Evils Are Permitted for a Purpose

An excerpt from Divine Providence by Emanuel Swedenborg, sections #275–8

 

If we were born loving, as we were when we were created, we would not be prone to any evil. We would not even know what evil is, because if we have not been drawn to evil and therefore are not inclined to evil, there is no way we can know what it is. If we were told that one thing or another was evil, we would not believe that it was possible. This is the state of innocence that Adam and his wife Eve were in; the nakedness that did not embarrass them portrayed that state. Familiarity with evil after the fall is meant by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 

The love we were created with is a love for our neighbor that makes us as generous with our neighbor as we are with ourselves, and even more so. We find ourselves full of the joy of that love when we do something good for others, very much the way parents feel toward their children. This love is truly human. There is something spiritual within it that makes it different from the earthly love that the lower animals have. If we were born loving like this, we would not be born into the darkness of ignorance the way all of us are nowadays, but into some light of knowledge and intelligence; and before long we would actually be informed and intelligent.

 

At first we would go on all fours like animals, but would have an inborn urge to walk on our feet, because even though we were on all fours we would not be looking down toward the ground, but forward toward heaven; and we would be straightening up so that we could look upward.

 

However, when our love for our neighbor turned into love for ourselves and this love grew stronger, then our human love turned into an animal love and we became animals instead of humans. The only difference was that we could think about what our bodies were sensing and tell one thing from another rationally and could be taught and become civic and moral people and eventually spiritual people. That is, as already noted [§275], we do have a spiritual nature that distinguishes us from the lower animals. That nature enables us to learn what is evil and good on the civic level, what is evil and good on the moral level, and even, if we are willing, what is evil and good on the spiritual level.

 

Once love for our neighbor had changed into love for ourselves, we could no longer be born into the light of knowledge and intelligence but only into the darkness of ignorance. This is because we were born into that lowest level of life that we call sensory and bodily. We are led from there into the deeper functions of our earthly mind by being taught, always with spirituality close at hand. We shall see later why we are born into that lowest level of life that we call sensory and bodily and therefore into the darkness of ignorance.

 

Everyone can see that love for our neighbor and love for ourselves are opposing loves. Love for our neighbor wants to do good to everyone, while love for ourselves wants everyone to do good to us alone. Love for our neighbor wants to serve everyone, and love for ourselves wants everyone to be our servants. Love for our neighbor sees all people as our family and friends, while love for ourselves sees all people as our slaves, and if people are not subservient, it sees them as our enemies. In short, it focuses on ourselves alone and sees others as scarcely human. At heart it values them no more than our horses and dogs, and since it regards them as basically worthless, it thinks nothing of doing them harm. This leads to hatred and vengeance, adultery and promiscuity, theft and fraud, deceit and slander, brutality and cruelty, and other evils like that. These are the evils to which we are prone from birth.

 

To explain that they are permitted for the purpose of salvation, I need to proceed in the following sequence.

1. We are all involved in evil and need to be led away from it in order to be reformed.

2. Evils cannot be set aside unless they come to light.

3. To the extent that our evils are set aside, they are forgiven.

4. So evil is permitted for the purpose of salvation.

1. We are all involved in evil and need to be led away from it in order to be reformed. It is well known in the church that we all have an inherited evil nature and that this is the source of our obsession with many evils. This is also why we can do nothing good on our own. The only kind of good that evil can do is good with evil within it. The inner evil is the fact that we are doing it for selfish reasons, and solely for the sake of appearances. We know that we get this inherited evil from our parents. Some do say that it comes from Adam and his wife, but this is wrong. We all get it by birth from our parents, who got it from their parents, who got it from theirs. So it is handed down from one to another, growing greater and stronger, piling up, and being inflicted on the offspring. That is why there is nothing sound within us, why everything in us is so evil. Does anyone feel that there is anything wrong with loving oneself more than others? If not, then who knows what evil is, since this is the head of all evils? . . .

 

In all of us, these desires are veiled by the decencies of moral life and the virtues that are partly matters of our civic life and partly matters of our spiritual life. These make up the outward form of life even for evil people. We are all born with this outer form of life. That is why little children are so lovable; but as they get older or grow up, they shift from this outer form toward their deeper natures and ultimately to the dominant love of their fathers. If the father was evil, and if this nature is not somehow softened and deflected by teachers, then the child’s love becomes just like that of the father.

 

Still, evil is not uprooted, only set aside, as we shall see below [§279].

 

We can tell, then, that we are all immersed in evil. No explanation is necessary to see that we need to be led away from our evils in order to be reformed, since if we are given to evil in this world, we will be given to evil after we leave this world. This means that if our evil is not set aside in this world, it cannot be set aside afterwards. The tree lies where it falls; and so too our life retains its basic quality when we die. We are all judged according to our deeds. It is not that these deeds are tallied up but that we return to them and behave the same. Death is a continuation of life, with the difference that then we cannot be reformed.

 

All our reformation is thorough—that is, it includes both first things and last things. The last things are reformed in this world in harmony with the first ones. They cannot be reformed afterwards, because the outermost things of our lives that we take with us after death become dormant and simply cooperate or act in unison with the inner ones.

 

2. Evils cannot be set aside unless they come to light. This does not mean that we have to act out our evils in order to bring them to light but that we need to look carefully not only at our actions but also at our thoughts, at what we would do if it were not for our fear of the laws and of ill repute. We need to look especially at which evils we see as permissible in our spirit and do not regard as sins, for eventually we do them. It is for this self-examination that we have been given discernment, a discernment separate from our volition, so that we can know, discern, and recognize what is good and what is evil. It is also so that we can see what the real nature of our volition is—that is, what we love and what we desire. It is to enable us to see this that our discernment has been given both higher and lower thought processes, both more inward and more outward thought processes. It is so that we can use the higher or more inward thoughts to see what our volition is up to in our lower or outer thoughts. We see this the way we see our face in a mirror; and when we see and recognize what a sin is, then if we want to and ask the Lord for help, we can stop intending it, abstain from it, and later act against it. If we cannot go through this process easily, we can still make it happen by trying to go through it so that finally we reject that evil and detest it. Then for the first time we actually sense and feel that evil is evil and good is good.

 

This is what it means to examine ourselves, to see and acknowledge our evils, and to confess them and then refrain from them. However, there are so few who know that this is the essence of the Christian religion (because the only people who do so are ones who have charity and faith and are led by the Lord and do what is good in his strength) that I need to say something about the people who do not do this and still think that they are religious. They are (a) people who confess that they are guilty of all sins but do not look for any single sin in themselves; (b) people who for religious reasons do not bother to look; (c) people who for worldly reasons do not think about sins and therefore do not know what they are; (d) people who cherish their sins and therefore cannot know what they are. (e) In all these cases, the sins do not come to light and therefore cannot be set aside. (f ) Finally, I need to expose a previously unrecognized reason why evils could not be set aside apart from this examination, this bringing to light, this recognition, this confession, and this resistance.

 

These items need to be looked at one at a time, though, because they are the basic elements of the Christian religion on our part.

 

(a) They are people who confess that they are guilty of all sins but do not look for any single sin in themselves. They say, “I am a sinner! I was born in sins; there is no soundness in me from head to toe! I am nothing but evil! Gracious God, look on me with favor, forgive me, purify me, save me, make me walk in purity, in the way of the righteous,” and the like. Yet they do not look into themselves and therefore do not identify any particular evil; and no one who does not identify an evil can abstain from it, let alone fight against it. They think that they are clean and washed after these confessions when in fact they are unclean and unwashed from their heads to the soles of their feet. This blanket confession is nothing but a lullaby that leads finally to blindness. It is like some grand generalization with no details, which is actually nothing.

 

(b) They are people who for religious reasons do not bother to look. These are primarily people who separate charity from faith. They say to themselves, “Why should I ask whether something is evil or good? Why should I ask about evil when it does not damn me? Why should I ask about goodness when it does not save me? It is my faith alone, the faith that I have thought about and proclaimed with trust and confidence, that justifies me and purifies me from all sin; and once I have been justified I am whole in God’s sight. Of course I am immersed in evil, but God wipes this away the moment it happens so that it is no longer present,” and more of the same sort.

 

Can anyone whose eyes are open fail to see that these are meaningless words, words that have no content because they have no worth in them? Anyone can think and talk like this, and can do so “with trust and confidence,” when thinking about hell and eternal damnation. Do people like this want to know anything further, whether anything is really true or good? As to truth, they say, “What is truth other than whatever reinforces my faith?” As to goodness, they say, “What is good other than what I have because of my faith? In order to have it within me, though, I do not need to do it as though I were doing it myself, because that would be for credit, and good done for credit is not truly good.” So they skip over the whole subject so completely that they do not know what evil is. What will they look for and see in themselves, then? What is their state but a fire of obsessions with evil that is confined within them, devouring the inner substance of their minds and destroying everything right up to the door? All they are doing is guarding the door so that no one can see the fire; but the door is opened after death, and then everyone can see.

 

(c) They are people who for worldly reasons do not think about sins and therefore do not know what they are. These are people who love the world above all and will not give a hearing to any truth that might deflect them from the false principles of their religion. They say to themselves, “What do I care about this? This is not the way I think.” So they reject it as soon as they hear it; or if it does get through at all, they suppress it. They do much the same thing when they hear sermons, retaining only a few words and no substance.

 

Since this is how they treat truths, they do not know what good is, since the two act in unison; and there is no way to identify evil on the basis of any good that is not based on truth. All they can do is call evil “good” by rationalizing it with their distortions.

 

These are the people meant by the seeds that fell among thorns. The Lord said of them, “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. These are people who hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the deceptiveness of riches choke the Word so that it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:7, 22; Mark 4:7, 14 [4:7, 18, 19]; Luke 8:7, 14).

 

(d) They are people who cherish their sins and therefore cannot know what they are. These are people who believe in God and worship him with the usual rituals and yet rationalize for themselves that some evil that is a sin is really not a sin. They camouflage it with disguises and cosmetics that conceal how grotesque it is; and once they have accomplished this they cherish it and make it their friend and constant companion. I have said that these people believe in God because only people who believe in God are capable of regarding evil as sin: all sin is sin against God.

 

But some examples may make this clear. When people who are bent on profit make different kinds of cheating permissible by inventing rationalizations, they are saying that an evil is not a sin. People who rationalize taking vengeance on their enemies are doing the same thing, as are people who rationalize plundering people who are not their enemies in times of war.

 

(e) In these cases, the sins do not come to light and therefore cannot be set aside. Any evil that is not brought to light feeds on itself. It is like fire in wood buried in ashes. It is like poison in a wound that has not been lanced; for any evil that is shut away keeps growing and growing until everything has been brought to an end. So to prevent any evil from being shut away, we are allowed to think in favor of God and against God, in favor of the holy practices of the church or against them, without being punished for it in this world.

 

The Lord speaks of this in Isaiah:

From the soles of the feet to the head there is no soundness; there is wound and scar and fresh beating, not squeezed out or bound up or anointed with oil. Wash yourselves, purify yourselves. Take away the evil of your deeds from before my eyes. Stop doing evil, learn to do good. Then if your sins have been like scarlet, they will be white as snow; if they have been ruddy as a purple robe, they will be like wool. If you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. (Isaiah 1:6, 16, 18, 10 [1:6, 16, 17, 18, 20] )

“Being devoured by the sword” means being destroyed by our malicious distortions.

 

(f ) There is a previously unrecognized reason why evils could not be set aside apart from this examination, this bringing to light, this recognition, this confession, and this resistance. I have already mentioned [§§62, 65, 217] that heaven overall is arranged in communities according to [people’s desires for what is good, and that hell overall is arranged in communities according to] desires for what is evil that are opposite to those desires for what is good. As to our spirits, each of us is in some community—in a heavenly one when our good desires are in control, and in a hellish one when our evil desires are in control. We are unaware of this while we are living in this world, but in spirit that is where we are. We could not go on living otherwise, and that is how the Lord is guiding us.

 

If we are in a hellish community, the only way the Lord can lead us out is under the laws of his divine providence. One of them says that we must see that we are there, must want to get out, and must ourselves make an effort with what seems to be our own strength. We can do this while we are in this world but not after death. Then we stay forever in the community we joined in this world. This is why we need to examine ourselves, see and acknowledge our sins, repent, and remain constant for the rest of our lives.

 

I could support this with enough experience to warrant complete belief, but this is not the place to bring in proofs from experience.

 

3. To the extent that our evils are set aside, they are forgiven. One currently popular misconception is that our evils are taken from us and discarded when they are forgiven, and that the state of our life can be changed instantly, even totally reversed, so that we become good instead of evil. This would be leading us out of hell and transporting us instantly into heaven, all by some direct mercy of the Lord.

 

However, people who hold this kind of belief or thought have no idea whatever of what evil and good really are or what the state of our own life is. They are utterly unaware that the feelings of our volition are simply shifts and changes of state of the purely organic substances of our minds, that the thoughts of our discernment are simply shifts and changes of their forms, and that memory is the ongoing effect of these changes. This enables us to see clearly that evil can be taken away only gradually and that the forgiveness of evil is not the same as its removal. This, though, is presenting the ideas in condensed form. If they are not explained at greater length, they can be recognized but not grasped; and if they are not grasped, that is like a wheel that we turn by hand. I need to explain these propositions, then, one at a time in the order just given.

 

(a) One currently popular misconception is that our evils are taken from us and discarded when they are forgiven. I have been taught in heaven that no evil that we are born with or that we ourselves adopt by our behavior is taken completely away from us. Evils are set aside so that they are no longer visible. Like so many other people in this world, I used to believe that when our evils are forgiven they are thrown away just as dirt is rinsed and washed away from our faces by water. That is not what it is like with our evils or sins, though. They are all still there, and when they are forgiven after we have repented, they are moved from the center to the sides. Whatever is in the middle is right in front of our eyes and seems to be out in broad daylight. What is off to the sides seems to be in the shade, or at times, even in the dark of night. Since our evils are not taken completely away, then, but are only displaced or put off to the side, and since we can be transported from the center to the boundaries, it can happen that we once again get involved in evils we thought we had left behind. It is part of our own nature that we can move from one desire to another, and sometimes into an opposite one. This means that we can move from one center to another. A desire determines our center as long as we are caught up in it. Then we are absorbed in its pleasure and its light.

 

There are some people who are raised into heaven by the Lord after death because they have lived good lives but who bring with them a belief that they are free and clean from sins and therefore wholly without guilt. At first they are given white robes that reflect this belief, since white robes portray a state of having been purified from evils. Later, though, they begin to think the way they did in the world, to think that they have been washed clean from all evil; so they boast that they are no longer sinners like everyone else. It is almost impossible to separate this from a kind of mental “high” that includes a measure of looking down on others. So at this point, in order to free them from the faith they imagine they have, they are sent down from heaven and back into the evils they had fallen prey to in the world. This shows them that they have inherited evils that they had not known about before. This brings them to admit that their evils have not been taken away from them but only set aside, and that they themselves are still unclean, and in fact nothing but evil; that it is the Lord who is protecting them from their evils and keeping them focused on those good qualities; and that all this seems to be their own doing. Once this has happened, the Lord brings them back up into heaven.

 

(b) A second popular misconception is that the state of our life can be changed instantly, so that we become good instead of evil. This would be leading us out of hell and transporting us instantly into heaven, all by some direct mercy of the Lord. This is the misconception of people who separate charity from faith and attribute salvation to faith alone. That is, they think that the mere thought and utterance of a statement of that faith, performed with trust and confidence, will justify and save them. Many of them also think that this can happen instantaneously, either before the hour of death or as it approaches. They cannot avoid believing that the state of our life can be changed in an instant and that we can be saved by direct mercy. We shall see in the last section of this book, though, that the Lord’s mercy does not operate in this direct way, that we cannot become good instead of evil in an instant and be led out of hell and transported into heaven except by the ongoing efforts of divine providence from our infancy to the end of our lives.

 

At this point we may rest the case simply on the fact that all the laws of divine providence are aimed at our reformation, and therefore at our salvation, which means inverting the hellish state into which we are born into its opposite, a heavenly state. This can be done only gradually as we move away from evil and its pleasure and move into what is good and its pleasure.

 

(c) People who hold this kind of belief have no idea whatever of what evil and good really are. They do not really know that evil is the pleasure we find in the urge to act and think in violation of the divine pattern, and that goodness is the pleasure we feel when we act and think in harmony with the divine pattern. They do not realize that there are thousands of individual impulses that go to make up any particular evil, and that there are thousands of individual impulses that go to make up any particular good tendency. These thousands of impulses are so precisely structured and so intimately interconnected within us that no single one of them can be changed without changing all the rest at the same time.

 

If people are unaware of this, they can entertain the belief or the thought that an evil that seems to be all by itself can be set aside easily and that something good that also seems to be all by itself can be brought in to replace it. Since they do not know what good and evil are, they cannot help thinking that there are such things as instantaneous salvation and direct mercy. The last section of this book will show that this is not possible.

 

(d) People who believe in instantaneous salvation and direct mercy are utterly unaware that the feelings of our volition are simply changes of state of the purely organic substances of our minds, that the thoughts of our discernment are simply changes and shifts of their forms, and that memory is the ongoing effect of those changes and shifts. Once someone mentions it, everyone will realize that feelings and thoughts can happen only with substances and their forms as subjects. Since they happen in our brains, which are full of substances and forms, we say that these forms are purely organic. If we think rationally, we cannot help laughing at the wild idea that feelings and thoughts do not happen in substantial subjects but are breezes affected by warmth and light, like illusions seen in the air or the ether. In fact, thought can no more happen apart from its substantial form than sight can happen apart from its substantial form, the eye, or hearing from its ear, or taste from its tongue. Look at the brain and you will see countless substances and fibers, and nothing there that is not structured. What need is there of more proof than this visual one?

 

Just what is this “feeling,” though, and just what is this “thought”? We can figure this out by looking at the body overall and in detail. There are many internal organs there, all set in their own places, all carrying out their functions by shifts and changes in their states and forms. We know that they are occupied with their tasks. The stomach has its task, the intestines have theirs, the kidneys have theirs, the liver, pancreas, and spleen have theirs, and the heart and lungs have theirs. All of them are inwardly activated solely for their tasks, and this inward activation happens by shifts and changes of their states and forms. This leads us to the conclusion that the workings of the purely organic substances of the mind are no different, except that the workings of the organic substances of the body are physical and the workings of the organic substances of the mind are spiritual. The two act as a unity by means of responsiveness [to each other].

 

There is no way to offer visual evidence of the nature of the shifts and changes of state and form of the organic substances of the mind, the shifts and changes that constitute our feelings and thoughts. We can see them in a kind of mirror, though, if we look at the shifts and changes of state of our lungs in the acts of speech and singing. There is a parallelism, since the sounds of speech and song as well as the differentiations of sound that make the words of speech and the melodies of song are produced by the lungs. The sound itself answers to our feeling and the language to our thought. That is what causes them; and it is accomplished by shifts and changes of the state and form of the organic substances in our lungs, from the lungs into the trachea or windpipe in the larynx and glottis, then in the tongue, and finally in our lips.

 

The first shifts and changes of state and form of sound happen in the lungs, the second in the trachea and larynx, the third in the glottis by opening its aperture in various ways, the fourth by the tongue by touching the palate and teeth in various places, and the fifth by our lips through taking different shapes. We can see from this that both the sound and its modifications that constitute speech and song are produced solely by sequential and constant shifts and changes in the states of these organic forms.

 

Since the only source of sound and speech is our mental feelings and thoughts—that is where they come from, and there is no other source— we can see that the feelings of our volition are shifts and changes of state of the purely organic substances of our minds, and that the thoughts of our discernment are shifts and changes of the forms of those substances, just the way it happens in our lungs.

 

Further, since our feelings and thoughts are simply changes of state of the forms of our minds, it follows that our memory is nothing but their ongoing effect. It is characteristic of all the shifts and changes of state in organic substances that once they have been learned they do not disappear. So the lungs are trained to produce various sounds in the trachea and to modify them in the glottis, articulate them with the tongue, and shape them with the mouth; and once these organs have been trained to do these things, the actions are ingrained and can be repeated.

 

Material presented in Divine Love and Wisdom 119–204 [199–204] shows that the shifts and changes in the organic substances of the mind are infinitely more perfect than those in the body. There it is explained that all processes of perfection increase and rise by and according to levels. There is more on the subject in §319 below.

 

Another popular misconception is that when sins have been forgiven they are also set aside. This misconception is characteristic of people who believe that their sins are forgiven through the sacrament of the Holy Supper even though they have not set them aside by repenting from them. It is characteristic also of people who believe they are saved by faith alone or by papal dispensations. They all believe in direct mercy and instant salvation.

 

When the sequence is reversed, though, it is true: when sins have been set aside, they are forgiven. Repentance must precede forgiveness, and apart from repentance there is no forgiveness. That is why the Lord told his disciples to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:27) and why John preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3).

 

The Lord forgives everyone’s sins. He does not accuse us or keep score. However, he cannot take our sins away except by the laws of his divine providence; for when Peter asked him how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him, whether seven was enough, he said that Peter should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21, 22). What does this tell us about the Lord, who is mercy itself?

 

4. So the permission of evil is for the purpose of salvation. We know that we are quite free in our thinking and intentions, but are not free to say and do whatever we think and intend. We can be atheists in our thoughts, denying the existence of God and blaspheming the holy contents of the church’s Word; we can even want to destroy them utterly by what we say and do; but civil and moral and ecclesiastical laws hold us back. So we indulge in these ungodly and criminal practices in our thoughts and our wishes and even in our intentions, but still not in our actions. People who are not atheists are still quite free to harbor any number of evil thoughts, thoughts about cheating, lust, vengeance, and other senseless things, and even act them out at times.

 

Is it credible that if we did not have this complete freedom we would not only be beyond salvation but would completely perish? Listen to the reason. We are all immersed in many kinds of evil from birth. They are in our volition, and we love whatever is in our volition. That is, we love all the intentions that come from within; and we intend whatever we love. This love of our volition flows into our discernment and makes itself felt there as pleasure. It moves from there into our thoughts and into our conscious intentions. So if we were not allowed to think the way the love of our volition wants us to, the love that is within us by heredity, that love would stay closed in and never come out where we could see it. Any such hidden love for evil is like an enemy plotting against us, like pus in a sore, like a toxin in the blood, and like an infection in the chest. If they are kept hidden, they hasten us to our end.

 

On the other hand, when we are allowed to think about the evils of our life’s love even to the point of wanting to act them out, they are healed by spiritual means the way a life-threatening illness is cured by physical means.

 

I need to explain what we would be like if we were not allowed to think in keeping with the pleasures of our life’s love. We would no longer be human. We would have lost the two abilities called freedom and rationality that are the essence of our humanity. The pleasures of those loves would take control of the inner reaches of our minds so completely that the door would be opened wide. We then would not be able to avoid talking and acting in similar fashion, displaying our madness not only to ourselves but to the whole world. Eventually we would not know enough to cover our private parts. It is to keep this from happening that we are allowed to think about and to intend the evils we have inherited, but not to utter and do them. In the meanwhile, we learn civic, moral, and spiritual principles that also work their way into our thinking and displace these insane principles. The Lord heals us by this means, though only to the extent that we know how to guard the door, and not unless we believe in God and ask for his help to resist our evils. Then to the extent that we resist them, he does not let them into our intentions, and eventually not into our thoughts.

 

We do therefore have a freedom to think as we wish, in order that our life’s love may come out of hiding into the light of our discernment; otherwise we would have no knowledge of our evil and could not abstain from it. It would then follow that the evil would gain strength within us to the point that there was no space for recovery within us and, since the evil of parents is passed on to their progeny, hardly any space for recovery in any children we might beget. The Lord makes sure, however, that this does not happen.

 

The Lord could heal everyone’s discernment and make us incapable of thinking evil, capable only of thinking good. He could do this by various fears, by miracles, by messages from the dead, and by visions and dreams. However, healing only our discernment is healing us only superficially. Our discernment and its thought processes are the outside of our life, while our volition and its desire is the inside of our life. This means that healing only our discernment would be curing nothing but the symptoms. The deeper malignance, closed in and with no way out, would first devour what was nearest to it and then what was farther away until finally everything was dying. It is our volition itself that needs to be healed, not by our discernment flowing into it but by being taught and encouraged by our discernment.

 

If our discernment alone were healed we would be like an embalmed body or a corpse bathed in fragrant perfumes and roses. Before long the perfumes would draw forth from the body such a stench that none of us could put our nose anywhere near it. That is what it would be like for heavenly truths in our discernment if the evil love of our volition were repressed.

 

As already noted [§281], the purpose of letting us think about our evils even to the point of intending them is so that they can be displaced by civic, moral, and spiritual principles. This happens when we consider that something is in opposition to what is lawful and fair, what is sincere and decent, what is good and true, and therefore what is peaceful, happy, and blessed in our lives. The Lord heals the love of our volition by these three sets of principles as means, using our fears at first but our loves later.

 

Still, our evils are not taken away from us and discarded, they are only displaced and relegated to the sides. Once they are there and goodness is in the center, the evils are out of sight, since whatever is in the center is right in front of our eyes, visible and perceptible. We need to realize, though, that even though goodness may be in the center, this still does not mean we are devoted to it unless the evils that are off to the sides are tending downward and outward. If they are turned upward and inward they have not been displaced, because they are still trying to get back to the center. They are tending and turned downward and outward when we are abstaining from our evils as sins, and even more so when we find them distasteful. Then we are condemning them and consigning them to hell, which turns them in that direction.

 

Our discernment can accept what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false, but our essential volition cannot. This must be focused on what is evil or what is good and not on both, because our volition is our essential self. It is where our life’s love is. In our discernment, what is good and what is evil are kept apart like an inside and an outside, so we can be inwardly focused on evil and outwardly on good. However, when we are being reformed, the goodness and the evil are brought face to face. Then a clash occurs, a battle that is called a temptation if it is severe. If it is not severe, though, it happens like the fermentation of wine or beer. If the goodness wins, then the evil and its distortion are moved to the sides much as dregs settle to the bottom of the bottles. The goodness comes to be like a wine that has become vintage wine after fermentation, or beer that has become clear. If the evil wins, though, then the goodness and its truth are moved to the sides and become murky and dark like half-fermented wine or half-fermented beer.

 

The comparison with fermentation is based on the fact that in the Word, yeast means the falsity that comes from evil, as it does in Hosea 7:4; Luke 12:1; and elsewhere.

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