In Divine Love and Wisdom 264–270 and 425 and also in Sections 43–44 above, I discussed the fact that we have an ability to discern, which is rationality, and an ability to think, intend, speak, and do what we understand, which is freedom. I also discussed the fact that these two abilities are the Lord’s gifts within us. However, since any number of doubts may arise about both of these abilities when we think about them, at this juncture I want simply to convey something about the freedom we have to act in accord with reason.
First, though, it needs to be clear that all freedom is a matter of love, even to the point that love and freedom are the same thing. Since love is our life, freedom is also essential to our life. Every pleasure we experience comes from our love; there is no other source of pleasure. Acting for the sake of the pleasure of our love is acting in freedom, because pleasure leads us along, the way a river bears its burdens quite naturally along its current.
Since we have many loves, some of which agree with each other and some of which disagree, it follows that we likewise have many kinds of freedom. In general, though, there are three kinds: earthly, rational, and spiritual.
All of us have earthly freedom by heredity. It is what makes us love nothing but ourselves and the world, and it is all there is to our life at first. Further, since all evils stem from these two loves and evils therefore become objects of our love, it follows that thinking and intending evil is our earthly freedom. It also follows that when we support these intentions with reasons, we are acting in our freedom and in accord with our reason. Acting in this way is acting from the ability we call “freedom,” and supporting the actions is from the ability we call “rationality.”
For example, it is from the love we are born into that we want to commit adultery, cheat, blaspheme, and get even; and when we rationalize these evils inwardly and thereby make them legal, then we are thinking and intending them because of the pleasure of the love we have for them and in accord with a kind of reason; and to the extent that civil laws do not prevent it, we speak out and act out. We can behave like this because of divine providence, since we do have that latitude or freedom. We enjoy the latitude naturally because we get it through heredity, and we actively enjoy this latitude whenever we rationalize it because of the pleasure inherent in our love for ourselves and for the world.
Rational freedom comes from a love for our own reputation, either for the sake of respect or for the sake of profit. This love finds its pleasure in putting on the outward appearance of moral character; and because we love this kind of reputation, we do not cheat, commit adultery, take vengeance, or blaspheme. Since this is the substance of our reasoning, we are also doing what is honest, fair, chaste, and cordial in freedom and according to reason. In fact, we can even talk rationally in favor of these virtues.
However, if our rational activity is only earthly and not spiritual, this is only an external freedom and not an internal one. We still do not love these virtues inwardly, only outwardly, for the sake of our reputation, as just noted. This means that the good things we do are not really good. We might be saying that they are to be done for the sake of the public good, but we are not saying this because of any love for the public good, only because of our love for our own reputation or for profit. Consequently, this freedom of ours has nothing of love for the public good in it, and neither does our reasoning, since this simply agrees with our love. As a result, this “rational freedom” is inwardly an earthly freedom. It too is left to us by divine providence.
Spiritual freedom comes from a love for eternal life. The only people who arrive at this love and its pleasure are people who think that evils are sins and therefore do not want to do them, and who at the same time turn toward the Lord. The moment we do this, we are in spiritual freedom, because it is only from an inner or higher freedom that we can stop intending evils because they are sins and therefore not do them. This kind of freedom comes from an inner or higher love.
At first, it does not seem like freedom, but it is, nevertheless. Later it does seem that way, and then we act from real freedom and in accord with real rationality by thinking and intending and saying and doing what is good and true.
This freedom grows stronger as our earthly freedom wanes and becomes subservient; it unites itself with rational freedom and purifies it.
We can all arrive at this kind of freedom if we are just willing to think that there is an eternal life and that the temporary pleasure and bliss of life in time is like a passing shadow compared to the eternal pleasure and bliss of life in eternity. We can think this way if we want to, because we do have rationality and liberty, and because the Lord, who is the source of these two abilities, constantly gives us the power to do so.
from Divine Providence, Section 73
Divine Love and Wisdom:
Sections 264-270: Published 9/1/2022-9/7/2022
Sections 43-44: Published 4/16/2022-4/17/2022