Our Inner Self Has to Be Reformed First; Our Outer Self Is Then Reformed through Our Inner Self–This Is How We Are Regenerated (Continued)

As for the earthly self being split into two levels, this is an actual division of both will and thought. Every action that we take originates in our will; every word we say originates in our thought. Below our first earthly will, we ourselves create a second will and a second thought process, which also belong to our earthly self. The will that we create ourselves could be called our bodily will, because it drives the body to behave in moral ways. The thought process that we create ourselves could be called lung-related thought, because it drives our lips and tongue to say things that show a good understanding.

Taken together, this type of thought and this will can be compared to the inner bark that adheres to the outer bark of a tree; or it can be compared to the membrane that adheres to the shell of an egg. Behind this self-made thought and will lies the inner earthly self. If we are evil, our inner earthly self is like rotten heartwood within a tree whose outer and inner bark appears whole; or like a rotten egg inside a clean white shell.

Now to the nature of the inner earthly self that we are born with. Its will has a tendency toward evils of every kind and therefore its thinking has a tendency toward falsities of every kind. This inner self, then, is what needs to be regenerated. If it is not regenerated, it harbors hatred toward everything related to goodwill and anger at everything related to faith.

It follows, then, that our inner earthly self must be regenerated first, and our outer self must then be regenerated through our inner self. This sequence follows the divine design. To regenerate our inner self through our outer self would go contrary to the divine design, because the inner self acts as the soul of the outer self, not only in a general way but in every detail. The inner self is present in everything we say, without our even realizing it. This is what allows angels to perceive the quality of our will from a single action of ours, and the quality of our thinking from a single thing we say—the “quality” meaning whether we are hellish or heavenly. As a result, they have complete knowledge of us. From our tone of voice they perceive the interests that drive our thinking; from a gesture of ours, or the form of one action, they perceive the love that resides in our will. They detect this no matter how good we are at presenting ourselves as a Christian and a moral citizen.

from True Christianity, Section 593

Our Inner Self Has to Be Reformed First; Our Outer Self Is Then Reformed through Our Inner Self–This Is How We Are Regenerated (Continued)

The concepts of the inner and outer self taught by the new church are completely different, however. In this view, our inner self is our will. It is the source of the thoughts we have when we are left to ourselves, such as when we are at home. Our outer self is what we do and say in company or in public. Our inner self, then, is goodwill and faith—goodwill that belongs to our will, and faith that occupies our thoughts.

Before we undergo regeneration, goodwill and faith constitute our earthly self, which is divided into an inner and an outer level. This is clear from the fact that we are not allowed to act in company or in public the way we do when left to ourselves at home. What causes the split into an inner and outer level is that civil law prescribes punishments for those who do evil things and rewards for those who do good things. Since no one wants to be punished and everyone wants to be rewarded, we therefore force ourselves to create an outer self that is separate from our inner self. The reward takes the form of wealth or a good reputation; we achieve neither one unless we live according to the law. This is why morality and benevolence are practiced outwardly, even by people who have no morality or benevolence inwardly. This is the origin of all hypocrisy, flattery, and pretense.

from True Christianity, Section 592

Our Inner Self Has to Be Reformed First; Our Outer Self Is Then Reformed through Our Inner Self–This Is How We Are Regenerated

It is a common saying in the church today that our inner self has to be reformed first and that our outer self is then reformed through our inner self. The church, however, takes the “inner self” to mean faith and nothing else—specifically, the faith that God the Father assigns us the merit and justice of his Son and sends us the Holy Spirit. They believe that this faith constitutes our inner self, and that our outer self, which is our moral, earthly self, is derived from it. To them, our moral, earthly self is an appendage to that faith, like the tail on a horse or a cow; or like the tail of a peacock or a bird of paradise, which is long and feathery, but is completely separate from the real wings. According to the church, some type of goodwill follows that faith, but if a goodwill that comes from our own volition ever becomes present it will destroy our faith.

Since faith is the only inner self that is recognized by the church today, there is no inner self, because according to the church none of us know whether that faith has been granted to us or not. As I have shown above, this faith is not actually possible, and is therefore fictional. It follows, then, that for people today who have convinced themselves of that faith, the only “inner self” they have is their earthly self, which has been teeming since birth with evils in great abundance. To this view they have added the notion that regeneration and sanctification spontaneously result from this faith, and that any cooperation on our part is excluded (although in reality regeneration only happens through our cooperation). As a result, the regeneration taught by the church of today is unrecognizable, even though the Lord says that those who are not regenerated cannot see the kingdom of God [John 3:3].

from True Christianity, Section 591

The First Phase in Our Being Generated Anew Is Called “Reformation”; It Has to Do with Our Intellect. The Second Phase Is Called “Regeneration”; It Has to Do with Our Will and Then Our Intellect (Continued)

The following comparisons can illustrate what people are like when their intellect has been lifted up but the love in their will has not. They are like an eagle that soars on high, but as soon as it sees something to eat below, such as hens, cygnets, or even little lambs, it drops like a stone and devours them.

They are also like an adulterous husband who has a whore hidden in his basement. He keeps going back and forth to the top level of his house. Up there in the presence of his wife he says wise things to his guests about faithfulness in marriage, but now and then suddenly leaves to go downstairs and satisfy his lewd desires with his whore.

They are also like swamp flies that fly in a column above the head of a running horse. Once the horse stops, they plunge back into their swamp. This is what we are like when our intellect is lifted up but the love in our will remains below, near our feet, immersed in the unclean desires of its nature and lusting for sensual gratification.

Because people in this state shine intellectually as if they possessed wisdom and yet their will is contrary to wisdom, they are like snakes with scales that reflect the light, or like beetles that shine as if they were made of gold. They are also like the strange light over swamps at night, or from the glow of rotting wood, or from phosphorus.

Some who are in this state can masquerade as angels of light, both among people in this world and, after they die, among angels of heaven. After a brief examination there, however, their clothes are removed and they are thrown out naked. They cannot be detected in this world, because here their spirit is not visible; it is covered over with a mask, like the one a comic actor wears on stage. The fact that they can use their faces and words to masquerade as angels of light is both a result and a sign of the fact that they can lift their intellect almost all the way into angelic wisdom, above the love in their will, as I mentioned before. Since our inner and our outer self can go in opposite directions like this, and because our body is cast off but our spirit remains, it is clear then that a dark spirit can live behind a bright face, and a raging spirit can lie behind soothing words.

Therefore, my friend, know people for what they are, not by their mouth but by their heart—that is, not from what they say but from what they do. The Lord says, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but are inwardly as predatory as wolves. Recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).

from True Christianity, Section 590

The First Phase in Our Being Generated Anew Is Called “Reformation”; It Has to Do with Our Intellect. The Second Phase Is Called “Regeneration”; It Has to Do with Our Will and Then Our Intellect (Continued)

It is important to know that the capacity to lift the intellect even to a level of understanding possessed by the angels in heaven has been created as a part of every human being, the evil as well as the good. In fact every devil in hell retains this ability, since all those who are in hell existed as human beings [in the physical world]. I have often been shown through living experience that this is the case.

Nonetheless, the reason the devils in hell are insane rather than intelligent in spiritual matters is that they will what is evil and not what is good. Knowing and understanding truths is repulsive to them, because truths favor what is good and oppose what is evil.

These points also make it clear that the first step in our being generated anew is to receive truths in our intellect. The second step is to intend to put those truths into practice; eventually it takes the form of actually putting them into practice.

No one can justifiably be called a “reformed” person solely on the basis of his or her knowledge of truth. By lifting our intellect above the love that resides in our will, we are all capable of grasping those truths, saying them, teaching them, and preaching them. A truly reformed person is someone who desires the truth because it is true. This desire attaches itself to our will, and if it persists, forges a partnership between our will and our intellect. Then our regeneration begins. (Later sections will deal with how our regeneration proceeds and is perfected after that.)

from True Christianity, Section 589

The First Phase in Our Being Generated Anew Is Called “Reformation”; It Has to Do with Our Intellect. The Second Phase Is Called “Regeneration”; It Has to Do with Our Will and Then Our Intellect (Continued)

For this purpose we have been granted the ability to lift our intellect almost all the way into the light enjoyed by the angels in heaven. This lifting allows us to see what we ought to will and what we ought to do in order to be successful during our time in this world and blessed with happiness after death to eternity. We become successful and blessed if we gain wisdom for ourselves and keep our will obedient to that wisdom. We become unsuccessful and unhappy, however, if we devote our intellect to obeying our will. The reason for this is that from the time we are born, our will has a tendency toward evils of various kinds, including evils that are horrendous. If our will was not restrained by our intellect and instead we let it run free, we would quickly fall into criminal behavior; because of our inborn savage animal nature, for purely selfish reasons we would wipe out and butcher everyone and anyone who failed to show us favor or indulge our lusts.

For another thing, if our intellect were incapable of being perfected on its own and of then perfecting our will, we would not be human at all; we would be animals. If there were no separation between our will and our intellect and if the intellect could not rise above the will, we would be unable either to think or to say what we thought. We would only be able to make noises that expressed our feelings. We would not be able to act in reasonable ways, either; we would act on instinct alone. We would be completely incapable of knowing anything about God or seeing him through what we knew; as a result, we would be unable to form a partnership with him and live forever.

We have thoughts and we will things as if we did so on our own. This feeling that we think and will on our own is what allows for a reciprocal partnership [with the Lord]. No partnership can exist without reciprocation. For example, no partnership would exist between an active element and a responsive element if there were no adaptation or point of contact between them.

God alone is an active force. We allow ourselves to experience that active force and we cooperate with it to all appearances as if we were acting on our own, although inwardly we are actually acting from God.

From the statements just made, if you take them in the right way, you can see what human beings are like. You can see the quality of love the human will has if it is lifted up by means of the intellect; and you can see the quality of love the human will has if it is not lifted up.

from True Christianity, Section 588

The First Phase in Our Being Generated Anew Is Called “Reformation”; It Has to Do with Our Intellect. The Second Phase Is Called “Regeneration”; It Has to Do with Our Will and Then Our Intellect

Because this heading and headings to follow concern reformation and regeneration, and reformation pertains to the intellect but regeneration pertains to the will, it is important for you to know the difference between the intellect and the will. The difference between them has been laid out above in Section 397. Therefore I recommend that you read that section first, and then read what is here.

The evils we are born with are in the will that is part of our earthly self; this earthly will pressures the intellect to agree with it and to have thoughts that harmonize with its desires. Therefore if we are to be regenerated, this has to happen by means of our intellect as an intermediate cause.

This process draws on pieces of information that our intellect receives, first from our parents and teachers, and later from our reading the Word, listening to preaching, reading books, and having conversations. The things that our intellect receives as a result are called truths. Therefore to say that we are reformed by means of our intellect is the same as saying that we are reformed by means of truths that our intellect receives. Truths teach us who to believe in, what to believe, and also what to do and what to will. After all, whatever we do, we do from our will and in accordance with our understanding.

Since our will is evil from the day we are born, and since our intellect teaches us what is evil and what is good and that it is possible for us to will one and not the other, it follows that our intellect is the means by which we have to be reformed. During the phase called our reformation, we come to mentally see and admit that evil is evil and goodness is good, and make the decision to choose what is good. When we actually try to abstain from evil and do what is good, the phase called our regeneration begins.

from True Christianity, Section 587

Section 397: Published 1/28/2021

Regeneration Progresses Analogously to the Way We Are Conceived, Carried in the Womb, Born, and Brough Up (Continued)

We can be regenerated only gradually. Each and every thing that exists in the physical world serves as an illustration of this fact. A seedling does not grow up into a mature tree in a single day. First there is a seed, then a root, then a shoot, which develops into a trunk; then branches come out of that and develop leaves and finally flowers and fruit. Wheat and barley do not spring up ready for harvest in a single day. A home is not built in a single day. We do not become full grown in a single day; reaching wisdom takes us even longer. The church is not established—let alone perfected—in a single day. We will make no progress toward a goal unless we first make a start.

People who have a different conception than this of regeneration know nothing about goodwill or faith, or how each of these qualities grows as we cooperate with the Lord. All this makes clear that regeneration progresses analogously to the way we are conceived, carried in the womb, born, and brought up.

from True Christianity, Section 586

Regeneration Progresses Analogously to the Way We Are Conceived, Carried in the Womb, Born, and Brough Up (Continued)

Many scholars have pointed out the parallels between human reproduction and the reproduction not just of trees but of all plants. I will add something on the subject here to wrap up this discussion.

Among trees and all other members of the plant kingdom there are not two sexes—masculine and feminine. There is just one sex, which is masculine. The ground or earth alone is a mother to them all, and is therefore like a woman. The ground receives the seeds of plants of all kinds. It opens those seeds, carries them as in a womb, nourishes them, and gives birth to them—that is, brings them forth into daylight. Afterward it clothes them and sustains them.

Once the seed has opened in the earth, it first develops a root, which is like a heart. From the root it sends out sap, which is like blood. By so doing it makes a kind of body complete with limbs: the body is the trunk; its limbs are the branches and twigs. The leaves that the plant unfurls immediately after its birth play the role of the lungs. Just as the heart cannot produce motion or sensation without the help of the lungs, but with their help brings us to life, the root cannot develop into a tree or a plant without the help of the leaves. The flowers, which are the first steps toward fruit, are a means of refining the sap (the “blood” of the plant) by separating the purer elements from elements that are impure, and then forming a new stem to allow the purer elements to flow into the center of the flowers. The purified sap then flows through this stem and begins to construct and then mature the fruit. The fruit is like a testicle; the seeds mature within it.

The plant soul (or to put it another way, the plant’s prolific essence), which is dominant at the inmost level within every drop of sap, comes from no other source than the heat of the spiritual world. Because this heat originates in the spiritual sun, its constant goal is to generate [new life] and therefore ensure that creation continues. Because this heat has the generation of new people as its essential aim, therefore whatever it generates bears some resemblance to humankind.

In case you are surprised by my saying that all the inhabitants of the plant kingdom are masculine and that only the earth or the ground plays the role of woman or mother to all, I will use the illustration of a similar situation among bees. According to Swammerdam’s eyewitness account, as presented in his Book of Nature, there is only one common mother who produces all the offspring within a whole hive. If these little creatures have but one common mother, why should that not be the case with all plants?

The idea that the earth is a mother to all can also be illustrated spiritually. The “earth” in the Word means the church, and the church is a mother to all, and is even called that in the Word [Galatians 4:26]. For evidence that earth means the church, see the discussion of this word in Revelation Unveiled 285, 902.

The reason why the earth or ground is able to infiltrate the center of a seed, including its prolific material, and bring this out and circulate it, is that every little grain of dirt or pollen exudes from its essence a subtle emanation, which penetrates the seed. This infiltration is a result of the active force of the heat from the spiritual world.

from True Christianity, Section 585

Regeneration Progresses Analogously to the Way We Are Conceived, Carried in the Womb, Born, and Brough Up (Continued)

The above points make it clear that there is a correspondence between physical birth and spiritual birth. Because there is this correspondence, it follows that not only can we speak of this new birth as including stages of being conceived, being carried in the womb, being born, and being brought up, but those stages of our rebirth are actually real. What exactly the stages are, however, will be presented in proper sequence as this chapter on regeneration unfolds.

Here I will just mention that human seed is conceived inwardly within the intellect and takes shape within the will. From there it is transferred into the testicles, where it wraps itself in an earthly covering. Then it is delivered to the womb and finally enters the world.

There is also a correspondence between human regeneration and every aspect of the plant kingdom. This is why the Word portrays us as trees, the truth we have as seed, and the goodness we have as fruit.

A bad species of tree can be born anew, so to speak, and afterward bear good fruit and good seed; this is clear from grafting. Even though the bad sap rises from the root through the stem all the way to the point where the graft was made, it nevertheless turns into good sap and makes the tree good. A similar thing happens with people who are grafted onto the Lord, as he teaches with the following words:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who live in me and I in them bear much fruit. If any do not live in me, they are cast out as branches. Once dried they are thrown into the fire. (John 15:5-6)

from True Christianity, Section 584