Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spiritual and material virtue, part II

People behave honestly and fairly toward their colleagues in a similar outward form when they are acting from a love of what is honest and fair. Some of them do it because of the truth of faith, or obedience, because it is enjoined in the Word. Some of them do it for the sake of the goodness of faith or conscience, because they are moved by religious feeling. Some of them do it out of the good of thoughtfulness toward their neighbor, because one’s neighbor’s welfare is to be valued. Some of them do it out of the goodness of love for the Lord, because what is good should be done for its own sake; so too what is honest and fair should be done for the sake of honesty and fairness. They love these qualities because they come from the Lord, and because the divine nature that emanates from the Lord is within them. So if we see them in their true essence, they are divine. 

The deeds or works of these people are inwardly good, so they are outwardly good as well; for as already noted, the nature of deeds and works is entirely determined by the nature of the thought and intent from which they stem, and apart from such thought and intent they are not deeds and works but only lifeless motions.

Emmanuel SwedenborgHeaven and Hell, pg. 513-514 (new century edition)

 There is nothing greater than spiritual virtue, and yet we have forgotten it. Every news report we read is a reminder of this. Now the murderers claim they murder in the name of spiritual virtue; things cannot sink any lower.

There is a higher good. Relativists who claim there is no definite good and evil are fools; all of them should be sent to the site of concentration camps in Germany and stand on that ground to see what this kind of thinking leads to. If they have any inner sense of being at all, they will instantly know the difference between good and evil: at Bergen-Belsen, at Auschwitz, it is stamped into the very earth itself. These are not abstractions.

The higher good is absolute; and the highest good is the absolute. It's interesting that Swedenborg says anything done apart from the thought and intention of the higher good is not a deed or a work, but a lifeless motion. What, we might ask ourselves, is the commonplace object around us that indulges in lifeless motions? Why — it's a machine! And this is exactly how Gurdjieff described human beings who do not struggle for conscious Being. We are machines.

What separates Being from non-Being, the human being from the machine, is, according to Swedenborg, the nature of our intention and thought: and this is exactly what Gurdjieff said. So the two differed not a whit: a human being is a machine, and only through deeds and intention — conscious labor and suffering —  can a person become anything else.

You will notice that Swedenborg's description of those who act on the half of the higher act on behalf of principles, not things; that is, their understanding derives not from the material or natural world, but from the world of understandings which inwardly forms the material and natural world. In the sciences, these higher principles which inwardly form all of creation are called natural laws; and yet they are not "natural" at all, since they derive from a set of agencies which are heavenly in nature—they come from a higher level.

These understandings, or laws, are pure and wise, because they emanate from the Lord; and adherence to an abiding love for these emanations, these higher ideas, is the essential duty of three-brained Beings.


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