Apocalypse Explained (Tansley) n. 182

Previous Number Next Number Next Translation See Latin 

182. (v. 1) And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write. That this signifies those whose life is moral, but not spiritual, because they make light of the knowledges (cognitiones) of spiritual things, and thence of wisdom and intelligence, is evident from what is written to the angel of this church, viewed in the internal or spiritual sense; from which it is evident that the subject here treated of is those whose life is such because they make light of the knowledges (cognitiones) of spiritual things, and thence of intelligence and wisdom. But before unfolding the spiritual sense of the things that follow, it must be explained and shown what moral life and spiritual life are, also what moral from spiritual life is, and what moral life without spiritual. [2] Moral life is to act well, sincerely, and justly, in the discharge of the various duties and occupations of life; in a word, it is the life which is seen by men, because lived amongst them. But this life has a two-fold origin, either the love of self and of the world, or love to God and love towards the neighbour. Moral life from the love of self and the world is not in itself moral life, although it appears to be such; for such a man acts well, sincerely and justly for the sake of himself and the world only, and to him, what is good, sincere and just, serve but as means to an end, that is, either that he may be raised above others and rule over them, or that he may gain wealth. He thinks in this way in his spirit, or when he is by himself in private; but he dare not openly avow what he thus thinks, because it would destroy the esteem which others have of him, and thus annul the means by which he desires to attain his ends.

From these considerations it is evident, that in the moral life of such a man there lurks nothing else but the desire of obtaining all things in preference to others, thus a desire that all others may serve him, or that he may possess their goods: it is evident from this that his moral life is not moral in itself; for if he obtained what he aimed at, he would enslave others and deprive them of their goods. And because all means savour of the end, and are, in their essence, such as are their ends, on which account they are also called intermediate ends, therefore such a life, regarded in itself, is nothing but craftiness and fraud. And this is clearly evident when those external bonds that unite society are loosened, as is the case with persons of this description when they are engaged in law-suits against their fellow citizens; they then desire nothing more than to pervert right, and to gain the favour of the judge or the grace of the king, and this secretly, in order that they may deprive others of their possessions; and when they succeed they are filled with inward delight. The same is still more evident in the conduct of kings who regard honour in wars and victories, the chief delight of their hearts being to subjugate provinces and kingdoms, and, where resistance is made, to despoil the subjugated of all their goods, and also of their life; this, in most instances, is the delight of those who go out to war.

The nature of the moral life treated of above is still more manifest in all such persons when they become spirits, which takes place immediately after the death of the body, when, because they think and act from their spirit, they rush into every kind of wickedness according to their love, however morally they may, in appearance, have lived in the world. [3] But spiritual life is altogether of another quality, because it has a different origin, for it springs from love to God and love towards the neighbour; and therefore the moral life of those who are spiritual is also different, and is truly moral; for these, when they think in their spirit, which is the case when they are in private, do not think from self and the world but from the Lord and heaven; for the interiors of their mind, that is, of their thought and will, are actually raised up by the Lord into heaven, and are there conjoined to Him; thus the Lord flows-in into their thoughts, intentions and ends, and rules them, and withdraws them from their proprium, which is entirely derived from the love of self and of the world. The moral life of such persons is, in appearance, similar to that of those mentioned above, but still it is spiritual, for it has a spiritual origin, being only the effect of spiritual life, which is the efficient cause, and thus the origin of it; for they act well, sincerely and justly towards their fellow citizens from the fear of God and the love of the neighbour, in which the Lord keeps their minds and spirits; when, therefore, they become spirits, as is the case when their bodies die, they think and act intelligently and wisely, and are raised up into heaven. Of these it may be said, that all the good of love and all the truth of faith flow into them out of heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord; but this cannot be said of those of whom we have spoken above, for their good is not the good of heaven, nor is their truth the truth of heaven, but it is the delight of the lusts of the flesh which they call good, and the falsity therefrom which they call truth, which flow into them from self and from the world. From these considerations the nature of moral life from spiritual life, and of moral life without spiritual can be known, that is, that moral life from spiritual life is truly moral life, which may be said to be spiritual, because its cause and origin is therefrom; but that moral life without spiritual life is not moral life, and may be said to be infernal, for so far as the love of self and of the world reigns in it, so far it is fraudulent and hypocritical.

[4] From what has been now said, a conclusion may be formed as to what the quality of a holy external is, by which is meant worship in churches, prayers and the gestures at the time, among those who are in the love of self and of the world, and yet apparently lead a moral life, namely, that nothing of those things is raised up to heaven and heard there, but that they flow forth from some thought of the external or natural man, and thus from their mouth into the world; for the interior thoughts of their spirit are full of craftiness and fraud against their neighbour, and yet elevation into heaven is always effected by means of the interiors. And moreover their worship in churches, and their prayers and gestures at such time, are either from habit and familiarity from infancy, or from a belief that such ,external things are all that is necessary to salvation, or from there being nothing for them to do on the feast days at home or out of doors, or from the fear of being thought by their fellows to be wanting in piety.

But the worship of those who live a moral life from a spiritual origin is altogether different, for it is truly the worship of God, because their prayers are raised up to heaven, and are there heard, for the Lord receives their prayers through heaven. (More may be seen upon these subjects in the work, Heaven and Hell, n. 468, 484, 529, 530-534; and in the explanation above, n. 107.) These things are here premised, because the subject treated of in what is written to the angel of this church is those whose life is moral but not spiritual, because they lightly esteem the knowledges (cognitiones) of spiritual things.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

© 2000-2001 The Academy of the New Church