Can We Surely Know Truth?
It is widely thought that in matters of religion, philosophy, and the arts, all is opinion and there is nothing certain. It is a common saying that "a man has a right to his own opinion"; yet if a man is of the opinion that he is Napoleon, he belongs in a mental institution.
Is there any sense in saying that a man has a right to the opinion that 2 times 2 equals 5 ? Indeed, no one can stop him from holding such a notion; but is this what is meant when it is said that "a man has a right to his own opinion" ?
There are laws which protect the right of freedom of speech and of the press, within bounds, for the freedom of expression can be unjustly taken away; but there are no laws in regard to the freedom of opinion, because no one can, by force, take away another's opinions. Wherefore the expression, "every man has a right to his own opinion," can refer only to a legal right, not a moral right.
For does a man have a moral right to the opinion that it is permissible to cheat or do harm to others? A man has a moral duty to weigh opinions freely and seek for the truth, but does he have a moral right to believe what is false?
When someone repeats this phrase, he usually means that no one has a right to say, or even think, that his (the speaker's) opinions are not as good as anyone else's. Thus what he says is the opposite of what he means; and yet the above saying he regards as an expression of charity.
When this saying is used, it is also usually implied that truth cannot be ascertained beyond a doubt, or that a man cannot grasp the truth in its completeness. The latter of these statements is true; but it is obvious that because a man's knowledge of mathematics is very limited, this does not prevent him from being certain that he has solved a problem in mathematics. Cannot such certainty exist in other fields of thought?
It is self-evident that to kill or harm one's neighbor is evil, and that to steal from or cheat the neighbor is evil; one who doubts this is not sane. But when it comes to theology, men are for the most part blind and therefore think that everything is a matter of opinion. They therefore doubt the words of the Lord: "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12.) If the Lord heals our blindness so that we see, then we know for a certainty that we have been given sight. This is just as true of the sight of the mind as of physical sight.
Few are willing to make the struggle needed to become able to distinguish between holding an opinion and seeing a thing clearly in light. Many of our thoughts are opinions, because we have no light on the subject or because our knowledge of the subject is too limited; still, we should realize that a clear light is possible. Many people sacrifice and labor industriously to find the answer to scientific problems, with the conviction that they can find out the truth of the matter. But few will labor with all their might to find the answer to spiritual problems. The reason for this often is that coming to the truth of a scientific matter brings a reward of this world, whereas coming to a spiritual truth brings the inner reward of a closer conjunction with God.
As the majority of the Protestant Churches no longer have faith in the Bible as a solid foundation, their faith has become weak. In the same way, many of those in the New Church, called Swedenborgians, do not believe in the Writings of Swedenborg as the Word of God, the Rock of Truth upon which the New Church is founded, and such have tended to become weak in their faith.
With those in the New Church who believed in the Writings of Swedenborg as the Word of God, the question arose as to what was the nature of these Writings as the Word of God.
According to the Writings of Swedenborg, the Word, like a man, has a soul and a body. The inner or spiritual sense or meaning is its soul, and the sense of the letter is its body, in order that it may live in the world. The inner or spiritual sense forms the letter of the Word, in order that it may manifest itself in the world. Divine Truth, in the sense of the letter of the Word, is in its fullness, holiness, and power, for in this it rests upon its divine foundation.
The Word of the Lord, as we have said, treats of nothing but the things of the spirit. It does not in its spiritual sense treat of the history of nations, of science, or of the things of the world. Because the facts of science and history do not appear to agree with the Word of God, when seen in its letter, many have come to deny the importance of the letter, not knowing that every word, every jot and tittle, has a spiritual significance. Such may try to find the spirit of the Word, but, as we have said, the spirit without the body of the Word that is, without the letter—is a ghost or phantom. The learned in the New Church (Swedenborgian) have been faced with the same problem in relation to the Writings of Swedenborg as Christians have in relation to the Bible. Some, like the fundamentalists in the Christian Church, cling to the unopened letter; others, not seeing that every word has a spiritual signification, look for the spirit or rational idea—which, apart from the letter, is a phantom.
Some held that the Writings were the internal sense of the Word. Others maintained that, although they were indeed the internal sense of the Word, they were also clothed with a letter and were therefore part of the letter of the Word.
The question later arose as to how the Word of the Lord becomes Divine Truth in the mind of man. Is it Divine Truth with man merely because man has read it and has it in his memory?
In the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, by Emanuel Swedenborg, it is said: The Church is from the Word, and is such as is its understanding of the Word. That the church is from the Word does not admit of doubt, for the Word is Divine truth itself. The doctrine of the church is from the Word, and through the Word there is conjunction with the Lord. But doubt may arise as to whether the understanding of the Word is what makes the church, for there are those who believe they are of the church because they have the Word, read it or hear it from a preacher, and know something of its sense of the letter, yet how this or that in the Word is to be understood they do not know, and some of them little care. It shall therefore be proved that it is not the Word that makes the church, but the understanding of it, and that such as is the understanding of the Word among those who are in the church, such is the church itself. (Number 76)
The Word is the Word according to the understanding of it in a man, that is, as it is understood. If it is not understood, the Word is indeed called the Word, but it is not the Word with the man. The Word is the truth according to the understanding of it, for it may not be the truth, because it may be falsified. The Word is spirit and life according to the understanding of it, for its letter if not understood is dead. And as a man has truth according to his understanding of the Word, so has he faith and love according thereto, for truth is of faith and love is of life. Now as the church exists by means of faith and love, and according to them, it follows that the church is the church through the understanding of the Word and according thereto; a noble church if in genuine truths, an ignoble church if not in genuine truths, and a destroyed church if in falsified truths. (Number 77)
Further: it is through the Word that the Lord is present with a man and is conjoined with him, for the Lord is the Word, and as it were speaks with the man in it. The Lord is also Divine truth itself, as likewise is the Word. From this it is evident that the Lord is present with a man and is at the same time conjoined with him, according to his understanding of the Word, for according to this the man has truth and the derivative faith, and also love and the derivative life. The Lord is indeed present with a man through the reading of the Word, but He is conjoined with him through the understanding of truth from the Word, and according thereto; and in proportion as the Lord has been conjoined with a man, in the same proportion the church is in him. . . . The church that is outside of him is the church with a number of men who have the church within them. This is meant by the Lord's words to the Pharisees who asked when the kingdom of God would come:
"The Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) Here "the Kingdom of God" means the Lord, and from Him, the church. (Number 78)
The Lord said: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." (John 15:4.) If the Lord does not abide in us and we do not abide in the Lord, we can have no genuine understanding of the Word, no matter how many knowledges from the Word we have in the memory.
To understand anything, there must be three things: There must be an objective world outside of ourselves. Furthermore, there must be a sound eye and there must be light. In relation to spiritual things, we have the Word outside of ourselves. This is of no use unless we have light.
The Lord said: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12.)
To follow the Lord is to keep His commandments not only in the letter, but also in the spirit. The light which the Lord said He was, is the Holy Spirit which those receive who live in the Lord and the Lord in them. Apart from such a dwelling and such a life, the man is in darkness as to all things of the Word. He may know many things from the Word; but if his understanding of them is not genuine, he indeed has the Word, "but it is not the Word" with the man.
The third thing which a man must have to see is a sound or healthy eye. If a man is blind, he cannot see; or if his eye is badly defective, he sees all things distorted. The spiritual eye is the understanding, for by the understanding man can see truths as they really are. Man, to begin with, is either spiritually blind or he has a very imperfect understanding which distorts the things which he sees. If a man is humble, he comes to the Lord acknowledging his blindness and asks the Lord to heal his blindness. If a man is proud, he thinks he sees very well and does not need to be cured of his blindness. This is the meaning of the Words of the Lord:
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees . . . said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:39-41)
The Lord comes to those who acknowledge their lack of understanding of the Word, that such may see. But at His Coming those who are in the pride of their understanding of the Word are made blind. If men acknowledge their blindness, that is, their lack of understanding of the Word, "they have no sin"; but if from pride in their own intelligence, they insist that they understand the Word, then their "sin remaineth."
The Lord said, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." (Matthew 18:9.) How many are willing to acknowledge that their eye offends them, that is, that they falsely interpret the Word of God? or that they are blind and cannot see the true meaning of the Word for themselves unless the Lord heals their blindness? Yet it was just this for which the Lord came—"for judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind." (John 9:39.)
Our Lord said, "Ye must be born again." (John 3:7.) It is the new eye which man has from being born again that alone sees the inner truth of the Word. The old eye can see the things of the letter of the Word, but it is blind to the inner truth or spirit of the Word. This regeneration and rebirth cannot take place quickly. A man must again enter into the womb of the Church and be gestated for a long time before he can be born again with a new eye which can see clearly; and even when he is born again, like a new infant, he cannot at first see the internal things of the Word, for this takes time. The spiritual eye, or understanding of spiritual things, must first be formed and then be perfected as to sight by the use of the spiritual eye.
Many in the Christian churches think that merely because they read the Bible they are in the spirit of the Gospels. Yet, as we have said before, without struggling with all one's mind and strength to obey the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Commandments, both in spirit and according to the letter, one remains in his old life. One who remains in his old life does not receive a new heart and a new spirit; that is, he is not born again. To believe that one can be born again in a moment, by a miracle, without his cooperation, is a fallacy.
In the same way, there is the danger that those in the New Church (Swedenborgian) may think they are in the Spirit of the Writings of Swedenborg, which are the Third Testament, merely because they read these Writings and have them in their memory and outer understanding, apart from giving much consideration to the light in which they are, or the state of their eye, that is, to their spiritual understanding. They may not realize that it is only the new eye, which belongs to the new body when man is born again, which has an inner sight of the Word.
The Lord said:
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:21 -23)
This teaching applies to all reading of the Word. No matter how wonderful the Lord's Word is, no matter if we have only one or two or three Testaments of the Word, if our eye is evil, our whole body is full of darkness; and if we are not proud and conceited, we shall acknowledge that we are first in such darkness, that is, until the Lord has opened our eyes and given us sight.
To come to an understanding of the Word, our minds must be active, not just in a state of passive receptivity. That is, we must work to come to a real understanding of the teaching of the Word. For this reason, the Church and the men of the Church must make a doctrine.
We read in the Arcana Coelestia, by Swedenborg:
Those are said to "see the back parts of Jehovah and not the faces," who believe and adore the Word; but only its external, which is the sense of the letter, and do not penetrate more interiorly, as do those who have been enlightened, and who make for themselves doctrine from the Word, by which they may see its genuine sense, thus its interior sense. (Number 10584)
The Words which the Lord spoke, He called Spirit and Life, and so they are. But a man who only remains passively in the sense of the letter and whose mind is not opened to the Lord in heaven does not see the Lord's face, but only His back.
In the Writings of Swedenborg, or the Third Testament, the Lord has come again and unfolded the Word in an infinite way, and this Testament is again Spirit and Life; it is in itself the internal sense of the Word. But if a man receives the Third Testament only passively, and if he is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he remains only in the sense of the letter of this Testament. All Three Testaments necessarily have a soul and a body, and apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of the Church and the men of the Church in making doctrine, man sees only the body and not the soul. A man when he reads the Word can be in no truth unless the truth flows into his mind from the Lord through heaven above while he is reading or meditating on the Word. This is expressed in the Arcana Coelestia as follows:
When a man is in truth, as is the case before he has been regenerated, he knows scarcely anything about good; for truth flows in by an external or sensual way [that is, by the bodily senses], but good by an internal way [that is, from the soul]. Man is sensible of that which flows in by an external way, but not, until he has been regenerated of that which flows in by an internal way. (Number 4977)
When the state with a man who is being regenerated is inverted, that is when good takes the first place, then come temptations. . . . When good is taking the prior place and subordinating truths to itself, which takes place when man is undergoing spiritual temptations, the good which then flows in from within is attended with very many truths that have been stored up in his interior man. . . . For while a man is living in the body, and does not believe that all things flow in, he supposes that the things which come forth interiorly are not produced by causes outside of him, but that all the causes are within him, and are his very own. Yet such is not the case. For whatever a man thinks and whatever he wills (that is, his every thought and his every affection) are either from hell or from heaven. (Numbers 4248 and 4249)
The celestial are in such a state, [that] they are able to acknowledge that all good and truth flow in from the Lord; and also that there is a perceptive power of good and truth that is communicated and appropriated to them by the Lord, and that constitutes their delight, bliss and happiness. (Number 3394)
The Divine that proceeds from the Lord, when received by the angels, makes heaven. Thus in respect to what is their own the angels themselves do not make heaven; but in respect to the Divine which they receive from the Lord. . . . That the Divine of the Lord makes His Kingdom with man, that is, heaven and the church with him, the Lord also teaches in John: "The Spirit of truth shall abide with you, and shall be in you, and ye shall know that I am in My Father and ye in Me, and I in you." (14:17,20)
The "Spirit of truth" denotes the Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord, of which it is said that it "shall abide in you"; and afterward that "He is in the Father, and they in Him, and He in them" whereby is signified that they would be in what is Divine of the Lord, and that what is Divine of the Lord should be in them. (Number 10151)
In the Arcana Coelestia, Number 1807, it is said: "They who are in Divine ideas never come to a stand [stop] in the objects of the external sight; but from them and in them constantly see internal things."
Those who are in "Divine ideas" never remain in the letter of the Word, which is the chief object of the external sight in the Church, but constantly see the internal things which belong to the spiritual sense of the Word.
From the above it is clearly evident that to be in the Divine Truth does not come merely from reading the Word, apart from the reception of the "Divine Truth which proceeds from the Lord."
It is also evident from the above that it is not only the individual who should receive the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, but also the Church, as is evident from the number in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture quoted above. "The church is the church through the understanding of the Word and according thereto; a noble church if in genuine truths, an ignoble church if not in genuine truths, and a destroyed church if in falsified truths." (Number 77.)
The importance of man's taking an active part in coming to an understanding of the Word is described as follows:
The genuine truth which must be of doctrine appears in the sense of the letter to none but those who are in enlightenment from the Lord. Enlightenment is from the Lord alone, and exists with those who love truths because they are truths and make them of use for life. With others there is no enlightenment in the Word. The reason why enlightenment is from the Lord alone is that the Lord is in all things of the Word. The reason why enlightenment exists with those who love truths because they are truths and make them of use for life, is that such are in the Lord and the Lord in them. For the Lord is His own Divine truth, and when this is loved because it is Divine truth (and it is loved when it is made of use) [or when lived] the Lord is in it with the man. This the Lord teaches in John: "In that day ye shall know that ye are in Me and I in you. He that hath My commandments, and doeth them, he loveth Me, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him; and I will come unto him, and make My abode with him." (John 14:20,21,23) And in Matthew: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (5:8) These are they who are in enlightenment when they are reading the Word, and to whom the Word shines and is translucent.
The reason why the Word shines and is translucent with such, is that there is a spiritual and celestial sense in every particular of the Word, and these senses are in the light of heaven, so that through these senses and by their light the Lord flows into the natural sense, and into the light of it with a man. This causes the man to acknowledge the truth from an interior perception, and afterwards to see it in his own thought. . . . With such men the first thing is to get for themselves doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word, and thus light a lamp for their further advance. Then after doctrine has been procured, and a lamp thus lighted, they see the Word by its means. (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, Numbers 57-59.) We read in Arcana Coelestia:
The Lord does these [good and truth] through man's heaven, that is, through his internal; for all good and truth are from the Lord, insomuch that good and truth with man are the Lord Himself. (Number 9776)
"No man hath ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in the heavens," (John 3:13) . . . for this [Divine truth] comes down, and therefore ascends, because no one can ascend into heaven unless Divine truth comes down into him from heaven. (Number 9807 )
From this it can be known what is meant by "Spirit" when said of the Lord, namely, the Divine truth that proceeds from His Divine good, and that when this Divine truth flows in with man, and is received by him, it is "the Spirit of Truth," "the Spirit of God," and "the Holy Spirit"; for it flows in immediately from the Lord, and also mediately through angels and spirits. (Number 9818 )
The sense of the Word is circumstanced in accordance with the heavens: the supreme sense ... is for the inmost or third heaven; its internal sense . . . for the middle or second heaven; but the lower sense . . . for the lowest or first heaven . . . and the lowest . . . sense is for man while living in the world, and who is nevertheless of such a nature that the interior sense, and even the internal and supreme senses can be communicated to him. For man has communication with the three heavens. . . . Hence it is that within man is the Lord's kingdom, as the Lord Himself teaches in Luke: "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you." (17:21) (Number 4279 )
Angels, all of whom have at one time lived on earth as men, are in the inner sense of the Word from the Lord and not from themselves; wherefore, the internal sense which is communicated to man is from the Lord and is indeed the Lord with man.
In the two quotations above there is an apparent paradox. One passage treats of the teaching or doctrine drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word, by reading or hearing, that is, by physical influx, through the bodily senses. In this, by study, man works as if from himself. The other treats of the actual spiritual influx, an influx of the Holy Spirit, that comes to man from within.
In order to live an actual spiritual life, man must be prepared so that he can receive the spiritual influx and communication from the Lord, and at the same time in the apparent physical influx from without, in which he acts as if of himself. Thus a man draws teaching or doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word as if of himself, but acknowledges that every genuine truth of doctrine with him is from the Lord, who is the internal of the Word. Thus he believes the words, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27.)
From the above, it is evident that whereas the Lord descended and made His Second Coming in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg which are in their essence the Internal Sense of the Word, but clothed on earth with a letter, the Truths which are set forth in the literal sense of this Testament are not spiritual and celestial truths with a man unless they at the same time flow into man from the Lord from within. For we read:
The natural [mind] of man sees things in the light of the world, which light is called natural light. Man procures for himself this light by means of the objects which enter through the sight and hearing. . . . When light from heaven flows into these things, the man begins to see them spiritually. . . . This insight increases according to the influx of the light of heaven . . . for the light of heaven inflows from the Lord through the internal man into the external man. From this then man has perception. . . . There must be an influx of living light through the internal man from the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia, Number 9103 , )
To illustrate the above in a somewhat crude way: AH laws of nature exist in the created world whether man knows them or not. In the same way, all Divine Truth exists in the Word of the Lord whether or not it is known by man. In fact, the truths which men know, compared to those that are unknown, are as a cup of water is to the ocean.
There are things which man knows directly by his five senses, things which are often better known by a primitive man than by an educated man. The laws of science are arrived at by an intellectual process. These laws are sometimes quite contrary to the direct evidence of the senses: for example, that the sun stands still relative to the solar system and does not traverse the sky from east to west. That objects which appear inert, as to their particles, are in a high state of activity. In the same way, there are appearances in the letter of the Word, as seen in the light of the world, which appear very differently when seen in the light of heaven.
Every revelation of the Word is clothed in a letter. There are those who cling to the letter and ignore the Spirit, that is, the inner sense, and those who would seek the Spirit and lose faith in the letter.
It is said in the Writings of Swedenborg that John the Baptist represents the Word in the external sense.
John only inaugurated them into the knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, and thus prepared them to receive Him; but . . . the Lord Himself regenerates man by means of the Divine Truth and Divine Good proceeding from Him... ."The waters" with which John baptized signified introductory truths, which are knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained, Number 475:20)
In relation to the Lord's First Coming, there had to be one who would go before and prepare the way by preaching repentance and proclaiming the Coming of the Lord. In the same way, in relation to the Second Coming, the understanding of the literal sense of the Writings of Swedenborg has to come first; and again, this sense calls to repentance and prepares the way for the Lord's Coming in the Divine Truth of the Holy Spirit and the fire of His Love, which proceed from Him.
That Swedenborg teaches that the Writings have a literal sense is evident from the following quotation:
They [certain spirits] said ... that those things which I have written are so rude and gross, that they suppose nothing which is interior could be understood from these words or the mere sense of the words. I also perceived by a spiritual idea that it was so, that my expressions were very rude, wherefore it was given me to reply that my words are only vessels into which purer, better and interior things might be infused, as if the literal sense [thereof]; that such vessels, as it were, are the many literal senses of the prophets. (Spiritual Diary, Number 2185)
There are four characteristics of the Word of the Lord, in which it differs from all other writings.
One: It is written in a continuous and perfect Divine series from beginning to end. (See Arcana Coelestia, Number 7933.)
Two: In this series as to its inmost sense, it treats solely of the Lord and His glorification; in its inner sense, it treats of His Kingdom or the Church and the man of the Church and his regeneration. (See Arcana Coelestia, 3540)
Three: Every word in the Word of the Lord is from the Lord and can be opened to infinity. (See Arcana Coelestia, 771, 1936)
Four: The Word is perfect in ultimates or as to its letter, for every least thing therein is holy. Seen merely as to its letter, it indeed appears imperfect; but seen from within, or seen in the light of heaven, its perfection appears. (See Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, Numbers 6 and 28.)
If a sophisticated man views the Word from his unregenerated mind, he will not accept these statements as true. For the Word as seen from without does not appear to be perfect; rather, it appears to contain errors, things contrary to scientific knowledge and many things that are crude and apparently unworthy of God.
If one believes that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, one can see how this applies to these books.
If one believes the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Word of the Lord, one can see that this also applies to these Writings, for we are told in these Writings that books not having these four characteristics are not the Word of the Lord; yet viewed only from without, the Writings of Swedenborg do not appear to have the above four characteristics.
If the Writings are the Word of the Lord, they are open to a continuous unfolding. The explication of the Word may be true or false. The true explication of the Word is from the presence of the Lord in the Church, that is, it is the work of the Lord's Holy Spirit, although man does this unfolding, in appearance, as of himself.
The genuine Truths drawn from the Word in the Church are the doctrine of the Church or its teachings. This doctrine is from the Lord and is open to indefinite expansion even to eternity.
To illustrate how a man may be enlightened when he reads the Word, consider the following quotation:
"Certain spirits . . . were in unbelief concerning the Word of the Lord, as to there being such [sublime] things stored up in its bosom, or within it; for in the other life spirits are in unbelief like that in which they had been in the life of the body; and this is not dissipated except by means provided by the Lord, and by living experiences. On this account, while I was reading some of the Psalms of David, the deeper insight or mind of these spirits was opened, .. . and being amazed at them [they] said that they had never believed such things. The same portion of the Word was then heard by many other spirits; but they all apprehended it in different ways. With some it filled the ideas of their thought with many pleasant and delightful things, thus with a kind of life in accordance with the capacity of each one, and at the same time with an efficacy that penetrated to their inmosts, and this to such a degree with some that they seemed to be uplifted toward the interiors of heaven, and nearer and nearer to the Lord, according to the degree in which they were affected by the truths and the goods therewith conjoined.
The Word was then at the same time brought to some who had no apprehension of its internal sense, but only of the external or literal sense; and to them the letter appeared to have no life. From all this it was manifest what the Word of the Lord is when the Lord fills it with life—that it is of such efficacy that it penetrates to the inmosts; also what it is when He does not fill it with life—that it is then the letter only, with scarcely any life.
Of the Lord's Divine mercy I too have been permitted in the same way to see the Lord's Word in its beauty in the internal sense, and this many times; not as it is while the words are being explained as to the internal sense in detail, but with all things both in general and particular brought together into a single series or connection, which may be said to be the seeing of a celestial paradise from an earthly one. (Arcana Coelestia, Numbers 1771 and 1772)
A certain spirit. . . was suddenly taken up on high. ... He then spoke with me from thence, saying that he saw things more sublime than human minds could possibly apprehend Soon others also were taken up into the same heaven,.. . one .. . testified to the same effect, saying . .. that he was too much amazed to describe the glory of the Word in its internal sense. Then, speaking from a kind of pity, he said that it was strange that men knew nothing at all of such things. (Arcana Coelestia, Number 3474 ,)
A man so far as his spirit is concerned may also be raised into heaven; only then can he see the Word of the Lord in its beauty as a celestial paradise. A man in this world may not be conscious of having been so taken up into heaven, but he can know it from the fact that he has been given to see the Word in its glory and beauty as a heavenly paradise. A man who has not been so elevated has never seen the beauty and glory of the Word, no matter how diligently he has studied it, and no matter how extensive his knowledge of it is, or how well he can appear to explain it.
The genuine Church is the Word made flesh in an image of the Lord, who was the Word made flesh in an infinite way. Anything in the Church which is not the Word made flesh is not the genuine Church. A wise man, therefore, in giving his loyalty to the Church, gives his loyalty to what he sees in the Church to be the Word become flesh. To anything which he sees has crept into the Church from any other source, he does not give his loyalty. The simple who are not wise in the things of the Word can only with difficulty make this distinction. Still, all should strive for this ability. A man should feel loyalty to the Church and a desire to protect it, as long as he perceives that the Church's dominant love is loyalty to the Word of the Lord. If a man comes to perceive that the Church is not giving its first loyalty to the Word, but rather to itself and its own traditions, then he should eagerly seek for a Church which gives its first loyalty to the Word of the Lord.
Those who are genuinely of the Church have the Kingdom of the Lord within them of these the Church is constituted. Others who may be in the Church are not of the Church. Even with those who have received something of the beginning of the implantation of the Church, there are great regions of the mind which are outside the Lord's Kingdom, and as to those regions they are not of the Church.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a Divine man. It is said, in the Divine Providence, by Emanuel Swedenborg:
Its inmost [the Divine Providence] is that man may be in this or that place in heaven, or in this or that place in the Divine celestial man; for thus he is in the Lord. (Number 67)
Each one from infancy is introduced into this Divine Man; whose soul and life is the Lord. . . . [That is] those who receive are carried to their places through infinite turnings. (Number 164)
In heaven the Divine of the Lord is love to Him and charity toward the neighbor. (Heaven and Hell, Number 13 heading)
Man, so far as his mind and body are concerned, however, is not Divine, but only a vessel which may receive the Divine. Man is no more Divine than a candle is light or an electric light filament is light. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Heaven which is Divine can be received by man, but it is never man's, for man of himself apart from reception is spiritually dead.
The Lord, however, is life, for He made the very vessels of His body Divine and therefore rose with the body unlike any man.
The Divine of the Lord received by man, compared to the Divine of the Lord Himself, is in the ratio of the light of a candle compared to the sun.
There are some who think that the Divine, being Infinite, is far above the Church and the man of the Church and cannot be in the Church and in man.
Although the Infinite Divine cannot be in man unaccommodated, yet it is the teaching of the Writings of Swedenborg that the Divine can be so accommodated that it can be in the Church and in the man of the Church, as in the following quotation:
The "candlestick" [signifies] the Divine Spiritual in heaven and in the Church. . . . The Divine Celestial in the good of love, and the Divine spiritual in the truth of faith thence; both proceeding from the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia, Number 9548)
Confusion may arise from failure to distinguish between the Divine Itself of the Lord and of His Word, the Infinite source of all good and truth, and the Divine as received by the Church and the man of the Church. This Divine is called above, the celestial and spiritual Divine. Concerning this distinction, we read:
In the case of the angels, the Divine is not in them, but is present with them, because they are only forms recipient of the Divine from the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia, Number 4971)
The great importance of acknowledging that the Divine is received by man is evident from the following passage:
Man is above the beasts, in such a state as to be able to understand what pertains to the Divine Wisdom, and to will what pertains to the Divine Love, thus to receive the Divine; and a being that is capable of so receiving the Divine as to see and perceive it in himself cannot but be conjoined with the Lord and by that conjunction live forever. What would the Lord be in relation to the entire creation of the universe if He had not also created images and likenesses of Himself, to whom He could communicate His Divine ? ... What of the Divine would there be in all these things, unless they had as their end to be serviceable to subjects that could receive the Divine more nearly, and see it and feel it? And as the Divine is of glory inexhaustible, would He keep it to Himself alone, or would it be possible for Him to do so? (Divine Providence, Number 324) We read in the Arcana Coelestia, Number 8328:
Frequent mention is made [in the Word] of "the Father who is in the heavens". . . . Regarded in Itself the Divine is above the heavens; but the Divine in the heavens is the Good that is in the Truth that proceeds from the Divine. This is meant by "the Father in the heavens," as in Matthew:
"That ye may be the sons of the Father who is in the heavens; that ye may be perfect, as your Father who is in the heavens is perfect." (5:45,48; 6:1) "Our Father who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name." (6:9) "He that doeth the will of the Father who is in the heavens." (7:21) The Divine that is in the heavens is the Good which is in the Divine Truth that proceeds from the Lord; but the Divine above the heavens is the Divine Good Itself. . . . How the case is with the Divine Truth that proceeds from the Lord, that it is in heaven good, may be illustrated by comparison with the sun, and with the light that is from the sun. In the sun is fire, but from the sun proceeds light, which light has within itself heat, from which gardens sprout forth and become like paradises. The very fire of the sun does not pass to the earth (for it would burn up and consume all things), but the light wherein is heat from the fire of the sun. In the spiritual sense this light is the Divine Truth; the heat is the good in the Truth from the Divine Good; and the resultant paradise is heaven.
There are those who think they have in them a spark of the Divine Itself, a spark of the Sun of Heaven. Such may desire to approach the Infinite Divine Itself. Like Daedalus, they fly toward the sun with wax wings, until the wings melt and they fall to earth. Such regard themselves as little gods.
At the other extreme are those who regard all the truths they have as human and uncertain, who deny that the Lord, Who is the light of the world, can dwell in their heaven or inner mind and form a paradise from the Divine Truth received in which is the Lord's love.
To approach the Divine Itself is to approach the invisible Father, God, whom "no man hath seen at any time," rather than the Lord, our Father in the Kingdom of God which is within. The true believers acknowledge the Lord present in the light of Divine Truth, within which is good. The Lord forms a paradise of the Church within them.
Such see the Divine Human of the Lord, the visible God-man. Those who deny that the Divine Truth can be seen and received in the mind and life worship an invisible God with whom there can be no conjunction by love.
A man may enter the Church for many reasons. He may do so because he wishes to feel or appear spiritually more important than others. He may do so because he wishes to belong to the wave of the future. He may do so because he has a rebellious spirit, and out of such a spirit he may resent the Church he is in and express this resentment by joining another Church. There are also other nongenuine reasons for joining a Church. Such, however, are not true members of the Church. Nor are those true members of the Church who have been brought up in a church and remain in it from habit, from natural affections, and from a personal love for those with whom one has associated from childhood, such as parents and companions. There are many who love the external of the church, its services and customs, from attachment to childhood memories. Such think they have a faith, though many of them have little love of the truth for the sake of the truth and for the sake of the good of life and, apart from such personal attachments, would care little for the Kingdom of Heaven. Others who lack a living faith remain in the Church out of fear and the distress it would cause them to break away from their family and friends.
The genuine Church consists only of those who cleave to the Church in order that they may lose their old life and receive new life from the Lord by means of the Word.
Those who are truly of a genuine Church do not believe that its members are necessarily better than those of other churches—far from it. The characteristic of those in the Lord's Church is this: that there is a continuous call for repentance and for humiliation before the Lord in order that it may continually become more and more the Lord's Church on earth; but as few have the desire to give up the life they are in, a true Church expects to grow slowly.