How little we know about regeneration
May 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
AC 5398 This chapter and the ones that follow it concerning Jacob’s sons and Joseph deal in the internal sense with the regeneration of the natural so far as the truths and goods of the Church are concerned – such regeneration being effected not by means of factual knowledge but by an influx from the Divine. Those who belong to the Church at the present day know so little about regeneration as to know virtually nothing at all about it. They do not even know that regeneration is a process that takes place throughout the whole course of the life of someone who is being regenerated and continues in the next life. Nor do they know that the arcana of regeneration are so countless that hardly the smallest fraction can be known even by angels, or that those which angels do know are what constitute the intelligence and wisdom they possess. Those belonging to the Church at the present day know so little about regeneration because they talk so much about the forgiveness of sins and justification, believing that sins can be forgiven instantaneously. Some believe that sins are washed away like dirt from the body by the use of water, and that a person is justified or made righteous by means of faith alone, that is, by means of trust of only a moment’s duration. The reason people within the Church believe the way they do is that they do not know what sin or evil is. If they did possess such knowledge they would know that no one’s sins can by any means at all be washed away, but that these are separated or cast away to the sides to prevent them from rising up, when the Lord maintains the presence of good within that person. They would also know that this cannot be accomplished unless evil is being cast out all the time, which is done by means that are numerically without limit and for the most part beyond description.
 In the next life people who have brought with them the notion that a person is made righteous by faith in an instant and completely cleansed from sins are dumbfounded when they learn that regeneration is effected by means that are numerically without limit and beyond description. They laugh at their own ignorance, which they also call madness, that is, at the ideas they held to in the world regarding instantaneous forgiveness of sins and justification. Sometimes they are told that the Lord forgives the sins of everyone who in his heart desires forgiveness; but this does not mean that they are separated from the devil’s crew, to whom they are bound through the evils which go along with the life which they bring with them in its entirety. After this they learn from experience that being separated from the hells is being separated from one’s sins, and that this cannot possibly be accomplished except by thousands of ways known to the Lord alone, a process which, if you can believe it, continues for ever one stage after another. For the human being is so full of evil that he cannot ever be released from even one sin. But solely by the Lord’s mercy, if he will accept that mercy, he is withheld from sin and maintained in good.
There are a number of things about this passage that struck me when I read it this morning:
First, that the arcana or secrets of regeneration are so many that even the angels know smallest fraction of them.
Second, it tells us the importance of knowing what sin or evil is.
Third, that sins must be cast out all the time.
Fifth, that the means by which the Lord regenerates us are numerically without limit and for the most part describable.
Sixth, that being separated from our sins, is really being separated from hell.
Seventh, that regeneration is a constant process, continuing forever from one stage to another.
And eighth, that we are so full of evil that we cannot even be released from one sin, except by means of the Lord’s mercy.
I find these teachings comforting. When I was younger, I certainly professed that I was evil, but the profession was more intellectual than heartfelt. With age, and hopefully the Lord’s miraculous workings, I have come to see – in a much more heartfelt way – that truly I am nothing but evil. This acknowledgement is not depressing as one’s own proprium (what we have of ourselves, apart from the Lord) would suppose. It is only when we can truly acknowledge this, that we can let the Lord into our lives, and let Him do His work.
May 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
We all know that to be regenerated by the Lord, we must undergo temptations. We have all read about how severe and terrible the struggle between good and evil, between truth and falsity can be in states of temptation.
If you are like me, you may look back at your life and wonder, “Have I ever really been in a state of temptation? Surely I have not ever experienced this conflict between good and evil, truth and falsity which the Heavenly Doctrines describe so vividly. And if I have not undergone temptation, I can not be regenerated, and I can not be saved.”
This passage from the Arcana Celestia is comforting.
 As regards temptations, they take place when the man is in the act of regeneration; for no one can be regenerated unless he undergoes temptations, and they then arise from evil spirits who are about him. For the man is then let into the state of evil in which he is, that is, in which is that very [life] which is his own; and when he comes into this state, evil or infernal spirits encompass him, and when they perceive that he is inwardly protected by angels, the evil spirits excite the falsities which he has thought, and the evils which he has done, but the angels defend him from within. It is this combat which is perceived in the man as temptation, but so obscurely that he scarcely knows otherwise than that it is merely an anxiety; for man-especially if he believes nothing about influx-is in a state that is wholly obscure, and he perceives scarcely a thousandth part of the things about which the evil spirits and angels are contending. And yet the battle is then being fought for the man and his eternal salvation, and it is fought from the man himself; for they fight from those things which are in man, and concerning them. That this is the case has been given me to know with the utmost certainty. I have heard the combat, I have perceived the influx, I have seen the spirits and angels, and at the time and afterward have conversed with them on the subject.
 As before said, temptations take place chiefly at the time when the man is becoming spiritual; for he then apprehends spiritually the truths of doctrine. The man is often unaware of this, but still the angels with him see in his natural things the spiritual; for his interiors are then open toward heaven. For this reason also the man who has been regenerated is among angels after his life in the world, and there both sees and perceives the spiritual things which before appeared to him as natural. When therefore a man has come into such a state, then in temptation, when assaulted by evil spirits, he can be defended by angels, who then have a plane into which they can operate; for they flow into what is spiritual with him, and through this into what is natural. (AC 5036)
I find it comforting to know that I may have experience temptation in my life, and trusting in the Lord, may not have realized it. I hope, and pray, that this has been so, but I cannot with certainty claim that it is so.
My only hope in salvation is to strive to examine my interior thoughts and affections, confess my evils to the Lord, and shun them as sins against Him. And then acknowledge that any good and truth I do or have is from the Lord.