The Importance of Doctrine

April 5, 2019 § Leave a comment

Many people don’t like doctrine. Doctrine can seem to be dry, abstract, and remote from the life we live. Who cares about the doctrine of discrete degrees?

First, what is doctrine? Doctrine is a set of teachings that relate to a particular subject. The doctrine of glorification, for example, is a set of teachings that tell us about how and why the Lord glorified His Human nature.

Since doctrine is a set of teachings, someone has to collect those teachings and organize them. Sometimes the Lord does this Himself in the Heavenly Doctrines (see TCR for example); other times we have to do it.

It is true that the essentials of salvation are simple, clear, and abundantly taught in the Heavenly Doctrines. So doctrine may not seem important, yet it is:

Here first let something be said respecting doctrine:
1. Without doctrine no one can understand the Word.
2. Without doctrine from the Word no one can fight against evils and falsities, and disperse them.
3. Without doctrine from the Word no one within the church, where the Word is, can become spiritual.
4. Doctrine can be acquired from no other source than from the Word, and by none except those who are in illustration from the Lord.
5. All things of doctrine must be confirmed by the sense of the letter of the Word.

(AE 356)

Apocalypse Explained 356 goes on to explain these five points in more detail, and are certainly worth reading. So I encourage you to look this passage us and read it.


True Wisdom

April 2, 2019 § Leave a comment

“…true wisdom is to see what is conducive to anyone’s life to eternity, and to determine oneself according to that, which is done when man not only knows these things and perceives them with his understanding, but also wills and does them…” (AE 338)

The Lord’s Perpetual Presence

March 10, 2019 § Leave a comment

There are two things that are in man’s freedom by reason of the perpetual presence of the Lord, and His perpetual desire to conjoin Himself with man. The first thing therefrom in man’s freedom is that he has the means and faculty to think well about the Lord and the neighbor; for everyone is able to think well or ill about the Lord and the neighbor; if he thinks well the door is opened, if ill it is shut. To think well about the Lord and the neighbor is not from man himself and from what is his own [ejus proprio], but from the Lord, who is perpetually present and by His perpetual presence gives man that means and faculty; but to think ill about the Lord and the neighbor is from man himself and from what is his own [ejus proprio]. The other thing which is in man’s freedom by reason of the perpetual presence of the Lord with him, and the Lord’s perpetual desire to conjoin Himself with man, is man’s ability to abstain from evils; and so far as he does abstain the Lord opens the door and enters; for the Lord is unable to open and enter so long as evils are in man’s thought and will, since these block the way and close it up. Moreover, it has been granted to man by the Lord to know the evils of the thought and will, as also the truths by which evils are to be dispersed; for the Word is given wherein these things are disclosed.

(Apocalypse Explained, paragraph 248.2)

Truths from the Word vs from other sources.

February 25, 2019 § Leave a comment

If you are only going to do a little reading, what should you read?

That depends, of course, on what you want. If you goal is to become spiritual, the choice of what to read is very important.

It was said above, that man becomes spiritual by means of the knowledges of truth and good from the Word applied to the uses of life. Why men become spiritual by means of knowledges from the Word, and not by means of other knowledges, shall now be told. All things that are in the Word are Divine, and they are Divine for the reason that they have in them a spiritual sense, and by that sense communicate with heaven and with the angels there. When, therefore, man has knowledges from the Word and applies them to life, then through these he has communication with heaven and by that communication becomes spiritual; for man becomes spiritual by his being in like or in corresponding truths with the angels of heaven. It is said in “corresponding” truths, because each and all things in the sense of the letter of the Word are correspondences, for they correspond to the truths that angels have. But the knowledges derived from other books, which set forth and by various means establish the doctrines of the church, do not effect communication with heaven except by the knowledges from the Word they contain; such knowledges do give communication if they are rightly understood and are applied to life, and not to faith alone. Everyone can see that this is so from this, that the Word in itself is Divine, and what is Divine in itself can become Divine with man by his applying it to life. “Becoming Divine with man” means that the Lord can have His abode with man (John 14:23), thus dwelling with him in what is His own (that the Lord dwells in His own with man and angel, and not in what is their own [proprio illorum], see in the work on Heaven and Hell 12). The Lord dwells in His own when He dwells in those things with man that are from the Word, for the Lord is the Word (John 1:1214); and the words that He spoke, that is, that are in the Word:

Are spirit and life (John 6:636812:50).

(AE 195.4)

Honor, Gain, and Reputation

January 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

We are frequently taught in the Heavenly Doctrines that the fear of the loss of honor, gain, and reputation act as an external restraint upon the evil. This fear of loss prevents them from doing malicious action they would otherwise delight in doing. Here are a couple examples of those teachings:

For with those who are in no charity, there is continual contempt for others, or continual derision, and on every occasion a publishing of their errors. That they do not act openly, is solely owing to the restraining influence of external bonds, namely, fear of the law, of loss of life, of honor, of gain, and of reputation, on their account; and this is why they inwardly cherish such things, while outwardly they pretend friendship. (AC 1088)

Another characteristic of self-love is that in so far as its restraints are relaxed, so far, that is, as external bonds are removed – fear of the law and legal penalties, fear of losing one’s reputation, honours, profit, office and life – so far does it rush headlong, until it not only wants to rule over the whole world, but even heaven, in fact, God Himself. (TCR 400.7)

In our modern western culture it can be hard to see how the loss of honor and reputation acts as a restraint against the evil. Especially since we are often encourage to ignore what others think and to do our own thing. But in the eighteenth century, when the Heavenly Doctrines were given to us by the Lord, honor and reputation were more important to people then they are now.

The regard for honor and reputation is illustrated in Jeffrey A. Engels remarks about George Washington in his chapter The Constitutionin the book Impeachment: An American History by Jeffrey A. Engels, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker (Modern Libarary © 2018, P. 19)

More than simply retired, he perceived little to be gained from further participating in national politics and much to lose. His personal stock could hardly go higher. ‘”Washington, the Saviour of His Country,” The Connecticut Journal had already dubbed him.In New York they wondered “Who is more WORTHY OUR LOVE AND ESTEEM, then the GUARDIAN and SAVIOUR his Country!” Yale Colleges president declared “o WASHINGTON! How do I love thy name…upheld and protected by the Omnipotent, by the Lord of Hosts.” In Virginia and Maryland festivals already marked his birthday. He was the closest thing to a unifying national figurehead they had. “Equally renowned with the most celebrated Worthies of Antiquity,” one typical letter to Mount Vernon called him, “unrivaled by any Patriot, or Hero, of the present age & whose memory will be perpetuated thro’ the Loud Trump of Fame.”

He had nowhere to go but down, which was no trifling matter given how much Washing cared for his reputation, which he termed in 1785 “the principle which is laudable in my conduct.” That sentiment deserves unpacking to be fully appreciated. He’d had been carefully cultivating his public image his entire life, and one might easily say it was his life’s work. As historian Gordon Wood sagely noted, “in modern eyes Washington’s concern for his reputation is embarrassing; it seems obsessive and egotistical.” And yet, “his contemporaries understood. All gentlemen tried scrupulously to guard their reputations, which is what they meant by their honor.”Fellow historian Joanne Freeman put it this way: “A man without honor,” during this period was, “no man at all.” Yet, “a man of honor was defined by the respect he received in public,” for this most precious commodity to elite gentlemen like Washington “did not exist unless bestowed by others.”

Honor consequently colored his every decision, and its pursuit his every act, however monumental or trifling. “How would this matter be viewed by the eye of the world,” he said of one of one decision, though the question permeated his thinking, and what would be the opinion of it?”

This description of George Washington (1732-1799) helps us to better understand what the Heavenly Doctrines (1749-1771) mean when they speak of the fear of the loss of honor, gain, and reputation.

Speaking to the Unconscious

January 3, 2019 § 2 Comments

People often wonder when they are visiting someone in the hospital if worth talking to someone who is unconscious or in a coma. I think it is worth talking to them. They may not be able to respond, but that does not mean that they are not hearing.

The following passage while not proving that, is I think suggestive:

 I have heard from heaven that some who die, while they are lying upon the bier before they have been resuscitated, think even in their cold body, and do not know but that they are still alive, except that they are unable to move a particle of matter belonging to the body. (HH 433)

Unselfish Love of the World

December 10, 2018 § Leave a comment

Frequently in the Heavenly Doctrines we are taught that love to the Lord and love for the neighbor are good loves and that love of self and love of the world are evil loves. In the passage below, I came across a phrase that struck me: “selfish love of the world.”

The implications of all this are that everything which comes from the Lord is good and true; but anything good or true produced by man in imitation of it is neither good nor true. The reason for this is that everything good and true has life within it by virtue of the end in view. An end that begins in man is entirely selfish; but that which is good and true, coming from the Lord, exists for the sake of goodness and truth themselves as ends in view, and so for the Lord’s sake, because the Lord is the source of everything good and true. With man the end in view is himself, since it constitutes his will and his love; for what a person loves and wills he has as his end in view. All the love in a person that originates in himself is self-love and a selfish love of the world; but the love in a person that originates in the Lord is love towards the neighbour and love to God. The difference between the two kinds of love is as great as that between hell and heaven. Furthermore self-love and a selfish love of the world reign in hell and constitute hell, whereas love towards the neighbour and love to the Lord reign in heaven and constitute heaven. (AC 1084.2)

The use of “selfish” to qualify the love of the world implies that there can be other qualifers. For example, if there is a “selfish” love of the world there can be an “unselfish” love of the world?

We know, however, from TCR 403 goodness or evilness of a love depends upon its subordination to other loves?

Something must first be said about how the three universal loves – love of heaven, love of the world and self-love – are subordinated one to another. Then I shall discuss the way one is introduced into another and exerts an effect upon it; and finally how a person’s state depends upon this subordination. The three loves are related like the three regions of the body; the highest is the head, the middle one is the chest and belly, the third the knees, feet and soles of the feet. When the love of heaven makes up the head, the love of the world the chest and belly, and self-love the feet and soles, then a person is in the perfect state for which he was created, since then the two lower loves are at the service of the highest, just as the body and all its parts are at the service of the head. So when the love of heaven makes up the head, this then exerts its influence on the love of the world, which is chiefly the love of wealth, and employs wealth in order to perform services; and through the medium of the love of the world it influences self-love, which is chiefly the love of honours and employs these in order to perform services. Thus the influence each of these loves exerts on another makes all these three loves aim at being of service.

The Heavenly Doctrines do explain when the love of self can be unselfiwh:

This commonly stated idea that everyone is a neighbour to himself and has to look after himself first should be understood in the following way. Everyone must first provide himself withthe necessities of life – with food, clothing, accommodation, and many other things which he needs for life in the local community where he is. He must provide them not only for himself but also for his dependents; and notonly for the present but for the future also. Unless everyone acquires the necessities of life for himself he is in no condition to exercise charity towards the neighbour, since he himself is in want of everything. (AC 6934)

The end in view makes plain the way in which everyone ought to be a neighbour to himself and look after himself first. If his end is to become richer than others solely for the sakeof possessing riches, indulging in pleasures, holding important positions, and the like, it is bad. Therefore anyone who supposes, because he is ruled by that kind of end, that he is being a neighbour to himself is harminghimself for evermore. But if his end is to acquire wealth in order to provide the necessities of life for himself and his dependents and so be in a condition to do good in the ways that teachings about charity command, heis looking after himself for evermore. His actual end in view makes a person what he is, since that end constitutes his love; for everyone has as his end in view that which he loves. (AC 6935) (See also AE 1193.3; HD 97; TCR 406)

So there are four loves:

  • Love to the Lord (highest)
  • Love to the Neighbor (2nd highest)
  • Love of the World (2nd lowest)
  • and Love of Self (lowest)

When these four loves are properly subordinated to each other, all is good. But when a lower love comes to dominate over a higher love, then a person comes into evil.