New Jerusalem
   Koti      ENGLISH: SWEDENBORG AND BENJAMIN & QUESTION 1.      QUESTION 6.
Emanuel Swedenborg  1688-1772
 

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Question 6: Can you tell us about your temptations and about temptations in general?

Answer:

To understand the mechanism of temptations one should read Genesis VII and VIII. Then from Arcana Coelestia corresponding numbers from 701. After that I recommend to read Genesis XI and corresponding numbers. Genesis IX does not concern temptations but the state after temptations, that is, the regenerated man. This part of Genesis is concerned the man of the Ancient Church which was a spiritual church. So the mechanism is nearly similar to the New Jerusalem which also is a spiritual church. To understand the process of temptations is the corner stone of the Heavenly Doctrine. Very few people on this earth have experienced temptations. Nearly all Swedenborgians (I use the word Swedenborgian to portray a member of the New Church) have had spiritual temptations but these have often been so mild that they have not noticed them. Just a few Swedenborgians have had celestial temptations. And I personally am the first one who has had spiritual-celestial temptations or temptations against conjugial love. This can sound selfish but it is not. It is true and you maybe understand it after reading this answer.

Temptations are so unknown on our earth that in many languages the word temptations and corresponding words have come to mean inducement to evil whereas the real idea conveyed by the Latin word tentationes (from the Greek word peirasmos) is primarily, that of sufferings or trials. Temptations are accordingly sufferings which try a man, and show what he is.

Only persons who understand that the Heavenly Doctrine is truth can be tempted. Persons with other religions can be tempted only so mild that it is not a real temptation. This is because only the Heavenly Doctrine is in direct connection with heavens and other religions just with the world of spirits. Good spirits cannot endure strong evil spirits who are in direct connection with hells; they can stand up only mild evil spirit from the world of spirits.

There are two kinds of temptation, the first involving things of the understanding, the second those of the will. When a person’s temptation involves those of the understanding, evil spirits activate only the evil deeds he has carried out, which are meant here by ‘unclean beasts’. And with these they accuse and condemn. They even activate his good deeds as well, which are also meant here by the 'clean beasts'; but these they corrupt in a thousand ways. At the same time they also activate his thoughts, which are also meant here by ‘bird’, and in addition they activate the things meant here by ‘things creeping over the ground’. This kind of temptation however is mild and is perceived only through the recollection of such experiences, and a kind of mental anguish resulting from this. When however someone's temptation involves things of the will, it is not so much his deeds and thoughts that are activated. Instead there are evil genii, as evil spirits of this type may be called, who inflame him with the evil desires and the foul loves in which he is steeped, and in this way direct their attack through the person's very desires. They do this so wickedly and secretly that one cannot possibly believe it is they who are doing it. In fact they worm their way in no time at all into the life of his desires, and almost instantaneously twist and convert the affection for good and truth into the affection for evil and falsity. They act in such a way that the individual inevitably thinks that these things come from himself and flow forth of his own free will. This kind of temptation is very severe, and is felt as inward pain and burning torment. This subject is dealt with later on. I have been allowed from much experience to know and realize that this is true, and to know also when evil spirits or genii were flowing in and overwhelming, and from where, who they were and how they did it. “ (Arcana Coelestia, 751).

In spite of the fact that Swedenborg has written a lot about temptations he has not explained enough that every Swedenborgian can understand these in his everyday life. Many Swedenborgians do not know that they have had temptations at all. I hope I will help with following explanations the Swedenborgians to understand better the mechanism of temptations.

Conditions of temptations

1. Temptations come on unexpectedly. Man cannot himself achieve a temptation. Temptations come from the Permission of the Lord in order to amending man. Man is uncertain in temptations. He does not know clearly that he has a temptation. He supposes that this is a normal hardship. Just special spiritual temptations which concerns theological and philosophical matters can be clear because the man is in the situation of choosing. Is this true or false? Which one is correct? Such temptations are very mild.


2. Normal anxieties and ills are nearly always temptations for a person under regeneration but not for a person not knowing and understanding the Heavenly Doctrine, that is, not under regeneration. The latter has desolations and vastations instead of temptations. Desolations mean that this person will be sure of falsities at issues and his truths are devastated. Vastations mean that he is sure of his infernal desires being correct and acceptable and his good is devastated. Those who are under regeneration also have desolations and vastations but for them they are destructions of falsities and evils often before temptations.


3. Three definitive conditions for a temptation are despair in the end of the temptation, consolation and enlightenment after the temptation. Despair is mild in mild temptations and grievous in severe temptations. Consolation and enlightenment are better and deeper after grievous temptations than after mild temptations.


4. After a temptation there is fluctuation: evil spirits try anew to flow in but they cannot. These trials are decreasing gradually and disappear later totally. Man experiences these trials as remote feelings and recollections of the past temptation.

 
5. Spiritual temptations are combats between truths and falsities. Is this true or not? Which one is true? Praying and reading the Word and the Writings are the weapons in these combats.
6. Celestial temptations are similar to psychoses. Man is surrounded by evil genii who inflame him with evil desires and foul loves. This makes man to believe that the infernal thoughts and desires are his own. Celestial temptations are different from psychoses in that it goes over without any treatment other than trust in the Lord and one preserves his rational reason otherwise than in psychosis where patient loses it. In celestial temptations man ought to call the Lord Jesus Christ for help although man can feel it disagreeable because of the presence of evil genii. Man also must compel himself to read the Word, especially Psalms, although the genii are opposed to. Man ought not to consult atheist psychiatry or psychology.


7. Temptations are absolutely personal. Only man himself and the Lord know them. An outsider cannot understand a temptation of another person. Every man has his unique remains (reliquiae) which he also takes along as weapons in temptations in addition to his new truths from the Heavenly Doctrine. Remains are all those truths and good things which man has done from his infancy. These are stored up by the Lord and they are not manifested until he comes into temptations.

 
8. Temptations concern most often man’s ruling love or what man desires most. But there can be temptations concerning man’s other desires and tastes, too.

 
9. The greater the love the harder the temptation. Hardest temptations concern conjugial love, mildest spiritual-natural truths. Man is unclean in temptations because evil spirits are around him. Man can do things in temptation which would outside temptation be unbecoming.

 
10. With people moved by love towards the neighbour, which is charity, whatever attacks this love leads to a tortured conscience. This is spiritual temptation.

 
11. With people moved by love to the Lord, whatever attacks that love to the Lord produces inmost torment. This is celestial temptation.

Passages 10 and 11 require an explanation. In spiritual temptations man has two sides of battle: his falsities from the past and his new truths from the Heavenly Doctrine. If his ruling love has been worldly love, for example love to property, honour or prestige, he will have spiritual temptations and his new truths from the Writings, which he now loves, are his love towards the neighbour. In celestial temptations man also has two sides of battle: evil genii from hell and angels from heavens. If his ruling love has been egoistic love, for example love to dominate others, love to cheat other people, love to seduce women, even other men’s wives, he will have celestial temptations and his new will is from reading the Writings, that is, to understand and to desire to keep the Commandments, and this new will is his love to the Lord.

My own temptations

My spiritual temptations began after my enlightenment on the 21st of July 1973 (see Question 1). I had found the internal sense of the Word without the Writings of Swedenborg. The temptations took two years and consisted in leaving behind all my studies in theology, philosophy, mysticism and parapsychology as nonsense until I found the Writings in July 1975. After that I do not have had any spiritual temptations but I have had mild assaults of evil spirits concerning intellectual things.

My first celestial temptation began in September 1976. It concerned my selfish proud of my intelligence against applying to life the New Doctrine I had adopted. I had succeeded well at university and now I had to make my decision about continuing with my study or not. I finished studying and wrote to England for beginning to study in a Swedenborgian college. In April of 1977 I sold all my property and travelled to Great Britain with my wife and our young daughter. There I met many ministers and members of the New Jerusalem. I found that the New Jerusalem in Great Britain was under control of the Dragonists and of course they did not accept me as a student. We left England and immigrated to Sweden, to Gothenburg. In Sweden the New Jerusalem also was under control of the Dragonists and I could not bear them. My touch with the Swedenborgian Churches was a temptation which I conquered with help of the Lord. My enlightenment was an insight into the nature and state of this church. After this period of my life I have had dozens of temptations but they do not have any importance for the New Church people. I can only say that every temptation has been of benefit to me.

In 1999 I lived in Norway with my family and hade many strange experiences which made me to believe that now my temptations were over. I wrote a letter in English (translated with a translating program so the language was almost incomprehensible) and send it to many Swedenborgian organizations. But I was ahead of time. I was then under an insidious temptation which lasted over one year but I did not notice it in the beginning. The result of this temptation was very important. I learned with absolute certainty that the Lord does not lead man through direct influx but through correspondences. Direct influx as many mystics and I myself have experienced is always from evil genii although one can fancy that it is from the Lord. This temptation increased my enlightenment immensely: I could again sensate correspondences as I could in 1973.

In June of 1999 we moved to Finland and I had many celestial assaults here which do not have any significance for the New Church people. I then thought that my temptations were nearly over. But I did not know what was waiting for me. Our second address in Finland was “Cross Rock Street 1”. Cross=temptation, rock=all the hells, street=spiritual, 1=celestial and the whole address meant spiritual-celestial temptations with all the hells. I was very scared when we moved to this address because I knew this correspondence and waited for temptations. And they came. Swedenborg has written much about temptations but nothing about temptations against conjugial love. The temptations against conjugial love concern a married couple as one person. I had lived happily with my dear wife nearly thirty years; we have five daughters and five sons. And suddenly all the hells were open. All the devils were at liberty. The temptations lasted nearly two years and were in the beginning so horrible that I wished to be crucified hundred times every day in order to avoid the torture in my soul. It is not necessary to describe these things more. The temptations disappeared gradually and thereafter I know that the Lord is leading all things: from microcosmos to cosmos, in time and out of times, ever to eternity. And man’s only wisdom is this: Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22: 35-40).

Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man who set foot on the moon. So were I and my wife the first couple who opened the new spiritual-celestial heaven where conjugial love rules. Neil Armstrong did only his job. So did us.