First Commandment

[This is taken from Emanuel Swedenborg's Spiritual Life and the Word of God.]


"Thou shalt not make to thee other gods” includes not loving self and the world above all things; for that which one loves above all things is his god.  There are two directly opposite loves, love of self and love to God, also love of the world and love of heaven.  He who loves himself loves his own (proprium); and as a man’s own (proprium) is nothing but evil he also loves evil in its whole complex; and he who loves evil hates good, and thus hates God.  He who loves himself above all things sinks his affections and thoughts in the body, and thus in his own (proprium), and from this he cannot be raised up by the Lord; and when one is sunk in the body and in his own (proprium) he is in corporeal ideas and in pleasures that pertain solely to the body, and thus in thick darkness in respect to higher things; while he who is raised up by the Lord is in light.  He who is not in the light of heaven but in thick darkness, since he sees nothing of God, denies God and acknowledges as god either nature or some man, or some idol, and even aspires to be himself worshipped as a god.  From this it follows that he who loves self above all things worships other gods.

The same is true, but in a less degree, of one who loves the world; for there cannot be so great a love of the world as of one’s own (proprium); therefore the world is loved because of one’s own and for the sake of one’s own, because it is serviceable to it.  Love of self means especially the love of ruling over others from a mere delight in ruling and for the sake of eminence, and not from a delight in uses and for the sake of public good; while love of the world means especially a love of possessing goods in the world from a mere delight in possession and for the sake of riches, and not from a delight in uses from these and for the sake of the consequent good.  These loves are both of them without limit, and rush on, so far as scope is given, to infinity. (A.E., n.  950.)

It is not believed in the world that the love of ruling from a mere delight in ruling, and the love of possessing goods from a mere delight in possession, and not from delight in uses, conceal in themselves all evils, and also a contempt for and rejection of all things pertaining to heaven and the church; and for the reason that man is stirred up by the love of self and love of the world to right doing in respect to the church, to the country, to society, and to the neighbor, by making good deeds honorable and looking for reward.  Therefore this love is called by many the fire of life, and the incitement to great things.

But it is to be noted that so far as these two loves give uses the first place and self the second they are good, while so far as they give self the first place and uses the second they are evil, since man then does all things for the sake of self and consequently from self, and thus in every least thing he does there is self and what is his own (proprium), which regarded in itself is nothing but evil. But to give uses the first place and self the second is to do good for the sake of the church, the country, society, and the neighbor; and the goods that man does to these for the sake of these are not from man but from the Lord.  The difference between these two is like the difference between heaven and hell.  Man does not know that there is such a difference, because from birth and thus from nature he is in these loves, and because the delight of these loves continually flatters and pleases him.

But let him consider that a love of ruling from delight in ruling, and not from a delight in uses, is wholly devilish; and such a man may be called an atheist; for so far as he is in that love he does not in his heart believe in the existence of God, and to the same extent he derides in his heart all things of the church, and he even hates and pursues with hatred all who acknowledge God, and especially those who acknowledge the Lord.  The very delight of the life of such is to do evil and to commit wicked and infamous deeds of every kind.  In a word, they are very devils.

This a man does not know so long as he lives in the world: but he will know that it is so when he comes into the spiritual world, as he does immediately after death.  Hell is full of such, where instead of having dominion they are in servitude.

Moreover, when they are looked at in the light of heaven they appear inverted, with the head downward and the feet upward, since they gave rule the first place and uses the second; and that which is in the first place is the head, and that which is in the second is the feet; and that which is the head is loved, but that which is the feet is despised.  (A.E., n. 951.)

He who supposes that he acknowledges and believes that there is a God before he abstains from the evils forbidden in the Decalogue, especially from the love of ruling from a delight in ruling, and from the love of possessing the goods of the world from a delight in possession, and not from delight in uses, is mistaken.  Let a man confirm himself as fully as he can, from the Word, from preachings, from books, and from the light of reason, that there is a God, and thus be persuaded that he believes, yet he does not believe unless the evils that spring from love of self and of the world have been removed.  The reason is that evils and their delights block up the way, and shut out and repel goods and their delights from heaven, and prevent their establishment. And until heaven is established there is only a faith of the lips, which in itself is no faith, and there is no faith of the heart, which is real faith.  A faith of the lips is faith in externals, a faith of the heart is faith in internals; and if the internals are crowded with evils of every kind, when the externals are taken away (as they are with every man after death), man rejects from them even the faith that there is a God.  (A.E., n. 952.)

So far as a man resists his own two loves, which are the love of ruling from the mere delight in rule and the love of possessing the goods of the world from the mere delight in possession, thus so far as he shuns as sins the evils forbidden in the Decalogue, so far there flows in through heaven from the Lord, that there is a God, who is the Creator and Preserver of the universe, and even that God is one.  This then flows in for the reason that when evils have been removed heaven is opened, and when heaven is opened man no longer thinks from self but from the Lord through heaven; and that there is a God and that God is one is the universal principle in heaven which comprises all things.  That from influx alone man knows and as it were sees that God is one, is evident from the common confession of all nations, and from a repugnance to think that there are many gods.

Man’s interior thought, which is the thought of his spirit, is either from hell or from heaven; it is from hell before evils have been removed, but from heaven when they have been removed.  When this thought is from hell man sees no otherwise than that nature is god, and that the inmost of nature is what is called the Divine.  When such a man after death becomes a spirit he calls anyone a god who is especially powerful; and also himself strives for power that he may be called a god.  All the evil have such madness lurking inwardly in their spirit.  But when a man thinks from heaven, as he does when evils have been removed, he sees from the light in heaven that there is a God and that He is one.  Seeing from light out of heaven is what is meant by influx.  (A.E., n. 954.)

When a man shuns and turns away from evils because they are sins he not only sees from the light of heaven that there is a God and the God is one, but also that God is a Man.  For he wishes to see his God, and he is incapable of seeing Him otherwise than as a Man.  Thus did the ancients before Abraham and after him see God; thus do the nations in lands outside the church see God from an interior perception, especially those who are interiorly wise although not from knowledges; thus do all little children and youths and simple well-disposed adults see God; and thus do the inhabitants of all earths see God; for they declare that what is invisible, since it does not come into the thought, does not come into faith.  The reason of this is that the man who shuns and turns away from evils as sins thinks from heaven; and the whole heaven, and everyone there, has no other idea of God than that He is a Man; nor can he have any other idea, since the whole heaven is a man in the largest form, and the Divine that goes forth from the Lord is what makes heaven; consequently to think otherwise of God than according to that Divine form, which is the human form, is impossible to angles, since angelic thoughts pervade heaven.

(That the whole heaven in the complex answers to a single man may be seen in the work on Heaven and Hell, n. 51-86; and that the angels think according to the form of heaven, n. 200-212.)

This idea of God flows in from heaven into all in the world, and has its seat in their spirit; but it seems to be rooted out in those in the church who are in intelligence from what is their own (proprium), indeed so rooted out as to be no longer a possible idea; and this for the reason that they think of God from space.  But when these become spirits they think otherwise, as has been made evident to me by much experience.  For in the spiritual world an indeterminate idea of God is no idea of Him; consequently the idea there is determined to someone who has his seat either on high or elsewhere, and who gives answers.

From a general influx which is from the spiritual world men have received ideas of God as a Man variously according to the state of perception; and for this reason the triune God is with us called Persons; and in paintings in churches God the Father is represented as a man, the Ancient of Days. It is also from a general influx that men, both living and dead, who are called saints, are adored as gods by the common people in Christian Gentilism, and their sculptured images are esteemed.  The same is true of many nations elsewhere, of the ancient peoples in Greece, in Rome, and in Asia, who had many gods, all of whom were regarded by them as men.  This has been said to make known that there is an intuition, namely, in man’s spirit, to see God as a man.  That is called an intuition which is from general influx. (A.E., n. 955.)

As man from a general influx out of heaven sees in his spirit that God is a Man, it follows that those who are of the church where the Word is, if they shun and turn away from evils as sins, see, from the light of heaven in which they then are, the Divine in the Lord’s Human, and the trine in Him, and Himself to be the God of heaven and earth.  But those who by intelligence from what is their own (proprium) have destroyed in themselves the idea of God as a Man are unable to see this; neither do they see from the trinity that is in their thought that God is one; they call Him one with the lips only.  But those who have not been purified from evils, and therefore are not in the light of heaven, do not in their spirit see the Lord to be the God of heaven and earth; but in place of the Lord some other being is acknowledged; by some of these someone whom they believe to be God the Father; by others someone whom they call God because he is especially powerful; by others some devil whom they fear because he can bring evil upon them; by others Nature, as in the world; and by others no God at all.  It is said in their spirit, because they are such after death when they become spirits; therefore what lay concealed in their spirit in the world then becomes manifest.  But all who are in heaven acknowledge the Lord only, since the whole heaven is from the Divine that goes forth from Him, and answers to Him as a Man; and for this reason no one can enter heaven unless he is in the Lord, for he enters into the Lord when he enters into heaven.  If others enter they lose their mind and fall backward.  (A.E., n. 956.)

The idea of God is the chief of all ideas; for such as this idea is such is man’s communication with heaven and his conjunction with the Lord, and such is his enlightenment, his affection for truth and good, his perception, intelligence, and wisdom; for these are not from man but from the Lord according to conjunction with Him.  The idea of God is the idea of the Lord and His Divine, for no other is God of heaven and God of earth, as He Himself teaches in Matthew:

“Authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth” (xxviii. 18).

But the idea of the Lord is more or less full and more or less clear; it is full in the inmost heaven, less full in the middle, and still less full in the outmost heaven; therefore those who are in the inmost heaven are in wisdom, those who are in the middle in intelligence, and those who are in the outmost in knowledge.  The idea is clear in the angels who are at the center of the societies of heaven; and less clear in those who are round about, according to the degrees of distance from the center.

All in the heavens have places allotted them according to the fullness and clearness of their idea of the Lord, and they are in correspondent wisdom and in correspondent felicity.  All those who have no idea of the Lord as Divine, like the Socinians and Arians, are under the heavens, and are unhappy.  Those who have a twofold idea, namely, of an invisible God and of a visible God in a human form, also have their place under the heavens, and are not received until they acknowledge one God, and Him visible.  Some in the place of a visible God see as it were something aerial, and this because God is called a spirit.  If this idea is not changed in them into the idea of a Man, thus of the Lord, they are not accepted.  But those who have an idea of God as the inmost of nature are rejected, because they cannot help falling into the idea of nature as being God. All nations that have believed in one God, and have had an idea of Him as a Man, are received by the Lord.  From all this it can be seen who those are that worship God Himself and who those are that worship other gods, thus who live according to the first commandment of the Decalogue and who do not.  (A.E., n. 957.)






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