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.

Righteousness and Merit

December 3, 2018 § Leave a comment

AC 9715:  

What righteousness and merit are, which are the Lord’s alone, must be stated here and now. People think that the Lord earned merit and righteousness because He fulfilled all the requirements of the law and by His passion on the Cross saved the human race. But this is not what anyone should understand in the Word by the Lord’s merit and righteousness. Rather they should understand by His merit and righteousness that He fought alone against all the hells and overcame them, and in so doing He restored to order everything in the hells and at the same time everything in the heavens. For each person has spirits from hell present with him, and angels from heaven; without them a person cannot lead any life at all. Unless the hells had been overcome by the Lord and the heavens restored to order no one could ever have been saved. 

[2] Salvation could not have been won except through His Human, that is to say, except through conflicts with the hells, fought from His Human. And since the Lord did this by His own power, thus did it alone, to the Lord alone belong merit and righteousness. And for the same reason it is He alone who still conquers the hells with a person; for He who conquers them once conquers them for evermore. No one therefore has any merit or righteousness whatever; yet the Lord’s merit and righteousness are his when he acknowledges that none is attributable to himself but all to the Lord. So it is that the Lord alone regenerates a person; for regenerating a person involves driving the hells away from him, consequently the evils and falsities which come from the hells, and implanting heaven in place of them, that is, forms of the good of love and the truths of faith since these constitute heaven. Through the conflicts engaged in repeatedly with the hells the Lord also glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine; for even as a person is regenerated by means of conflicts, which are temptations, so the Lord was glorified by means of conflicts, which were temptations. The glorification of the Lord’s Human by His own power therefore is also merit and righteousness; for through this the person is saved because through it the Lord holds all the hells in subjection for evermore. 

Divine Love

November 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

‘For My name is in the middle of him’ means that from Him comes all the good of love and truth of faith. This is clear from the meaning of ‘the name of Jehovah’ as everything in its entirety by which God is worshipped, . . . and so all the good of love and truth of faith. . . ; and from the meaning of ‘in the middle of him’ as the fact that they exist within Him, and therefore also come from Him. The good of love is such that what exists within it exists also in others from itself; for it shares what is its own. The essential characteristic of love is to give its whole self up willingly to others. And since it does so from the Divine Himself through His Divine Human, and then from the Divine Human, therefore also the Lord is called, in respect of His Divine Human, ‘the name of Jehovah’. . . (AC 9310) 

Why Repentance is painful

November 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

I must admit that I was a bit surprised to read that repentance was painful. It makes sense. Who wants to give up something they enjoy. AC 9077 tells us:

‘He shall pay for the redemption of his [soul]’ means painful experiences of repentance. This is clear from the meaning of ‘redeeming’ as giving something in place of it, in order that it may be delivered. ‘Redemption’ has various meanings. . . The reason why ‘the redeeming of the soul’ here means painful experiences of repentance is that the subject is deliverance from damnation. But a person cannot be delivered from damnation except through the removal of evil, and the removal of evil cannot be accomplished except through active repentance, which involves a change in the life one leads; and these things are accomplished through spiritual temptations, which are the painful experiences of repentance.


Thunder and Lightening

October 12, 2018 § Leave a comment

I found the following passage interesting:

 ‘That there were voices and lightnings’ means a Divine state in which revelation took place. This is clear from the meaning of ‘voices’, which are the sounds made by claps of thunder, as God’s truths; and from the meaning of ‘lightnings’ as the radiance and brilliance which those truths possess, for God’s truths are made brilliant and radiant by the fiery brightness of light that shines from the sun of heaven. This is why ‘voices and lightnings’ means a Divine state in which revelation takes place, a Divine state being meant by the fact that they come down out of the sky, and revelation by the fact that ‘voices’ and ‘lightnings’ mean God’s truths. For the meaning of ‘voices’, which are the products of lightning from the sky, as God’s truths,See AC 7573; and the fact that ‘lightnings’ means brilliant flashes from them which strike a person’s inward eye, enlightening those guided by truth derived from good and bewildering those steeped in falsity arising from evil . . . (AC 8813)

This passage makes me look at thunder storms in a whole new light. Thunder and lightening can be be terrifying, especially if it is close to you or is unexpected. Divine Revelation can also be be terrifying. It can reveal things about you that you don’t like or want to hear and see.

At the same time, thunder and lightening can be fascinating. Who has not watched the intricate paths that lightening travels with fascination. Perhaps this shows how the Lord adapts His truths to our understanding and just how various that is.

Lightening can be damaging. So can Divine Truth if a person is going to profane it.

While I am reflecting on correspondences let me shift the topic. I have been thinking about the adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. A horse corresponds to the understanding, water to truth, drinking to acceptance. So you can lead a person’s understanding to the truth, but you can’t make him accept it.