SOME ASPECTS OF SOCIOLOGY IN THE SPIRITUAL AND THE NATURAL WORLD I. H. H. GOSSET 1916
NEW CHURCH LIFE
Vol. XXXVI JANUARY, 1916 No. 1
The inequalities of social life in this world are a favorite theme with social reformers, who, more often than not, bitterly inveigh against such an unjust, unchristian, and unnatural state of things, and suggest the most drastic and revolutionary reforms in order to equalize the possession of the so-called "good things" of this world among the "People." But few-some even among New Church people-appear to realize that far greater are the inequalities of social life in the world to come, as revealed in Swedenborg's works. Between the life of the myriads of angels in the Heavens and the comparatively living death of the myriads of inhabitants in the Hells, the differences are so appalling that earth contains nothing approaching to it; in fact, the most vivid
imagination cannot possibly grasp the transcendent glory of the one and the horrific depths of degradation and wickedness of the other. In awful contrast to the surpassing magnificence and exquisite luxury of so many heavenly societies, we are told that "in the hells. . . they appear indeed clothed with garments, but such as are ragged, squalid and filthy, each according to his insanity; nor can they wear any others." (H. H. 182.) In fact, their whole environment is inexpressibly foul and disgusting. Thus "all for each and each for all" is certainly not applicable to the inhabitants of the spiritual world, for what is heaven to some is as it were hell to others and vice versa. As each spirit is free to choose his associates and place of abode, the law of like to like is there universal.
Certain spirits . . . when the heat of heaven breathed upon them, began to be tormented in a direful manner wherefore they cast themselves downwards, swearing that to enter heaven, unless they were in the light and heat of heaven, was to them hell. (A. E. 865)
Of course our future life entirely depends upon our life in this world.
Every man after death enters into the world of spirits and takes away with him altogether the same nature that he had in the natural world. . . . The world of spirits is so full of subtle wickedness that it may be compared to a pool of water replete with the spawn of frogs. (T. C. R. 120.)
"All for each and each for all" is an altruism dangerously misunderstood and misinterpreted, for although "Heaven is a communion of goods," (H. H. 268), yet the degree of perception and reception of these goods entirely depends on personal character, which differs in each individual angel, whereas in the hells where the love of self reigns supreme, "to everyone is done that which he would do to another." (A. R. 762.) While in this world slavery has among so-called civilized nations been abolished, it is not so in the next world, for we are told: "After infestations they afflict him with cruel punishment until he is reduced to a state of slavery," (H. H. 574), alluding to the experiences of a newcomer into the abodes of evil and falsity. "The reason why the Lord permits torments in the hells is that evils cannot otherwise be restrained and subdued." (H. H. 581.) "The fear of punishment is the only means of restraining the violence and fury of those who are in the hells. . . . There are no other means." (H. H. 543) Yet in spite of all this, evil spirits enjoy and have delight in their dire environment, "and the delight of evil, perceived as good, is hell." (D. P. 93.)
Neither does "all for each and each, for all" mean equality in rank and class.
Because the whole heaven is distinguished into Societies according to the affections which are of love and because all wisdom and intelligence is according to those affections, therefore each Society has a peculiar respiration distinct from the respiration of another Society, and similarly a peculiar and distinct heartbeat.
No one therefore is able to enter from one Society into a more distant one, neither can anyone descend from a higher into a lower heaven, or ascend from a lower into a higher, because the heart then labors and the lungs are oppressed. Least of all can anyone ascend from hell into heaven, for if he makes the attempt he pants like one in the agony of death, or like a fish taken out of water into the air. (D. W. vii.)
Nothing is more certain than that unless heaven is within us here on earth and predominates, we shall never be in heaven hereafter. The converse is equally true, that unless hell is within us here on earth and predominates, we shall never be in hell hereafter; but it must infallibly be one or the other.
That the hells have not only communication but conjunction with such things on earth, may be concluded from this, that the hells are not remote from men, but are around them, yea, are in those who are in evil because the spiritual world is not in space, but it is where there is a corresponding affection. (D. L. W. 343.)
Then the antipathy is so overwhelming between the evil and the good that "an evil spirit when only looked at by the angels, falls into a swoon and loses the appearance of a man." (H. H. 231) Even any intercourse between the intermediate states in the heavens is impossible as "the angels of the Celestial kingdom and those of the Spiritual kingdom do not dwell together, nor associate with one another," (H. H 27); for "an angel of one heaven cannot enter among angels of another heaven." (H. H. 35.) Yet from one standpoint "all for each and each for all" is a fact, but it wholly depends on the individual capacity of reception, for "they who are in the inmost heaven and in the midst of it, diffuse their sphere through the whole of heaven, and hence there is a communication of all in heaven with every one and every one with all." (W. H. 49.) And "Heaven is a communion sharing all it has with each one and every one receiving all he has from this communion. . . . In proportion as man receives heaven, he also is such a recipient, a heaven and an angel." (H. H. 73)
This communion is discrete and not, as it were, personally cognizable; subjective but not objective; for "a society of a higher heaven has no communication with a society of a lower heaven except by correspondences." (H. H. 207.)
It is most carefully provided that no angel of a higher heaven should look down into a society of a lower heaven and speak with anyone there; for if this be done the angel is deprived of his intelligence and wisdom. (H. H. 208.)
The wisdom of the angels of a higher heaven exceeds that of the angels of a lower heaven, in the proportion of a myriad to one. This also is the reason why the angels of a lower heaven cannot speak with the angels of a higher one; and even when they look toward them they do not see them. (H. H. 209.)
If the inequalities of condition in the world of causes is so great, how futile and impossible to expect anything different in the world of effects, for "nothing whatever exists in the natural world that does not draw cause and therefore origin from the spiritual world . . . from both heaven and hell." (D. L. W. 339.)
Besides innumerable class distinctions, there are an endless variety of ranks and orders.
In the Heavens as on Earth there are distinctions of dignity and pre-eminence, with abundance of the richest treasures; for there are governments and forms of government, and thus a variety of ranks and orders, of greater and lesser power and dignity. Those, too, who discharge the supreme authority, have palaces and courts, which for magnificence and splendor far exceed those of emperors and kings on earth, and they are surrounded with honor and glory from the multitude of courtiers, ministers and guards in magnificent apparel. (T. C. R. 735.)
There are not only angelic guards but innumerable angels who are servants.
A similar government [in heaven] is also in least form in every house. There is the master and there are servants; the master loving the servants, and the servants loving the master, so that they serve each other from love. (H. H. 219: also T. C. R. 740, 747)
Common ownership of all the land, capital, and means of production is frequently advocated by Socialists, including many Christian ministers and clergymen, in spite of the fact that if all capital and land be confiscated by the State, it would be impossible to compensate the owners or avoid breaking the Seventh Commandment. Compulsory confiscation, under the circumstances could mean nothing else. Swedenborg considered capital superlatives important and useful, for he says:
No man of sound mind can condemn riches or wealth, because in the body politic they are like blood in the animal body. (T. C. R. 403.)
And in regard to private ownership and possession of riches, the Writings furnish many instances expressing direct approval of both, not only in this world but in the next.
A man may acquire riches and accumulate wealth provided that it be not done with craft and fraud; that he may eat and drink delicately provided that he does not make his life to consist in such things; dwell in magnificence according to his rank. . . nor need he give his goods to the poor, except so far as affection leads him. . . . These things do not hinder his admission into heaven provided he thinks interiorly in a becoming manner about God and deals sincerely and justly with his neighbor. (H. H. 358)
Large fortunes are also permissible and not undesirable in both worlds.
The lot of the rich in heaven is such that they excel the rest in opulence. Some of them dwell in palaces in which all things are refulgent as with gold and silver. (H. H. 361.)
Both the good and evil are in dignities and wealth dignities and riches or honors and wealth, are either blessings or curses . . . blessings to the good, curses to the evil. . . . There are both rich and poor, both great and small in heaven and also in he1l. . . . There are dignities and wealth in heaven as in the world there is also commerce there and hence wealth. . . . They who have greater love and wisdom than others have greater dignities and wealth, and they are those to whom dignities and wealth had been blessings in the world. . . . Persons who are in dignity there are indeed in magnificence and glory like that of kings on earth. (D. P. 217.)
The following quotations will cause a shock in this ultra democratic age, but I take it Swedenborg knew what he was writing about.
Emperors, Kings, Dukes and all such as are born and educated to the exercise of dominion, if they humble themselves before God, are sometimes less influenced by the love of dominion grounded in the love of self, than others who are of mean extraction, and who seek pre-eminence and distinction from pride or self-conceit. (T. C. R. 405.)
Neither is the millennium to be approached-as so many hope and expect-by an all-pervading bureaucracy.
Many who were engaged in trade and commerce in the world and became rich by their employments, are in heaven, but fewer of those who were in stations of honor and became rich by their offices. The reason is, that the latter by the gains and honors bestowed upon them as dispensers of justice and equity, and also by conferring posts of profit and honors on others, were induced to love themselves and the world. (H. H. 359.)
And in the following, who is right, the Divine Providence or the Communist?
The Lord never leads man away from seeking honors or from gathering wealth, but He leads him away from the cupidity to seek after honors for the sake of eminence alone, or for the sake of himself; so, too, from gathering wealth for the sake of opulence alone, or for the sake of power. (D. P. 183)
I would now refer to a much quoted and misunderstood text as to the rich and the poor. Many Christians "suppose that it is as difficult for the rich to enter heaven as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; and that it is easy for the poor because they are poor. But they who know anything of the spiritual sense of the Word, think otherwise. They know that heaven is for all who live the life of faith and love, whether they are rich or poor; but who are meant in the Word by the rich and the poor, will be shown. It has been given me to know certainly that the rich come into heaven as easily as the poor; and that no man is excluded from heaven because he lives in abundance, and that no one is received into heaven because he is poor.
There are both the rich and the poor, and many of the rich in greater glory and happiness than the poor. (H. H. 357)
The poor come into heaven, not on account of their poverty, but on account of their life.... There is no peculiar mercy for the one more than for the other;. . . besides, poverty seduces and draws men away from heaven as much as wealth. There are very many among the poor who are not contented with their lot; who seek for many things, and believe riches to be blessings. They are angry therefore if they do not receive them and think ill of the Divine Providence. They also envy others the good things which they possess, and also defraud them when they have the opportunity; and they also live as much in sordid pleasures. (H. H. 364)
From these things it may be clear that the rich come into heaven as much as the poor, and the one as easily as the other. It is believed that the poor are admitted easily, and the rich with difficulty, because the Word when it speaks of the rich and poor has; not been understood. By the rich in the Word are meant in the spiritual sense those who abound in the knowledges of ... good and truth and by the poor, those who are destitute of those knowledges, but yet desire them (H. H. 365.)
In spite of the Word and in direct contradiction to the Writings, there have been, and I believe still are, a certain number of New Church people, who advocate the abolition of private capital, with common ownership of all land and means of production, but how they dare lend themselves to such propaganda after the clear teaching and revealed arcana in the Writings, passes all understanding.
In the same way as "All for each and each for all" is often misinterpreted, I think that the real signification of "Our neighbor" is frequently misunderstood. The Writings contain many references as to our duty to our neighbor and enlighten us as to his quality and attributes. In the next world our neighborly environment entirely depends on mutual sympathy and somewhat similar characteristics and uses, and though in this world our neighbor has, in a sense, a wider signification, still, according to the Writings, the limits are relatively well defined and are by no means so universal as is generally supposed.
For instance, "every individual man is the neighbor whom we ought to love, but according to the quality of his good." (T. C. R. 406.) It is distinctly laid down that everybody is not our neighbor and that even among those who we may recognize as such, our reciprocal duties to each other vary considerably and are by no means based on a general equality.
He who loves the neighbor from charity connects himself with the good of the neighbor and not with his person, except so far and so long as he is in good.... But he who loves another from friendship only, connects himself with his person, and at the same time with his evil.... The man who is in charity searches carefully and discerns, by means of truth, what ought to be loved, and in loving and conferring benefits, regards the quality of the other's use. (DOCT. FAITH 21.)
For satanic spirits have power through those in the spiritual world who are in works alone, but none without them, for they draw them into connection with themselves provided any one of them says, "I am thy neighbor and on this account good offices ought to be extended to me;" on hearing which they accede, and give him assistance without enquiring who or what he is; because they are without truths, and it is only by truths that one can be distinguished from another. (A. R. 110.)
Thus to recognize our neighbor a good deal of discriminating judgment is called for, although in many cases certain glaring negative characteristics render judgment easier.
Love to the neighbor is the love of obeying the Lord's Commandments, which are chiefly those contained in the Second Table of the Decalogue. . . . He does not love his neighbor who desires to steal and plunder his goods. (A. R. 356)
On this showing, if the State forcibly pooled all capital, seized all landed property, and communized all the means of production, it would be committing criminal and un-neighborly acts of spoliation, whether brought about by instalment or otherwise. Not only has the State no right to arbitrarily deprive owners of their lawful goods, but by the confiscation of capital as well, any form of compensation would be impossible. To do evil that a suppositious good may result is cynical casuistry.
What is love to our neighbor but not to do him evil, according to the precepts of the Decalogue? And so far as man will not to do evil to his neighbor, so far he wills to do him good. (A. R. 571.)
To forcibly confiscate our neighbor's possessions by the irresistible power of the State, is that showing him evil or good?
Every man ought to be loved in proportion to the quality of the good which is in him; therefore good itself is essentially our neighbor. . . . It is evident that there are genera and species and also degrees of love towards our neighbor which degrees ought to be regulated by love towards the Lord, consequently by the proportion in which the Lord is received by our neighbor. (T. C. R. 410.)
He who loves good because it is good, and truth because it is truth, pre-eminently loves his neighbor. (T. C. R. 419)
Compulsory equality and community of property would be traversing our duty to our neighbor, as then the evil as well as the good would receive the same treatment. True charity to our neighbor is not robbing Peter to pay Paul for then we are grossly uncharitable and unneighborly to Peter. True charity is not so easy of attainment even in almsgiving.
Eleemosynary acts of charity consist in giving to the poor and relieving the indigent, but with prudence.... It is a prevailing notion that charity consists solely in giving to the poor, relieving the indigent, providing for widows and orphans, etc.... Many things of this sort have no proper connection with charity, but are extraneous to it. Those who make charity to consist in such actions, must of necessity consider them meritorious. (T. C. R. 425.)
It is difficult to remove such ideas [personal merit] from those who believe charity to consist in giving alms and assisting the indigent: in doing these works of charity, the doer at first openly and afterwards tacitly, desires reward and contracts notions of merit and desert. (T. C. R. 442.)
This may seem a hard saying and must be taken as a serious warning, but considering the source of Swedenborg's information, we cannot but acknowledge its truth, more especially that the TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION was his last work and to a large extent epitomized his spiritual philosophy.
On the subject of indiscriminate equality in State-charity, I would make one more quotation from the same work to prove its unwisdom.
Those who have done eleemosynary acts of charity from the impulse of a blind undistinguishing charity, are found in another life equally compassionate to the wicked and the good; the consequence of which is, that the wicked are assisted in their disposition to do wickedly, and to turn the kindnesses they receive into means of injuring the good, so that such bestowers of kindnesses are ultimately the cause of mischief to the good. To bestow a favor on a wicked person is like giving bread to a devil, which he turns into poison . . . by using the kindnesses he receives as allurements to draw others into evil. (T. C. R. 428.)
Thus to selfish people, the possession of dignities and wealth-even the communistic minimum-might be a curse and not a blessing. To sum up: "The love of dignities and riches for the sake of uses, is the love of uses, which is the same as the love of the neighbor." (D. P. 214) "This love is heavenly." (D. P. 215)
I have already quoted H. H. 364 where in alluding to the poor it is stated: "They also envy others the good things which they possess. The last two Commandments in the Decalogue refer to this deadly sin of envying or coveting that which belongs to others." The Writings frequently refer to it. The socialist political doctrine of common ownership of all land, capital, and means of production, is largely based on envy and covetousness. It is so easy and politically popular in this world, to be philanthropic and generous with other people's property, especially when the owners are in a political minority, for "minorities must suffer!" But what says New Church doctrine as to this?
So far as anyone does not covet what is his neighbor's, he wishes his neighbor happy in the enjoyment of his possessions. (T. C. R. 330.)
Here is no condemnation of individual rights of property, quite the contrary.
"Thou shalt not covet," and when a man does not covet what belongs to his neighbor, he then learns good-will towards him. (T. C. R. 456.)
The converse must be equally true, that if a man does covet another's possessions, he then learns ill-will towards him.
Man is wholly possessed by two kinds of love, the love of ruling over all, and the love of possessing the wealth and property of all. (T. C. R. 498.)
And these are hereditary from his parents. Only the regenerate can overcome these natural inclinations. If they are not overcome, we still abide in these sins. Thus, lust of dominance and cupidity can be national as well as individual, as in German Kultur and in other modern psychological movements nearer home. What a man loves, this he continually covets.... By not coveting a neighbor's house, is understood, not to covet his goods, which in general are possessions and wealth; and not to appropriate them to ourselves by evil arts. This concupiscence is of the love of the world. (A. E. 1021.)
Man is born into every evil as to the will and wills good to himself alone . . . he desires to appropriate to himself the goods of all others, whether they consist of honors or riches. (H. H. 424.)
Although he [the merely natural man] does nor steal, yet he covets the goods of others and regards fraud and evil arts as not contrary to civil law; in intent, he is continually acting the thief.... We are not ... to covet the goods of others. (H. H. 531.)
It is noteworthy that three out of the Ten Commandments directly refer to this lust of possession, which is evidently a peculiarly subtle temptation and sin.
These two Commandments [ninth and tenth] relate to all the preceding Commandments, teaching and enjoining that evil's are not to be done or even lusted after ... for the lust of evil, notwithstanding a forbearance from the outward commission, constitutes an act. (N. J. 54.)
That a man live according to the Precepts of the Decalogue by abstaining from those evils which are there forbidden. . . from coveting the possession and property which belongs to others. . . .
The Lord cannot enter into man and lead him so long as these evils are not removed as sins: for they are infernal, yea, are hell with man. . . The Ninth Precept, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, contains also a requirement not to desire to possess and appropriate to ourselves the goods of others against their will. (A. E. 934)
These Laws . . . were the first fruits of the Word in summary the complex of all things of religion, and so holy that nothing could be more holy. (N. J. 54.)
The Precepts of the Decalogue are the Lord with man. (A. E. 981.)
The foregoing amply prove the danger of envying and coveting the possessions of others, whether individually or politically, for given the power, such thoughts and feelings become actual, and then, not only are the ninth and tenth Commandments broken, but also the seventh. Common ownership of all the land, capital, and means of production, by and through a political majority in the State, means nothing else. The Writings are very definite as to this.
Thou shalt not steal. By stealing, man understands stealing, defrauding or taking away from the neighbor his goods tender any pretext. (S. S. 67)
He does not love his neighbor who desires to steal and plunder his goods. (A. R. 356.)
With the exception of, what I should call, the bedrock principles of the Socialistic program, i. e., "All for each and each for all," and "Common ownership of all the land, all the capital, and all the means of production," I have refrained from quoting from any of the voluminous literature voicing modern socialism, which differs somewhat in realization and degree, but I think the above principles embrace their fundamental propaganda. I suggest, that the above somewhat lengthy and detailed quotations from the Writings, condemn these principles with no uncertain voice, and thus render them conscientiously untenable. Beyond all others, we have an infallible Witness as to the right or the wrong of most modern social movements, both dogmatically and vigorously enunciated, and not once or twice, but with detailed reiteration, so that there is no valid excuse for ignorance or misconception.
The only barrier to a reasonable assimilation, are those preconceived opinions which are so apt to render their possessors deaf, blind, and unwilling to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest such momentous truths, so clearly revealed. Surely any attempt to boycott these and other New Church Truths, which, after all, are a living part of the New Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, whose light is like a stone most precious, clear as crystal, (Rev. xxi:10, 11 ), is at, least on the part of Believers-in-the-Writings-when-it-suits-them, a very questionable and risky proceeding. Our Lord, out of His loving Providence, through His Servant and Prophet Swedenborg, has cast this bread upon the waters; of a surety, whatever its past or present rejection, He will find it after many days. To the Writings I appeal and by the Writings must judgment be given. "And they whether they will hear or whether they will forbear . . . yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them."