The Lord, moreover, never coerces anyone. For nothing to which one is coerced seems one’s own, and what seems not one’s own cannot be done from one’s love or be appropriated to one as one’s own. Man is always led in freedom by the Lord, therefore, and reformed and regenerated in freedom. Emanuel Swedenborg [DP43]
WHAT IS REAL FREEDOM?
Many of us believe that freedom means intending, thinking, saying and doing whatever we want or desire. Some people restrain themselves from doing what they desire because they are afraid to lose their reputation in the world. And most people control themselves because they are afraid of being arrested and ending up in prison. But what would happen if there were no civil laws and everyone could do as he pleases? Every person would want to rule over others and chaos, war, theft, rape and violence would increase in society. People would also fall into all kinds of abuses and addictions, such as food, tobacco, drugs, sex and perversions of all kinds. In the end, the members of such a society would be enslaved by fear, anxiety, envy, greed, lust, hatred and anger. This pretty much would be hell on Earth. Well, Swedenborg says that this is exactly what hell is like in the spiritual world. Do we really desire to end up in such a spiritual atmosphere? While we are on Earth, it is therefore pertinent to decide what we really desire because, in the spiritual world, there is no hypocrisy and we end up in a spiritual society with other beings who have similar loves and desires as our own.
There is another kind of freedom that God intended us to have when He created the universe: Heavenly Freedom. It is the kind of inner freedom we acquire from obeying conscience and loving God and our neighbor as our self. In fact, God’s Substance or Divine Love is the source of real freedom. And God freely gave us of His substance. We can choose to reciprocate Love or we can misuse and abuse it. It is our free choice.
1. FREEDOM OF RELIGION
In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his inaugural address, cited four freedoms which human beings everywhere ought to enjoy and commissioned Walter Russell to create the four freedoms monument. These four freedoms are in accord with the structure of the universe.
God and Heaven are within us. And we should be free to practice our own religion without infringing upon other people’s spiritual and social liberty. Love can only be realized FREELY and WILLINGLY. Thus, all human beings reserve the right to reject Divine Truth and Love. However, when they freely choose to remain in the darkness of their selfishness and ignorance, they can only experience the fleeting delights of their lust and greed. Since they believe that happiness can only be found in self-centeredness and the world, their desires or feelings of lack continue to increase and they usually culminate in inner slavery, fear and suffering.
God is Infinite Being and the whole universe was derived from Infinite Being. Thus, real joy can only be derived from our relationship with God (Infinite Being) and other beings in the universe. Real Joy can only be derived by FREELY and WILLINGLY choosing to love God, our neighbor and uses.
2. FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Human beings have been endowed with the Freewill to love and believe whatever they desire. Yet, this does not mean that what they love is necessarily good nor what they believe is necessarily true. In fact, Good and Truth are not matters of opinion; they are emanations of Reality or Heaven.
Truth is the spiritual form of Heaven and Love (or Good) is its spiritual substance. In fact, our own heart and mind evolved in the likeness of Love and in the image of Truth. This is where conscience and rationality originate. The values of Heaven are its harmonic spiritual ratios or Divine proportions. When we live according to conscience and reason, we are in harmony with the Heavens of our heart and mind.
We become or realize who we are by means of what we love, intend, believe, say and do. When we express what is true or reasonable and do what is Good or loving, we create a body of spiritual substance that can subsist in the eternal fields of Heaven. Once again, we should be free to speak or express what we think or believe without infringing upon the liberty of others to also express what they think and believe.
3. FREEDOM FROM FEAR
Fear is a lack of Faith. Thus, if we desire to be free from fear, we must live in faith and love. Faith is an acknowledgment of Truth. When we understand that the physical universe is connected to the higher dimensions of Truth and Love, we lose the fear of our egotistical self. The truth is that all things derive their being from a source that is other than themselves. And all beings are interdependent and interconnected by means of Love, Wisdom and Use.
The substance of faith is charity or love. Thus, when we are useful to others and God and practice Love continuously, our feeling of fear disappears because we become interconnected within a network of mutual Love, meaning and purpose. A society that is based on mutual Love and usefulness is in connection with Heaven while a society that is based on fear and selfishness is in connection with hell.
4. FREEDOM FROM WANT
In order to be joyful and contented, we must understand where real joy resides. To believe that joy resides in the glorification of our own self, in the fulfilling of selfish lust or in the accumulation of worldly possessions is to believe what is false. Even if we acquired the possession and glory of the whole world and fulfilled every selfish desire, we would still be miserable. The universe was designed in a very intelligent way. The only way to receive from the universe is by first giving to the universe. The more we give, the more we receive. This giving is a giving of our self. Even minerals, plants and animals do this unconsciously. Minerals give themselves to plants. All plants and trees feed on the minerals of the earth. Animals feed on plants. And horses, cattle, sheep and goats provide milk, meat, wool, leather and transportation for human beings.
The law of Love is the Law of Regiving or Use. It is by Love, Usefulness or Regiving that all beings are sustained and maintained in the universe. When we are useful to others and God, we free our self from want as we notice eventually that what we have freely given comes back to us multiplied. As our giving enters the network of mutual Love, it interferes harmonically with other waves of Light. And, as Light is also a mirror, this giving is reflected in many ways.
A society that is based on mutual Love and usefulness frees itself from want because it is in connection with Heaven. And all spiritual Goods and Truths from Heaven are able to flow into such a society and be transformed into social Intelligence and natural goods by correspondence.
We have a capacity for disciplined thought and a certain latitude, or rationality and freedom, and these two abilities are in us as gifts from the Lord. In Divine Love and Wisdom 264-270 and 425 and also in 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.
Whatever we have done from our freedom in accord with our thinking becomes a permanent part of us. This is because our sense of who we are and our freedom are integral to each other. Our sense of who we are is part of our life, and whatever we do from our life we do freely. Then again, our sense of who we are includes everything that comes from our love, because our love is our life; and whatever we do because of our life's love, we do freely.
We act freely and in keeping with our thought because we do think about whatever arises from our life or our love. We validate it in our thought; and once it is validated, we do it freely and in keeping with our thought.
This is because everything we do, we do from our volition by means of our discernment, and freedom is a matter of volition and thought a matter of discernment.
We can also act freely and irrationally, and rationally but not freely. These actions do not become a permanent part of us, though. They come only from our mouths and our bodies, not from our spirits and our hearts. The things that come from our spirits and our hearts become part of us when they are owned by our mouths and our bodies. I could provide any number of examples, but this is not the place for it.
"Becoming part of us" means entering our life and becoming a matter of life and therefore becoming part of our sense of who we are. However, I will be explaining later that there is really no "who we are," even though there does seem to be. At this point I will say only that everything good that we do freely, in keeping with reason, is incorporated into us as though it were ours, because it seems to us that it is ours when we think and intend and speak and act. Still, the goodness is not ours but the Lord's within us. There will be a separate section on how this incorporation takes place. Emanuel Swedenborg [DP 73, 78]
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