness even to one's foes. It is the essence of the Christian virtues, for it is stripped of revenge and retaliation. When the Lord, on the cross, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", He included all men, and even angels. For none of us know the full extent of our trespass, the unforeseen consequences of our evils. So far, all are forgiven. And so far, we must forgive. Yet this virtue of "generosity" is very vulnerable. It is mistaken for weakness, or for apathy towards evil. It is so that men misinterpret the Lord's permission of evil and disorder.
The virtues which describe the intensity, the duration, the extent and quantity of moral effort, must be continually tempered by justice and wisdom and prudence. So governed, they must enter into that final virtue which looks to the specific uses and occupations, businesses and crafts and offices that sustain the Common Good, and in turn receive from the commonwealth the rewards of use. This virtue the Writings call Industry.
In heaven "they shun idleness as they would the pestilence". For only in use is there protection and health for mind and body. It is in the sphere of his use or calling that man finds the continual outlet for his moral virtues, and it is there that his charity takes form. For "charity itself is to act justly and faithfully in the office, business and work in which he is and with whomsoever he has any intercourse" (TCR 422).
Thus the heavenly prince told Swedenborg:
"The love of use, and from this love, zeal in use, holds the mind together lest it should melt away and wander about and drink in all the lusts which flow in from the body and from the world, through the senses with their allurements, whereby the truths of religion and the truths of morality with their goods are scattered to all the winds. But the zeal of the mind in use holds and binds these together, and disposes the mind into a form capable of receiving wisdom from those truths; and then it thrusts aside the illusions and the mockeries of both falsities and vanities." (CL 16)
A well defined task or office, with its steady responsibilities, normalizes a man.
One reason why use has this beneficial effect is that a man's mind is then turned away from himself and to the needs of society. This invites the sustaining spheres of heaven, reduces the mind into order, and the body as well. Uses call for cooperation, for contacts, for accommodation of one's self-interest to social and moral ends. And the internal law is that whenever anything has been reduced into order, a general influx from heaven flows into it, which renders it easy and spontaneous. The practice of a use in a sedulous way therefore makes for an increasing perfection, and thus increases man's contribution to society which then returns it in manifold fashion, far out of proportion to the tiny gift which that individual offered.
A use is meant to meet a real need, not an imagined one. And in man's choice of a vocation in life, the thought of "earning a living" must be tempered by the moral question as to what the needs and requirements of society actually are, and what ability and talent and strength man has to offer. Only to follow talent or inclination, without thought of the needs of society, is to invite such complications as abound in the world to-day.
To the best of our judgment and ability we must look towards doing the work that has to be done, the task which we see immediately ahead. That is to say, we must be willing to follow the indications of Providence; and these come to us mostly through others. Yet if we do this, as is done in heaven, our talents and pounds will tend to increase in the course of our work, and we will find the place for which the Lord has secretly prepared us.
Resistance to laziness is thus a matter of moral and spiritual conscience. Yet it is not according to the Divine plan, nor according to the public interest, nor best for man's development, for a man to immerse himself into his work so unceasingly as to act no longer as a social being.
"There is", the Doctrine of Charity declares, "an affection in every employment. And it strains the mind, and keeps it intent upon its work or study. This, if it be not relaxed, becomes dull, and its desire flags, as salt that has lost its savor, or as a bended bow, which, unless it be unbent, loses the power that it derives from its elasticity. Just so the mind, kept from day to day in the same ideas, without variety" (op. cit., 190). The effect is likened to snow-blindness. Work without relaxation makes for a one-sided character, and dulls man's perception to the proper subordination and coordination of uses and thus to his true relationship to others. And it is for the sake of others that uses are really to be performed.
It is on this account that Charity, as well as Morality, demands that there be diversions, "which are the various delights and pleasures of the bodily senses, useful for the recreation of the mind" (Char. 189). Chief among these diversions is, of course, Rest. Nature demands periodicity, sleep, relative passiveness. To deprive the mind and body of actual physical rest by turning each night into a time for revelry, is certainly not what is meant by recreation! The Writings depict with unsparing realism the bestial character of those who live for the sake of sensual diversions. Their spirits, we are told, are unclean; they are human beasts, dead; they are public burdens; nor have they any real rest or peace of mind, even after death, for they become slaves amidst the turmoil and confusion of the hells (Char. 194, 196).
Leisure and diversions are intended as the rewards of use. To perform one's duties merely from a love of reward--merely for the sake of making money or to find the means for pleasure--makes for a pathetically sordid life. When a man lives for pleasure alone, ordinary diversions will lose their thrill and become dull and boring unless indulged in to excess. And soon he would seek out perverted and unwholesome forms of entertainment; until he can no longer see any difference between right and wrong, or even between degrees of evil. The test of true recreations is that the affection of use remains inwardly within the pleasure of the diversions, and gathers new strength while it is thus resting; and when it is renewed, it again appears as a longing to get back to work, or to prepare for the uses of the morrow (Char. 193). Such true pleasure partakes of a spiritual fragrance, which answers to the needs of the mind and is modified by its virtues.
Diligence or industry can therefore be understood only in connection with sensible diversions. And it is of utmost importance to moral life and to the proper growth of society, that the problem of work and play should be rightly viewed. There was a time when in the simple life of the farm and the home, the lines between work and amusement were not so distinctly drawn. And where the love of use rules, a congenial occupation often still combines so many delightful phases that even its arduous tasks become pleasant. But with the rise of mechanical industrialism, many groups and classes of men have been involved in uses which seem to them as an unintelligible and soul-less routine. And it is claimed that the minds of many therefore tend to develop along merely fatalistic behavior-channels which make them creatures of habit rather than of reason; so that they cease to exercise the individual initiative and free moral conscience which should be the mainsprings of human enterprise, and instead are moved blindly by the mob-emotions and mass-opinions which are fraught with a tremendous danger to Society. Others assure us that technical advances in industry will call increasingly for specializations which will lend interest and variety to our labors, and thus provide a freer field for our human qualities.
It may however be of Providence that the adoption of mass-production methods should make it possible that more leisure-time be granted to many classes of labor. For individual enterprise and moral freedom are given new opportunities in leisure. But it is recognized that at the same time a new philosophy of leisure and usefulness must be formed with each individual, which will take account of the fact that "laziness is the devil's pillow", and that the moral temptations which we must meet find us especially vulnerable when the protective sphere of a definite use does not envelop us.
IN our brief survey of the subject of Morality and its Virtues, we have sought to present morality as that intermediate field of secondary motives through which man applies his primary, or spiritual, motives to the actual needs of his social environment. The moral virtues are all rational in origin, and do not involve either a mere obedience to bodily instincts or a blind subserviency to the customs of society. But like the laws of charity, they come "not to destroy, but to fulfill".
None can question the utter necessity for obedience to moral laws, both on the part of individuals and on the part of nations and governments. For society is not regenerated by legislation. It is individuals who create public opinion, and it is upon individuals that responsibility must always rest. As man learns to master the secrets of nature and to wield powers that might blow all civilization into atoms, he must also learn to set up self-imposed moral ideals, to live socially, and to turn his skill to the pursuits of peace and his strength to its defense. Otherwise mankind is headed for certain destruction.
But the world takes less kindly to the more cogent fact that the laws of morality cannot lead to any regeneration of society without the guidance of a conscience of spiritual good and truth. Virtues of a sort exist with all men, as "natural goods". Yet they maintain themselves as virtues only when they are properly interrelated and balanced, and subordinated to a spiritual conscience. Justice and judgment--the bulwarks of the moral life--then become also the foundation of the Lord's throne.
The failure of a merely moral motive is often described in the Writings. And the inadequacy of mere morality is frequently seen in modern social trends and attitudes. When, for an instance, the moral sense of many in the world is shocked by the distress caused by the natural increase of the population, the simple solution which occurs to them is to limit the offspring to, say, two children per family, since these two could then be better educated, fed, and housed. We shall not try to disprove this argument from the merely moral premise; although we do believe that the poor and simple may have an inner life that is equally noble and rich as that of the well-born, who think in terms of a different standard of happiness. But the fallacious element comes from a confusion of moral and spiritual values. The human end in social progress may be the attainment of greater comfort and better cultural advantages. But the Divine end in creation, which is ignored by scientific moralists and social reformers, is that the earth may be the seminary for heaven, a heaven which is open to all men however humble their condition. This application of spiritual values must be consistent, not sporadic. Nor must we apparently acknowledge one spiritual truth in order to deny another spiritual principle in practice. We must, for instance, obviously guard against any idea to the effect that, since the Divine end is the increase of the angelic heavens and its perfection by numbers, any means which stimulate the birth rate should be condoned! Such a tendency of thought would be in direct violation of the Divine provision that populating the heavens can be accomplished only through men's willingness to adopt orderly means.
Without a perception of a spiritual law and a Divine end, there can be no understanding why charity should preserve the weak, and thus, in appearance, pile up unending problems for society. The Spartan ideal of a survival of the fittest and of death to the weak, is all that a materialistic morality can understand. It does not see that the purpose of the strong cannot be that they should destroy the comparatively weak, since in such a competition all would eventually perish; but to aid the weak so that they also may become strong. Spiritual truth, the truth of charity, alone can give the vision of Love.
It is patently impossible for the New Church to adopt any of the moral philosophies of the world, which are often blind to the spiritual values in life, even where they recognize moral values. The New Church must solve its moral and spiritual problems with the aid of its revealed doctrine concerning discrete degrees which shows that our duties and responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, our country, our church, and to the Lord's kingdom, are discretely different and are important so far as they promote the end of creation which is the formation of a heaven from the human race. The church must develop its own idealism in practical life, and distinguish clearly between real and apparent issues. It must have morals which spring from a reason enlightened by Revelation, and may thus look to a gradual formation of societies wherein the Divine Will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
IN the New Church we are well aware that an empty mask of politeness is worth nothing. But the need of Courtesy is perennial. It is the ultimate form of all charity. Not that the value of our fellows should be measured by such externals as are commonly called "good manners" or "social graces". Recently--and for the first time--I examined various books on Manners and Etiquette. If you want a humiliating, depressing experience, read a book on "Etiquette". It made me feel very badly, and I gave up all thought of addressing you or anybody on the subject of Courtesy. But after some reflection I changed my mind, and decided that we all lived in such frail glass houses that nobody else was likely to start throwing stones, anyway. And so here I am, in the middle of a difficult subject!
My childhood was spent in a country where social traditions had created an inescapable but meaningless routine of external courtesies against which both common sense and sincerity had equally to rebel. Life's every detail seemed to be predestined from birth to death by set demands of social customs. Later, my pastoral activities brought me into another country where children and young people were taught the gentle art of self-restraint, to be exercised at all times, but especially in the presence of their elders. It was a very delightful experience. There was an absolute understanding that age commanded respect, and that children were only of potential importance. The young were taught, by precept and example, that "self-expression" was proper only after one had something of value to express. And having been brought up in that tradition, the children seemed to be as happy and free there as anywhere else.
On the continent of North America the history of the peoples has been different. What has been foremostly valued here is originality--not tradition; freedom--not order; youth and the pioneering spirit--not age and its conservatism ; experimentation--not custom. Less consistent emphasis has been placed, therefore, on Courtesy and Obedience as childish virtues. And on viewing the quaint humility of many European children, Americans are apt to ask the question whether the insistence on courtesy and obedience in children does not breed servility and even hypocrisy, and stamp out that progressive independence which we moderns treasure so much.
There is a subtle line to be drawn between two modes of teaching Courtesy, which perhaps goes a long way to answer that question. One way is to enforce the forms of courtesy, by establishing rigid rules of politeness and punishing the children who transgress: display our anger and displeasure; cow them, by towering over them like giants with blazing eyes, or lashing them with our tongues and crushing their spirits under our feet; humiliate them before their brothers and their friends, perhaps before company. They will obey then, for a brief while, as long as this spell binds them. Some will even remain fearfully and abjectly subservient, but inwardly bewildered. Other children will however bite their teeth together, and, in silence, despise you.
Most of us must plead guilty to having resorted at times to such a form of discipline, that of the drill-sergeant. In extreme cases, perhaps, something of the sort is excusable, and called for; although most of us, in saner moments, blame it on nerves or on dyspepsia, and recognize that even a sound, calmly administered spanking would have been more effective.
But on reflection it is fairly easy to see that while corporal punishment is of use in a number of instances, especially with the very young who have to learn to associate pain with evil and disobedience, yet courtesy can never be taught by the rod or the hand, nor by the exhibition of anger and sarcasm. Certain isolated forms or acts of polite behavior can of course be drilled into children. But the essence of Courtesy is more subtle than these. It is Respect, a respect which induces thoughtfulness, consideration for others. This essential of courtesy can be seen even among primitive peoples, whose customs are totally different.
The Writings speak of contempt for others in comparison with ourselves as the most telling sign of self-love. It is the first degree of that progression which leads to hatred. In the child, contempt of others lays the basis for a later religious intolerance, from the feeling of meritorious good which exalts oneself above others.
In the New Church it is important to realize that the humility which is proper to the state of childhood should have a religious foundation, and not merely be based in the child's realization that he is physically weaker and smaller than those whom he obeys. Humility must inmostly be associated with worship of the Lord. The brief hour of daily family prayers and of reading the Word and the Writings, gives occasion, as the children grow up, for the most intimate spiritual contacts between parents and children, for the discussion of spiritual and moral questions which bind the family together and shape the family's philosophy. Especially we wish to stress here that in a home where there is never any effort made to find place for a period of worship by the family-group, the inmost basis of Respect will also be found missing. Where reverence is not shown to what the Lord, the Maker and Redeemer, speaks and commands,--reverence for the Divine Word, the Law of the Church,--there can never be much reverence for the parental word, the commands and opinions of the parents. The parents, under such circumstances, do not represent anything of the Lord in the home: they only represent brute force and necessity and the source of daily bread. They are then not the media by which the Lord makes known His will, nor the leaders in the exercise of the religious instincts of the children. They are shut out from the most precious and exalted part of the child's life.
But neither could we assert that this inmost basis for parental authority and influence is in itself sufficient. It is indeed the most lasting, and children when grown up will expunge from their memories many of their parents' faults and mistakes while recalling those deeper gifts which they owe to their father and mother. Still, respect, as the basis of courtesy, must have a more personal meaning. Children, after all, are constantly, and from the first, reflections of their environment. They have a far keener instinct for the real meanings of situations than we might suspect. They are, at certain ages, extremely sensitive to inconsistencies between parental commands and parental behavior. They imitate the manners of their parents, and this both unconsciously and quite deliberately.
They are not mere apes. They can be reasoned with; they can be brought to see their place, if the attempt is made at the right times. But they are not as yet individuals in the adult sense. The Writings tell us that infants have as yet no sphere of their own. Even children are only in process of acquiring such a sphere. They are mainly in the sphere of their parents. And thus the sphere of the home is largely determined by the parents.
We all know this. We stay out later than usual for several nights, try to catch up in our work under the handicap of insufficient sleep, and then, "The children drive us hysterical"! It is usually we who introduce the atmosphere of nervous tension. We lose our sense of humor and proportion. Our voices are raised beyond necessity; our demands for courtesy in the children are unduly increased, our sympathy with the child's point-of-view is dulled by our fatigue, headache, or indigestion; we are impatient with the children's sense of mutual justice in trival things. And the children feel misunderstood, perhaps just when they have tried to do something they thought would please us. And so they become discouraged, or sullen and recalcitrant; and if the weather is bad outside and they are forced to associate with each other too closely for comfort, some of them go into tantrums, or begin to quarrel. And "life isn't worth living" in that home, for a time, until the parents have regained their mental poise, and are again encompassed with a sphere of peace and understanding.
I realize that what I say sounds like the confessionals in the Ladies' Home Journal! But the fact is that people who strive to regenerate their lives cannot do so simply from a doctrinal conscience, while they ignore reason and are blind to the lessons of experience. Once in a while some mistake in our educational methods strikes us, and we try to begin over in a new way and take a new lease of life and of family happiness. And so, also, in the problem of how to cultivate courtesy in children.
Children imitate. But they do not notice our polite or impolite ways with other adults half as much as they notice how we treat them. If we yell at them and scold them on every occasion, they will promptly yell at their younger brothers and sisters; for generally they are very touchy on the prerogatives of age. Certain modern writers have revived the rule of the genteel class of a hundred years ago that parents should teach politeness by cultivating a soft and peaceful voice, a charming voice, with themselves; a voice the children like to listen to, which impresses them affirmatively. Nagging and scolding are now shown, with truth, to be an outlet that is pleasurable to parents in certain states, while it does not really discipline the child, but only annoys him. New Church people would say that it is 'acting from the proprium' and is very satisfying to the spirits who are with us when we are in physical disorders and under mental strains or when we are in states of spiritual anxiety and temptation. Fortunately, the Lord forgives much that we think, say, and do while in such states. But that fact does not convert it into a good educational policy. We actually feel that we are losing the esteem of the child; and so on such occasions we try to storm the more in the vain attempt to recover our authority!
The main fact is that voice and language are only effective if their strength is reserved for occasions when their maximum power is required. Continual emphasis becomes meaningless. Shouting and stamping and passionate spanking become, as we know, merely indications that the child has the upper hand and is the real master of the home. The child, too, has a 'proprium', and sometimes very little else is discernible; and this proprium when aroused subconsciously enjoys the fact that it is so powerful that it can call forth such futile reactions in parents. There is, sad to say, that in a child, which is not averse, but actually feels flattered, if he sees parents suffering in administering discipline. Evils in children are at first quite impersonal to them; punishments also should be utterly impersonal: we punish the evil, not the child. Really 'difficult' children enjoy these thrills of self-importance: it is the awakening of that proprium which normally should slumber in infancy as long as possible. Make this proprium realize its own importance, and you invite premature problems of all sorts.
The doctrine of the non-appropriation of evil stresses that evil must be thought of not as originating in oneself but as coming by influx from hell, and similarly that good is not from one's self but by influx from heaven. If man thinks--and if a child is taught to think--according to this truth, the evils which come into his mind are not identified with himself and can thus the more readily be shunned. A child should thus not be called 'wicked' or 'nasty', for this only makes him want to defend his faults; but the evil itself should be so called. (AC 6206, 6324, 6325.)
Let me not be understood as saying that the proprium of the child is not aroused except when the proprium of the parent sends out sparks. Even those educated in heaven have temptations. Yet it is always from without, from the injection of the spheres of evil spirits, that such temptations come. Here in this world there is so much evil to kindle the proprium of the child, so much contact with obvious wickedness, that we need in the home--to create a sanctuary so far as we possibly can. The home should indeed be dedicated to the Child, so far as it can be done without sacrifice of higher uses. But this is not done if the child is openly treated as the most important member of the household. Then it is not the child, the future angel, that is catered to, but only the proprium of the child. And if the parents do not train themselves to resist that proprium and to temper it with reason rather than to rouse it into still more passionate rebellions, then the time comes when the child begins to train the parents to obey it.
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Now what has all this to do with insinuating courtesy into children ? Just this: You cannot be satisfied merely to jorce the child to be polite. What you want the children to like should not appear as any punishment! Courtesy is a form of Respect. Respect for parents is necessary, before there can be consideration and thoughtfulness for elders. Parents must be known to their children as dependable paragons of justice and fairness, if they are to have an influence in those subtler realms of child-life which do not merely have to do with good habits, but with that attitude of the children towards others which in the long run dictates their behavior-reactions in all kinds of future situations which parents cannot foresee.
There may be parents who, being naturally modest, or extremely 'modern', or perhaps unduly frightened by the difficulty of handling children, tend to evade the responsibility brought by age and better knowledge; and thus do not insist on the honor that is due them.
But the honor due to age and parenthood is not ours to decline, for it is honor due not to us, but to the office which places us as representatives of the Lord and as teachers of His commandments. Parents should not refuse that respect which children render them. To receive that respect graciously and to preserve it genuine and wholesome and deserved, is part of the parental function--the function of all adults in varying degrees, the function of the servants of the Church and of the officers of the civil government. A king has no right to refuse the honors rendered to his office. The honors attached to civil functions are called in the Writings "the hands of the king and the pillars of society" (TCR 403). This law of representation is involved in the ancient precept given to the Hebrews: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God. I am the Lord." (Lev. xix. 32.)
A question here obtrudes itself, whether Respect is really a sufficient ground-work for Courtesy. The fact comes to mind, that the children often judge others very unfavorably from superficial contacts. Without much ability to read character, they take quick dislikes. They form prejudices, which are often very foolish, against schoolmates or teachers, or others. And thus they have no respect for them, and show it very obviously by rudeness and flippancy, and occasionally, in extreme cases, by what amounts to persecutions. This is especially the case in the "gang-age".
Now they know they ought to be respectful to elders But they also feel it unmanly or cowardly to act differently from what they feel. Impudence and boldness develop, which again may grow into wildness and rebellion and anti-social actions, if not counteracted in time. It is therefore needful that parents try to make their children somehow see that Sincerity does not obligate one to express every passing mood in full nakedness, as do the babies whose very faults appear so "cute", "cunning", and "laughable". Sincerity means the expression of one's deepest convictions and ideals, one's Conscience ! And this often means a suppression of passing moods, frivolous or passionate.
The "conscience" of children is inevitably bound up with their love of parents, and with respect for parental leadership. It does not as yet stand on its own feet. Still it is this second-hand conscience which must be the beginning and source of true sincerity.
And so, again, we come back to the parents, teachers, or adults! And we parents see so many faults in ourselves, and constantly discover how they are mirrored in the children. We find it exceedingly difficult to change our own manners. But we can determine to try to change in some one respect, as for instance to avoid the quarrelsome attitude to our children, to avoid the high pitch which makes them and us nervous and excited. As someone has said, the word "No" should be so consistently used that it means "no" in any tone of voice. A resolution on our part never to yell, bark, or snarl at our children, is of course soon broken in these days of overfilled social calendars, overstimulated minds and overspent budgets. But while we maintain it, as an experiment in self-control and concerted parental effort in education, we would find it a real God-send to our nerves, find that it actually produces a remarkable atmosphere in the home, and a greater cooperation and considerate courtesies from the children. Even the baby feels the sphere.
Some of you may say--with some justice--that I have been 'carrying coals to Newcastle'. Indeed, as a group, we have set up lofty standards. No member of a New Church society would countenance the manners of the snob or the street-urchin in their children. Yet many of these children, even when they come out of Children's Service of a Sunday morning, will rush down the road past their elders with utter obliviousness of their presence. They can "cut" you with a haughty independence, and make you step aside for them on a path. After a few years of secondary education, many of them become quite deferential, and some quite charming in their manner. But in the Elementary School age!
Now these rude manners are only ebullitions of the native thoughtlessness of childhood. But the more of it there is, the harder it becomes to establish that basis of Reverence for the wisdom which elders attempt to transmit from the Past to the new generations. During the years of the last period of financial "Depression", a noticeable and much needed improvement was seen in the manners of people, and in the valuation of family ties. The employer, the customer, the teacher, the parent, were all regarded with more sympathy and respect. But independence, with many people, brings self-esteem, and with it officiousness and bad manners.
I am not among those who contrast with bitter regrets the graces of a hundred years ago. Those forms of courtesy are not for to-day. And we may well shudder at the rudeness and vulgarity which was then practiced by multitudes. Greater educational opportunities have tended to level the standards of manners toward a common mean. I would not exchange the opportunities we now have for anything in the Past.
Courtesy does not come merely by requiring set forms, or by enforced scientific rules. It is an art, a fine art, and it flows from Charity and consideration and from a rational appreciation of the uses and functions of others. It comes from respect; from the instinct, within the celestial remains implanted in the child, to worship and admire what is good and genuine and consistent and true and selfless. It does not come from nagging (as many of us have found to our distress), nor from emotional appeals, nor from setting impossibly high standards for the child. It does not come without continual instruction; and the best instruction is usually informal but clear and backed with reasons that the child can understand. A baby does not need reasons, but imitates and--likes it. An older child will usually accept your explanation, even though he may make a wry face over it.
The salvation of the future man depends on the growth of his rational. We parents must recognize the child as a rational creature not yet developed: he is not merely a bunch of instincts. The rational is there; ready and even anxious to be appealed to, but in a quiet, matter of fact way. Children can be cowed into obedience, but Courtesy comes from reasonable and discriminate faith in the elders and their ways, and a consequent humility about their own state. Familiarity, apart from this appreciation, breeds contempt. It is not enough to "be a pal" to your children, you must be a guide, a teacher.
In concluding, let me ask if there is anything which approaches heaven on earth more than a home where Courtesy and Sincerity can be combined! Where affections are based on rational grounds; not on mere sentimentality which continually demands its pound of flesh, and turns the ties of blood-relationships into terrible bonds! A home becomes a heaven, if we can relax in it from the strains of labor, and find from each other a ready sympathy, an understanding cooperation. We have the spiritual principles of heavenly life given us in the Writings as a basis of spiritual Conscience! All we have to do further is not to take our ambitions, social or secular, so seriously that we pay for them in blood-coins and steel our minds against the softening spheres which bring real values even into our external life and into the lives of our children.