Goodwill and Good Actions Are Two Distinct Things: Wishing People Well and Treating Them Well (Continued)

These things enable us to see how we are to understand the statement that goodwill and good works are two distinct things: wishing people well and treating them well. That is, they are formally distinct, like the mind that does the thinking and willing and the body through which the mind speaks and acts. In fact, they are essentially distinct as well, because the mind itself is divided into an inner region that is spiritual and an outer region that is earthly, as I said just above.

Therefore if the things we do come from our spiritual mind, they come from wishing others well, or goodwill. If, however, they come only from our earthly mind, they come from a form of wishing others well that is not genuine goodwill. It can appear to be goodwill in its outer form and yet not be genuine goodwill in its inner form. Goodwill that exists in an outer form alone does indeed present the look of goodwill, but lacks its essence.

This point could be illustrated by an analogy with seeds in the ground. Every type of seed gives rise to a shoot, but those shoots are either useful or useless, depending on their species. The same is true for spiritual seed, that is, for truth in the church that comes from the Word. A body of teaching grows out of this truth–a useful body of teaching if it is made out of genuine truths, a useless one if it is made out of truths that has been falsified. The same thing applies to goodwill that is exercised as the result of wishing our neighbors well, whether we wish them well for our own sake or for a worldly reason or for the sake of our neighbor in a narrower or broader sense. If we wish our neighbors well for our sake or for a worldly reason, our goodwill is genuine. If we wish our neighbor well for their sake, our goodwill is genuine. See many statements that address these topics in the chapter on faith, especially in the discussion showing that “goodwill” is benevolence toward others; that “good works” are actions that result from benevolence (Section 374); and that goodwill and faith are transient and exist only in our minds unless, when an opportunity occurs, they culminate in actions and become embodied in them (Sections 375-376).

from True Christianity, Section 421


Sections 374-376: Published 1/10/2021-1/12/2021

Goodwill and Good Actions Are Two Distinct Things: Wishing People Well and Treating Them Well

All people have an inner level and outer level. Their inner level is called the inner self and their outer level is called the outer self. Nevertheless, someone who does not know what the inner and outer selves are could believe that our inner self is the source of our thinking and willing and our outer self is the source is our speaking and action. These are indeed inner and outer aspects of us, but they do not constitute the essence of our inner and outer selves. The human mind is indeed commonly held to be the inner self, but in actuality the mind is divided into two regions. One of the regions is spiritual; it is higher and farther within. The other is earthly; it is lower and farther outside. Our spiritual mind focuses principally on the spiritual world. It deals with the things in that world, whether they are the kind that exist in heaven or the kind that exist in hell. (Both kinds are in the spiritual world.) The earthly mind, on the other hand, focuses principally on the earthly reaim. It deals with the things in this world, whether good or evil.

All our action and speaking emanates from the lower region of our mind through a direct route. Ultimately, however, it comes from the higher region of our mind, although the route is indirect because the lower region is closer to the senses in our body, while the higher region is farther away from them. This division within our mind exists because we have been created to be spiritual and earthly at the same time, and therefore to be human, not animal.

These points make it clear that people who focus primarily on themselves and worldly things are external people. They are earthly not only in body but also in mind. People who focus primarily on things that relate to heaven and the church are internal people. They are spiritual in both mind and body. They are spiritual on body as well because their actions and words come from their higher mind, which is spiritual, through their lower mind, which is earthly. (As people generally know, effects come from our body, while the causes that produce those effects come from our mind; the cause shapes every aspect of the effect.)

It is obvious that the human mind has been divided in this way from the fact that people are able to pretend, to flatter, to be hypocritical, or to playact. They can agree with what someone else is saying and nevertheless view it as ridiculous. They do the former in their lower mind, the latter in their higher one.

from True Christianity, Section 420

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person (Continued)

People who love what is good because it is good and love what is true because it is true have supreme love for their neighbor, because they love the Lord who is goodness itself and truth itself. Love for goodness, love for truth, and love for our neighbor come from nowhere else. Love for our neighbor, then, has a heavenly origin.

It is the same thing whether you say “goodness” or “usefulness.” Therefore doing good things is doing useful things. The amount and quality of usefulness that a given good thing has determines the amount and quality of its goodness.

from True Christianity, Section 419

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person (Continued)

The reason goodness is our neighbor is that goodness belongs to our will and the will is the underlying reality of our life. Truth is our neighbor, too, but only to the extent that it emanates from something good in our will. Goodness that belongs to the will takes shape in our intellect and visibly presents itself there in the light of reason.

All our experience shows that goodness is our neighbor. We love people for the quality of their will and intellect, that is, the goodness and justness in them. For example, we love monarchs, princes, generals, officials, consuls, civic leaders, and judges for the judgment they show in their words and actions. We love church leaders, ministers, and their assistants for their knowledge, integrity of life, and passion for the well-being of souls. We love army generals and commanders under them for their fortitude and prudence. We love retailers for their honesty. We love workers and servants for their faithfulness. For that matter, we love a given species of tree for its fruit; the soil for its level of fertility; a stone for its preciousness; and so on.

Strange as it may seem, it is not just honest people who love goodness and justness in others. Dishonest people do too, because they do not fear losing reputation, respect, or wealth at the hands of honest people. The love that dishonest people have for goodness is not love for their neighbor, however–dishonest people do not inwardly love any others outside themselves unless those others serve them somehow.

Loving goodness in another person from goodness in ourselves is genuine love for our neighbor. In that situation the two goodnesses embrace and form a partnership.

from True Christianity, Section 418

Loving Our Neighbor Is Not in Fact Loving Person but Loving the Goodness That Is inside the Person

Surely everyone knows that people are not people because they have a human face and body–they are people because they have wisdom in their intellect and goodness in their will. The higher the quality of this wisdom and goodness, the more human the people are.

When people are born they are more brutish than any animal. They become human through being instructed. If they are responsive to the instruction, a mind forms within them. People are human because of their mind, depending on its particular nature.

There are animals that have faces that are close to human, but they have no faculty for higher understanding or for taking any action on the basis of that understanding. They act on an instinct that is activated by their earthly love. One difference between animals and people is that animals express in sound the feelings belonging to their love, while people speak their feelings as transferred into thought. Animals turn their faces downward and look at the ground, while people look at the sky in all directions, their faces lifted up.

From these points we can draw the following conclusion: the more we base what we say on sound reasoning and the more we focus on the time we will spend in heaven, the more human we are. Conversely, the more we abse what we say on twisted reasoning and focus only on the time we are to spend in the world, the less human we are. In the latter case, we are still human, but only potentially rather than actually, since all people have the power to understand things that are true and to intend actions that are good. Even if we have no intention of doing what is good or understanding what is true, we nonetheless retain the ability to ape and mimic human qualities on the outside.

from True Christianity, Section 417

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

According to Swedenborg’s description, there are two gates that people open. One leads to hell and the other to heaven. Evil and falsehood flow from one direction, and good and truth from the other. Evil people open wide the gate to hell and wantonly accept its flow. As for the gate to heaven, several rays of light barely thrust through a crack above. The fact that evil people also possess the faculties of thought, philosophical reasoning, and linguistic expression is due to the power of this light. However, they do not recognize that these [faculties] are from heaven, thinking them only to be [the properties] of their own reasonable minds. Because of this, the true nature of these reasonable minds is love for the infernal. All of their thoughts are stained by this love and are in darkness. However, they imagine they are in the light. Swedenborg entered into and observed the interior of these sorts of people. Standing at the entrance to the gate of hell, they smell the foul stench that spills out—a stench that induces nausea and dizziness—and laughing merrily, take pleasure in it. If, by any chance, they feel the breath of heaven, these people cannot endure the internal suffering, and with one loud voice cry, “What pain!”

From the viewpoint of human beings, this is a manifestation of free nature; but the divine will, which has granted to humans the sensation of freedom, tries, based on this freedom, to build the salvation of people through their volition. In truth, the desire of people to go to heaven is an act of the divine will, or other-power. Again, to have this intention, to be reborn in heaven, is impossible without the other-power of the divine will; but from the perspective of freedom, everything seems to be the result of the self-power of human beings. The reason that people must perceive the reasoning of an autonomous will is that, if they do not, they will not be able to think about and intend evil and falsehood. A thinking consciousness is a condition for this freedom, which allows for the manifestation of an internal that tends toward good and truth. Despite the teaching of salvation through other-power, if we first do not recognize the consequences of karma and the depth of our evil passions, other-power can do nothing to help. The possibility of listening stems from free consciousness.

Through the freedom and reason that are granted by other-power, a Buddhist recognizes his or her sins and achieves rebirth in paradise, while a Christian gains repentance and resurrection. The need to repent comes from the fact that we are originally in a state of degeneration. Our life is nourished by the heat and light of heaven on the one hand, but fueled by self-love and worldly love on the other. Through these two loves, divine good and divine wisdom are suppressed; stopped by various falsehoods and evils, we forget to advance. We are awakened from this by the words of the Bible, or in Buddhism, by the name of Amida, the name that sounds throughout the ten directions. When freedom and reason are not guided by infernal love, but instead turn toward the sun in heaven—that is, the chief direction of the Divine—the love and light of the Divine flood that person’s interior to the point of overflowing, and in this is the reality of regeneration. This regeneration is accompanied by a heavenly joy. At first, we think this joy is something natural and do not recognize its origin in the Divine; but the moment of recognition finally comes, and this moment is perfect enlightenment. We realize that various goods and truths stem from the other-power of the Divine and that the consciousness of autonomous self-power comes from a blind thought, marked with traces of self-love. Without the truth of this enlightenment, there is no real regeneration. The perfect union of this truth with divine love allows us to lead a spiritual life. This is said to be the moment when we live the life of the internal.

Evil people too are able to discern through reason what is good. Yet, because that good has not entered into their lives, their interiors are not illuminated by the light of regeneration, and they turn their backs to the Divine. Because Swedenborg witnessed this in the spiritual world, it must be true. Imagine here a conversation between two people. It appears very intimate, and when you listen to them, it feels as if you can discern their internal love. However, viewed with Swedenborg’s insight, these two people are standing back to back, and the waves of love arising from their inner hearts are dark in color. It looks as if they are crashing into each other. The internal and external of this world are separated in this way, so that the activity of spiritual reason is not clear. But when we enter the world of the internal, everything is unconcealed and naked. The Bible says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not become public, nothing under cover that will not be made known” [Luke 8:17]. When we recall this, everything is a self-evident truth, says Swedenborg. This is again the force of other-power.

There is a great deal I wish to write concerning Swedenborg, but that remains for another day. He was a Swede who died in England in 1772, that is, 155 years ago. He was a man of science until age 55, and his works on theology, more than most could write in a lifetime, span the next [twenty-nine] years. When he was 84 years old, he predicted the time of his death and accordingly returned to heaven.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

Since heaven derives from innocence, its opposite, hell, would have to signify non-innocence. In other words, those who believe in self-power without relying on other-power will always fall into hell. When my ego’s purpose suddenly arises, I shoot into hell like an arrow. The purpose of the ego, according to Swedenborg, is self-love and worldly love. When the vault of hell is opened, the raging fire and smoke that one sees rising up is what springs from the blaze of these two loves. Those who are in hell in bodily form are completely consumed by these flames. As I said before, there is also heat in heaven, the heat of divine love. However, this heat is like the warmth of spring, and once this warmth flows into the blaze of hell, the blaze cools and becomes extremely cold. The heat of heaven acts in this mysterious way. Flowing from the depths of the Divine is a power that cannot be judged by human perception.

Swedenborg was allowed by the Lord to witness hell. A portion of his record reads:

The hells are everywhere, and their entrances, when looked into, appear pitch black. But those who dwell in them think it to be bright. This is because their eyes are adapted to this degree of light. The cave openings first extend inward, and then twist obliquely. Some plunge downward into a bottomless abyss, and appear like the caves of wild beasts. Other hells seem like the ruins of houses and cities after conflagrations.

The spirits living here are engaged in unceasing quarrels, enmities, fightings, and brutalities. Throughout the scorched city, bands of thieves and robbers swagger about. In some of the hells there are nothing but brothels, filled with every kind of filth and excrement. Again, there are thick forests in which spirits roam like wild beasts, and where, underground, there are dens into which those flee who are pursued by others. Some are wastelands where there is only sand. There are those who flee as far as such places. In particular, those who contrived intrigues and deceits while in the world are driven into the desert, where they must spend their lives.

I believe there is no one who has written as minutely about the nature of heaven and hell as Swedenborg. Dante skillfully applied his art, and he should be recognized as an exponent of medieval beliefs; but Swedenborg, with an intellectual faculty forged through science and with his amazing power of imagination and insight, exhaustively described the spiritual world. At first his writing seems ridiculous, but as you read on, you are drawn into it. Although it might contain a number of fantasies, it undoubtedly includes many truths as well.

Swedenborg said that heaven arises from love toward the Lord and knowledge of the Divine. Hell, conversely, is realized through love of self and love of the world, as well as through consciousness of both these loves. Heaven and hell are opposite poles. Recognizing these poles, Swedenborg made human beings the mid-point. Self-love means grabbing pleasure from others and gathering it only to yourself. Worldly love is the desire to make another person’s possessions your own. Those in the midst of this sort of love may wish to share their own enjoyment with others; but since the focus of that motive is still themselves, they do not increase the enjoyment of others, but instead reduce it. Swedenborg said he personally experienced this in the spiritual world. Before Swedenborg applied himself to religion, he was a prominent scientist, so he did not give abstract explanations. He taught through his own observations. Thus, in the spiritual world, he sensed that when an egotist merely approached a heavenly society, the level of enjoyment among the angels in that society would decline. Swedenborg said the degree of this decline was proportional to the intensity of self-love felt by infernal beings. He never explained by way of argument or speculation, but with the attitude of a scientist describing actual experiences. In this respect, he had a unique worldview.

Heaven is divine love, and hell is self-love, while we, in between, must decide our lot for ourselves. Swedenborg called this freedom equilibrium. I find it interesting how his choice of the word “equilibrium” demonstrates that he was a scientist. In any case, we are free and may head toward the love of heaven or love of hell as we please. Without free and independent action, true regeneration and salvation are not possible. Without freedom, we cannot act according to our own love. Love that flows from the internal originates with the Lord; but when we do not act from this love, we never attain our true life. Because the external comes from memory, it works only through thought, and conceptual living cannot save people. In all cases, it is necessary to express the internal will, for it is in this that correspondence with heaven may take place.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power” (Continued)

Swedenborg’s symbolic philosophy is built on the principle of correspondence. Because this principle is one of the major tenets of his philosophy, one certainly must know about it to understand Swedenborg. I believe the principle of correspondence originally comes from the idea in the Bible that “God created man in his own image” [Genesis 1:27].

Those without the perfect good of love and the perfect truth of wisdom cannot understand the hidden will of heaven. People have both an internal and an external; and not being able to make an adequate correspondence between them, they cannot comprehend [heaven’s will]. One way to grasp it, however, is through the phenomena of the sensual world as perceived through the five senses. All of these phenomena contain significance. The caw of a crow or the song of a sparrow are not simply a caw and a song: there are heavenly significance and infernal significance. This kind of reading depends on the principle of correspondence. Therefore, while people are on the earth, they are free to unveil their correspondence with heaven according to the nature of their internal enthusiasm. That is, this world of suffering can also be considered a Pure Land of tranquil light. Those who grasp the principle of correspondence stroll through a kingdom of significance.

Heaven, in fact, is composed solely of this significance; it is a place governed by pure love and pure truth. Love is warmth and corresponds to the human heart. Truth is light and corresponds to the human lungs. Located in the thorax, the heart and lungs are distinguished from other organs. When love stirs, the heart throbs and heat is released. When truth shines, the breath is regulated and there is silence. However, when there is no heat, there is no light, so light is of secondary importance. Even without light, there is heat, heat being the fundamental principle. Dark heat is the fire of hell, and it is from here that all pain is born. Heat with light brings spring to the universe, and it always feels like spring in heaven. Here we see the truth of correspondence.

The perfect union of love and wisdom is the individual person, and all of heaven exhibits itself through the appearance of an individual. The full realization of a person’s integrity can be seen only in the realm of divine good and divine truth. Among modern philosophers, there are those who say things such as, “God is a perfect individual. Human consciousness, try as it might, can never seize the singularity of the individual. Yet it always tries to grasp it, and this longing is first satisfied upon arrival at the Divine. The reason for the existence of this longing is simply that the Divine realizes itself in individual human beings.” Can we not see traces of Swedenborg in this?

The doctrine of correspondence is profound. In terms of Buddhism, it is similar to the Shingon philosophy of phenomena. One can also interpret the idea of the Pure Land according to the doctrine of correspondence. Even if we say that all phenomena interpenetrate without obstacle, we cannot identify hell with paradise. Although we can say that the Pure Land’s significance is found in this world of suffering, hell, being hell, is not paradise; and Kannon, Amida, Fudô, Yakushi, and the eight million gods exist just the same. The principle of correspondence cannot be divorced from human consciousness. Viewed from the doctrine of correspondence, I believe Shingon teachings on such things as mudrâs can be interpreted in an interesting fashion. If Swedenborg had not communicated with the Christian heaven, and had instead mastered Buddhist philosophy, what kind of “hidden will” would he have discovered? I believe it is worth engaging in this kind of speculation.

Previously, I noted that the essence of heaven is innocence and that, because this innocence cannot be achieved through ordinary knowledge, it must be reached through a perfect enlightenment beyond knowledge. What I call enlightenment is the perception that we cannot independently achieve good separate from the Lord God in heaven. Without this perception, we cannot attain innocence.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other-Power”

Swedenborg’s religious philosophy is unfathomably deep; and since it is fairly difficult to grasp, few people have made a scholarly study of it. However, when you carefully read his seemingly absurd writing with a calm mind, you find that many elements become rather difficult to dismiss. In particular, Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell contains profound and fascinating points. Among his many works, this is the one most widely read; and having formerly translated it into Japanese, I would like to take the opportunity to express my feelings on it, although this essay is really no more than an introduction.

Swedenborg does not give a very clear definition of heaven. It might be considered a state after death, or it might be that this world, just as it is, is heaven—or hell, depending on how you take it. In truth, even among the spirits dwelling in heaven, there are very few who can see what heaven is. Because of this, it may be impossible to explain to ordinary people like us. Be that as it may, we can see heaven as a kind of ideal realm with a relationship to the material world of the five senses that is one of neither equivalence nor separation. Swedenborg uses the word “state” to describe it.

Heaven comprises the good of love and the truth of enlightenment. When good and truth return to a state of innocence, they reveal a perfect heaven. Unless one enters a state of “no false thoughts” or “artlessness,” even good is not divine good and truth is not divine truth. One aspect of this condition is reflected in the speech and actions of children. However, the innocent nature of children is unrefined, so it cannot be called the genuine state.

As for the source of innocence, it spontaneously floods the inner life when we completely give up our own thoughts. Doing good, we do not think it good. When others comment on it and call it good, that good is not something that arises from the self but arises from the Divine. Nothing results from self-power; everything is achieved through the addition of divine power to oneself: “Those who are in a state of innocence attribute nothing of good to themselves, but regard all things as received and ascribe them to the Lord…and wish to be led by Him and not by themselves….” All of the highest angels dwell in the purity of this innocence. When the degree of purity is low, the angel’s position in heaven naturally falls as well. The quality of innocence is actually the fundamental principle on which heaven’s organization is based.

Because heaven derives from innocence, the fact that the Divine in heaven is also innocent is a self-evident truth. Swedenborg occasionally spoke with angels and related what transpired. Innocence is the essence of every good and good is truly good to the extent that it has innocence within it. What we call wisdom is wisdom only when it arises from this innocence, and the same holds true for love, charity, and faith. Therefore, when they are not innocent, people cannot enter heaven. The Lord expressed this meaning in the following verse: “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” [Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16]. The children spoken of here signify innocence. According to Swedenborg, the Bible is composed of many of these symbols. Having become conscious of their hidden meanings, he wrote a number of different works. This awareness is not something that came from his own mind. He personally entered heaven and experienced it as it flowed from God.

from Swedenborg, Buddha of the North by D. T. Suzuki

On an Even Higher Level, the Neighbor We Are to Love Is the Church, and on the Highest Level, Our Neighbor Is the Lord’s Kingdom

We are born for eternal life and are introduced into it by the church. Therefore we are to love the church as our neighbor on an even higher level [than we love our country]. The church teaches us the means that lead to eternal life and introduces us into that life. It leads us to eternal life by means of the true things in its body of teaching. It introduces us to that life through good ways to live.

This does not mean that we are to love the priesthood to a special degree or love the church on the priesthood’s account. We are to love the church’s goodness and truth, and love the priesthood on account of this goodness and truth. The priesthood only serves; it is to be honored according to its service.

We are to love the church as our neighbor on a higher level, even beyond our country, because our country initiates us into civic life but the church initiates us into spiritual life. Spiritual life is what sets us apart from a merely animal life.

What is more, our civic life is temporary. It comes to an end. Once it is over, it is the same as if it had not existed. Our spiritual life, on the other hand, is eternal, because it has no end. Spiritual life has a quality of reality therefore that civic life does not have. The difference between them is like the difference between what is finite and what is infinite– there is no ratio between them. Eternity is an infinity of time.

from True Christianity, Section 415