The Fact That Evil Is an Option Available to Everyone’s Inner Self Makes It Obvious That We Have Free Choice in Spiritual Matters (Continued)

There are countless particular arguments that would show that we have just as much free choice in spiritual matters as in earthly matters.

If you wish, you could do an experiment on yourself. See if you are able to think about God, the Lord, the Holy Spirit, and the divine matters known as the spiritual concepts of the church seventy times a day or three hundred times a week. And if it is some pleasure or even some craving that brings you to do it (whether you happen to have faith or not), do you feel any compulsion in doing so? Whatever state you are in, consider whether you could think at all if you did not have free choice. Surely, free choice is of supreme importance in what you say, in prayers to God, in preaching, and in listening. In fact, since you take a breath after each instance of speaking your thoughts, if your free choice did not extend to specific things even down to the most minute details, would you be able to breathe any more than a statue can?

I say “any more than a statue” rather than “any more than an animal,” because an animal breathes as a result of its earthly free choice. We breathe as a result of our free choice in earthly matters and also our free choice in spiritual matters. We are born different from animals. From birth, animals and all the ideas they have, which are associated with their earthly love, are focused on food and reproduction. We, however, have no innate ideas at birth; we have only a faculty for knowing, understanding, and becoming wise, and an inclination to love ourselves and the world and also to love our neighbor and God. This is why I said that if free choice were taken away in regard to the individual things we will and think, we would breathe no more than a statue does; I did not say we would breathe no more than an animal does.

from True Christianity, Section 480

The Fact That Evil Is an Option Available to Everyone’s Inner Self Makes It Obvious That We Have Free Choice in Spiritual Matters

I will support the idea that we have free choice in spiritual things first by familiar arguments and then by particular arguments. People will recognize the validity of these arguments as soon as they hear them.

1.The wisest of people, Adam and his wife, let themselves be seduced by a serpent.

2. Their firstborn son Cain killed his brother Abel, and Jehovah God did not dissuade Cain by speaking with him but instead cursed him only after the fact.

3. The Israelite nation in the wilderness worshiped a golden calf, even though Jehovah saw this from Mount Sinai and did not protect the people from doing so.

4. David took a census of the people and because of it, a plague came upon them, which caused the death of many thousands, yet God did not act before but only after the fact, when he sent the prophet Gad to David and announced his punishment.

5. Solomon was allowed to institute forms of worship that were idolatrous. Many kings after him were allowed to desecrate the Temple and the holy practices of the church.

6. Later, that nation was allowed to crucify the Lord.

7. Muhammad was allowed to establish a widespread religious movement, which did not conform to Sacred Scripture.

8. Christianity has split into many sects, and each sect has split into heresies.

9. In the Christian world there are many ungodly people and even people who boast about their godless actions. There are also plots and deceptions, even against godly, just, and honest people.

10.Injustice sometimes triumphs over justice in law courts and business proceedings.

11. The ungodly, too, are elevated to positions of honor and become leaders and heads of the church.

12. Wars are allowed to happen, which involve the killing of many people and the plundering of cities, nations, and households, not to mention many other atrocitIs.

The familiar arguments are these:

it possible to attribute such things to anything but the free choice that exists in everyone? The concept of “permission” well known throughout this world is from no other source. On the point that the laws of permission are also the laws of divine providence, see Divine Providence (published in Amsterdam in 1764) Sections 234–274. The numbered points just above are explored there.

From True Christianity, Section 479

As Long as We Are Alive in This World, We Are Held Midway between Heaven and Hell and Kept in Spiritual Equilibrium There, Which Is Free Choice (Continued)

This spiritual equilibrium or free choice can be illustrated by earthly examples of equilibrium. It is like the equilibrium experienced by a person tied around the waist or arms between two men of equal strength. The person in the middle is pulled by one man to the right and by the other to the left. In that situation the person in the middle is able freely to pull to one side or the other as if not constrained by any force at all. If that person lunges to the right, the man on the left is actually dragged in that direction so violently that he falls to the ground. A similar situation would occur if someone, even a weak person, were to be tied to three men on the right and three equally strong men on the left. In fact, it would be the same if someone were tied between camels or horses.

This spiritual equilibrium or free choice can be compared to a pair of scales with equal weights on both sides; if even something small is then added to one side, the pointer above will wobble to and fro. The same responsiveness is true of a carrying pole, or a large beam balanced on its fulcrum. Each and every thing inside us, such as our heart, lungs, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, intestines, and the rest, is in an equilibrium like this. As a result, every part can perform its functions in a state of complete ease. The same is true of all our muscles; without the equilibrium that exists between them, all action and reaction would stop and we would no longer function as a human being. Given that all parts of our bodies are in an equilibrium like this, all parts of our brains have a similar state of equilibrium. As a result, so also do all the elements that are in our minds, which relate to our will and our intellect.

Animals, birds, fish, and insects also have freedom, although it is their physical senses that drive them, and their appetites and pleasures that point the way. It would be much the same for us, if we had the same freedom of action as we do of thought; in this condition the senses of the body would drive us as well, and our cravings and pleasures would point the way.

It is different for us if we absorb the spiritual teachings of the church and restrain our free choice accordingly. We are then led by the Lord away from cravings and evil pleasures and our native eagerness for them, and we strive for what is good and turn away from what is evil. The Lord then moves us closer to both the east and the south in the spiritual world, and we are brought into heavenly freedom, which is true freedom.

from True Christianity, Section 478

As Long as We Are Alive in This World, We Are Held Midway between Heaven and Hell and Kept in Spiritual Equilibrium There, Which Is Free Choice (Continued)

We are kept in this great interspace and are constantly held in the center of it for one reason only: to grant us free choice in spiritual matters. The equilibrium in question is spiritual, because it is an equilibrium between heaven and hell, and therefore between good and evil. All the people who are in that great interspace are inwardly in partnership either with angels in heaven or with devils in hell. (Today that partnership is either with Michael’s angels or with the dragon’s angels.)

All people after death travel toward their own kind in that interspace and associate with people who love similar things. This happens because love connects all individuals there with others like themselves and allows them to breathe freely and to be in the state of life they were in before. Then step by step they shed outer traits that are not in harmony with what is inside them. Once that process is complete, good people are lifted into heaven and evil people move to hell. In either case they gravitate toward people with the same dominant love as their own.

from True Christianity, Section 477

As Long as We Are Alive in This World, We Are Held Midway between Heaven and Hell and Kept in Spiritual Equilibrium There, Which Is Free Choice (Continued)

Every human being from infancy to old age is relocating and changing places in that world. In early childhood we are kept in the eastern region there, on its north side. In later childhood and youth, as we acquire a foundation in our religion, we move in a series of stages away from the north and toward the south. In early adulthood, when we begin to think with our own minds, we are brought farther south. Later on, when we become independent and able to judge for ourselves and are growing in matters that inwardly relate to God and love for our neighbor, we move into the southern region, on its east side. But if we have a fondness for evil and indulge in it, we move toward the west.

All who are in the spiritual world live in one region or another. People who are involved in goodness from the Lord live in the east, because that is where the sun that surrounds the Lord is. People who are in ignorance live in the north. People who have good understanding live in the south. People who are involved in evil live in the west.

Our body is not kept in that interspace or central area, but our spirit is. As its condition changes, by moving either toward what is good or toward what is evil, our spirit is moved to different places or locations in this or that region and comes into contact with the people who live there. It is important to know, however, that the Lord does not transfer us here or there. We relocate ourselves in various ways. If we choose what is good, then we together with the Lord relocate—or rather the Lord together with us relocates—our spirit farther east. If, however, we choose what is evil, then we together with the Devil relocate—or rather the Devil together with us relocates—our spirit farther west. And please note that when I say “heaven” I mean the Lord, because the Lord is everything to all of heaven, and when I say “the Devil” I mean hell, because all the people there are devils.

from True Christianity, Section 476

As Long as We Are Alive in This World, We Are Held Midway between Heaven and Hell and Kept in Spiritual Equilibrium There, Which Is Free Choice

In order to know what free choice is and what qualities it has, we need to know where it comes from. Once we have learned its origin, we recognize not only what it is but what qualities it has.

Free choice originates in the spiritual world, where our minds are kept by the Lord. Our mind is the spirit within us that lives after death. Our spirit is continually in contact with people in that world who are similar to us. Our spirit is also present with people in the physical world through the material body with which it is surrounded. The reason we do not know that our minds are among spirits is that the spirits we are associating with in the spiritual world think and speak in a spiritual way, but our spirit, as long as it is in a physical body, thinks and speaks in an earthly way; and spiritual thought and speech cannot be understood or perceived by an earthly person, or the reverse. This is also why we cannot see them. But when our spirit is spending time with spirits in their world, then it uses spiritual thought and speech to communicate with them, because the inner mind is spiritual, but the outer mind is earthly. Therefore we communicate with spirits through our inner faculties, but we communicate with other people through our outer faculties. The former communication gives us perceptions and the ability to think analytically. If we did not have this inner communication, we would think no more and no differently than an animal. And if all interaction with spirits were taken away from us, we would die instantly.

To make it possible to comprehend how we can be held midway between heaven and hell and kept as a result in spiritual equilibrium, which is the origin of our free choice, a few words will be said about this.

The spiritual world consists of heaven and hell. Heaven is above the head and hell there is below the feet. Hell is not, however, in the center of the earth that we inhabit. It is below the lands of the other world, which are spiritual in origin and therefore do not have extension, although they appear to have it.

Between heaven and hell there is a great gap, which, to those who are in it, appears like an entire globe. Into this intervening area evil in great abundance exhales from hell, and on the other hand goodness, also in great abundance, flows in from heaven. This interspace is what Abraham was referring to when he said to the rich man in hell, “Between us and you a great gulf has been established, so that those who try to cross over from here to you cannot, and neither can those who are there cross toward us” (Luke 16:26).

The spirit of every human being is in the midst of this vast interspace for one reason: so that we will have free choice.

Because this interspace is so huge and looks to those who are there like a great globe, it is called “the world of spirits.” It is also full of spirits, because every human being first comes there after death and is prepared there for either heaven or hell. There we are among spirits and in interaction with them, just the way we had previously been among people in our former world. (There is no purgatory there. Purgatory is a fable invented by Roman Catholics.) That world is specifically dealt with in Heaven and Hell (published in London in 1758) Sections 421–535.

from True Christianity, Section 475

We Are Not Life, but We Are Vessels for Receiving Life from God (Continued)

The Lord himself teaches in John that he is life in itself and therefore life itself:

The Word was with God and the Word was God. In him was life and the life was the light of humankind. (John 1:1, 4)

As the Father has life in himself, so he has given the Son to have life in himself. (John 5:26)

I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Those who follow me will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

from True Christianity, Section 474

We Are Not Life, but We Are Vessels for Receiving Life from God (Continued)

Why do we not know this from any light of reason? Because that light is overshadowed by our mistaken ideas, which arise because we trust what our outer physical senses tell us. We have the sensation that our aliveness comes from a life within us, because what is instrumental feels what is principal as its own; it cannot tell them apart. The principal cause and the instrumental cause together behave as one cause, according to a theory known to the world of learning. The principal cause is life; the instrumental cause is the human mind.

It also appears as though animals possess a life that has been created as part of them, but this is a similarly mistaken idea. Animals are organisms created to receive light and heat from the physical world and from the spiritual world at the same time. Every species is a form of some earthly love. It receives the light and heat of the spiritual world indirectly through heaven and hell—the gentle animals through heaven and the savage animals through hell. The difference between us and them is that only human beings receive light and heat (that is, wisdom and love) directly from the Lord.

from True Christianity, Section 473

We Are Not Life, but We Are Vessels for Receiving Life from God (Continued)

From the points just made we can see and conclude that the following things cannot be created:

1.The Infinit

2. Love and wisdom

3. Life

4. Light and heat

5. The quality of being active, when regarded in its own right

Nevertheless, organs that are able to receive the above can be and are created.

These points can be illustrated through analogies. Light cannot be created, but its organ, the eye, can. Sound, which is a motion in the atmosphere, cannot be created, but its organ, the ear, can. Likewise incapable of being created is heat, which is the primary active thing that all objects in the three kingdoms of nature have been created to receive; and as they receive it they do not act but are rather acted upon.

A feature of creation is that where there are active entities, there are also passive entities; the two types of entities join together to become, in effect, one thing. If the active entities were able to be created the way the passive entities are, there would be no need for the sun or for heat and light from it. All created things would subsist without them. But in reality, if the sun and its heat and light were removed, the whole created universe would fall into chaos.

The sun of our world is made up of created substances whose activity produces fire. These points have been made for the purpose of illustration.

It would be similar for us if spiritual light, which is essentially wisdom, and spiritual heat, which is essentially love, stopped flowing into us and being received by us. An entire human being is nothing but a form organized in such a way as to receive those two qualities, from both the physical and the spiritual worlds, since the worlds correspond to each other. If you deny that we are forms for receiving love and wisdom from God, you have to rule out the existence of inflow as well, along with the idea that everything good comes from God, and that a partnership with God is possible. Then there would be no point to the statement that we are able to be a dwelling place and a temple for God.

from True Christianity, Section 472

We Are Not Life, but We Are Vessels for Receiving Life from God (Continued)

If we are capable of thinking with a faculty of reason that is lifted above the sense impressions of the body, surely we all see that life cannot be created. What is life except the inmost activity of the love and wisdom that come from God and are God? It could also be called the living force itself. Someone who sees this can also see that life cannot be transferred into anyone unless it is transferred along with love and wisdom.

Surely no one does deny or could deny that everything good that relates to love and everything true that relates to wisdom come solely from God; to the extent that we receive those qualities from God we are alive from God and are called “born of God” [John 1:13; 1 John 3:9; 5:4, 18], that is, regenerated. On the other hand, to the extent that we do not accept love and wisdom, or goodwill and faith (which are the same thing), we do not receive life from God (which is life in itself) but from hell, which is a completely inverted form of life called spiritual death.

from True Christianity, Section 471