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THE DOCTRINE OF CHARITY
AC 6933. It is a common saying that everyone is neighbor to himself, that is, that one should take care of himself first of all. The doctrine of charity teaches how the case herein is. Everyone is neighbor to himself, not in the first, but in the last place. In a prior place are others who are in good; in a still prior place is a society of many; in a place still prior is our country; in a place still prior is the church; in a place still prior is the Lord‘s kingdom; and above all men and all things is the Lord.
AC 6934. The saying that everyone is neighbor to himself, and that he must take care of himself first of all, is to be understood in this way. Everyone must make provision for himself so as to have the necessaries of life, as food, clothing, a place to dwell in, and other things which are necessarily required in the civil life where he is; and this not only for himself, but also for his family; and not only for the present time, but also for the future. Unless each person procures for himself the necessaries of life, he cannot be in a state to exercise charity toward the neighbor, for he is in need of all things.
AC 6935. The end in view declares in what way each person must be neighbor to himself, and must first of all take care of himself. If the end is that he may become richer than others merely for the sake of riches, pleasure, eminence, and the like, the end is evil; and therefore he who from such an end believes he is neighbor to himself, injures himself to eternity. But if the end is that he may acquire wealth for the sake of the necessaries of life, for himself and for his family, so as to be in a state to do what is good according to the commandments of the doctrine of charity, he takes care of himself for eternity. The end itself makes the man, for the end is his love, because everyone has as the end that which he loves.
AC 6936. How the case herein is can be further seen from this similar example. Everyone ought to take care of his body in respect to its food and clothing. This must come first, but to the end that there may be a sound mind in a sound body. And everyone ought to take care of his mind in respect to its food, namely, in respect to such things as belong to intelligence and wisdom, to the end that his mind may thus be in a state to serve the Lord; he who does this, takes good care of himself for eternity. But he who takes care of his body merely for the sake of the body, and does not think of soundness of mind, and who does not take care of his mind in respect to such things as are of intelligence and wisdom, but in respect to such things as are contrary thereto, takes bad care of himself for eternity. From all this it is evident in what way everyone ought to be neighbor to himself, namely, not in the first place but in the last; for the end must not be for himself, but for others; and where the end is, there is the first.
AC 6937. Moreover the case herein is like that of a man who is building a house. He must first lay the foundation; but the foundation must be for the house, and the house for a place to dwell in. And so everyone must first take care of himself, yet not for himself, but in order that he may be in a state to be of service to the neighbor, thus to his country, to the church, and above all to the Lord. He who believes that he is neighbor to himself in the first place, is like one who regards the foundation as the end, and not the house and dwelling in it; when yet the dwelling is the very first and last end, and the house together with its foundation is only a means to the end.
AC 6938. As is the case with possessions, so also is it with honors in the world: everyone is at liberty to provide himself with these also, yet not for the sake of himself, but for the sake of the neighbor: he who provides them for the sake of himself, provides ill for himself; but he who provides them for the sake of the neighbor, provides well for himself. For he who turns his ends to himself turns himself toward hell; but he who turns his ends from himself to the neighbor, turns himself toward heaven.
CONTINUATION CONCERNING THE SPIRITS OF THE PLANET MERCURY
AC 7069. The nature of the genius of the spirits from the planet Mercury may still further appear from what follows. Be it known that all spirits whatever have been men, for the human race is the seminary of heaven; also that the spirits themselves are exactly such as they had been during their life in the world, for everyone’s life follows him. This being so, the genius of the men of every earth can be known from the genius of the spirits who are from it.
AC 7070. As the spirits from Mercury bear relation in the Grand Man to the memory of things abstracted from what is material (n. 6808), therefore when anyone speaks with them about earthly, bodily, and merely worldly things, they are quite unwilling to hear; and when forced to hear about them they at once change them into other things, and for the most part into contrary ones, in order to escape from them.
AC 7071. In order that I might know for certain that such is their genius, I was allowed to represent to them meadows, fallow grounds, gardens, woods, and rivers; but they at once changed them, darkening the meadows and fallow grounds, and by representations filling them with snakes; the rivers they made black, so that the water no longer appeared limpid. Then I asked them why they did so, they said that they are unwilling to think about such things, but only about real ones, which are the knowledges of such things as are abstracted from what is earthly, especially about such as arise in the heavens.
AC 7072. Afterward I represented to them birds of different sizes, large and small, such as exist on our earth; for in the other life such may be represented as it were to the life, the very speech of spirits and angels being full of representations. When they saw those represented birds, they at first desired to change them, but afterward were delighted with them, and acquiesced. The reason was that birds signify the knowledges of things, of which fact the perception then flowed in; and therefore they abstained from changing them, and so turning them from the ideas of their memory. Afterward I was allowed to represent before them a most pleasing garden full of lights and oil-lamps. This arrested their attention, because lights together with oil-lamps signify truths which shine from good. From this it was evident that their attention could be fixed on material things, provided there was at the same time insinuated the signification of them in the spiritual sense; for the things of the spiritual sense are abstracted from material things, but are represented in them.
AC 7073. I also spoke with them about sheep and lambs; but they would not hear about such things, because these were perceived by them as earthly. The reason of this was that they did not understand what innocence is, which lambs signify, which I observed from the fact that when I said that lambs do not appear represented in heaven as lambs, but that when they are mentioned, innocence is perceived in place of them, they then said that they do not know what innocence is, but that they know it by name only. The reason is that they are affected solely by knowledges, and not by uses, which are the ends of knowledges (n. 6815); thus not being affected by the ends of knowledges, they cannot know from internal perception what innocence is.
AC 7074. Some of the spirits of the earth Mercury were sent by others to me in order to hear what was going on with me; to whom one of the spirits of our earth said that they might tell their companions not to speak anything but the truth, and not in their usual way to present to those questioning them things opposite; for if anyone of the spirits of our earth were to do so, he would be punished. But the company from which those spirits had been sent out, which was at a distance, then answered that if they were to be punished on that account, all would be punished, because, from constant use, they cannot do otherwise. They said that when they speak with the men of their own earth, they act in the same way, and this with no intention to deceive them, but in order to inspire a longing for knowledge; for when they present things opposite, and in a certain way hide the real things, the desire of knowing is excited, and in this way the memory is enriched by the study devoted to the exploration of the things in question.
AC 7075. At another time I also spoke with them about the same thing, and because I knew that they spoke with the men of their earth, I asked how they instruct its inhabitants. They said that they do not instruct them how the matter stands but still they insinuate some perception of it, in order that the desire to know may thereby be fed, and may increase, which desire would perish if they answered all questions. They added that they present opposites for the additional reason that the truth may afterward the better appear; for all truth appears relatively to its opposites.
AC 7076. It is their custom not to tell another what they know, yet still to desire to know from all whatever they know; but they communicate all things to their own society, insomuch that what one knows, all know, and what all know, each one therein knows.
AC 7077. As the spirits of Mercury are of this character, and moreover abound in knowledges, they are in a kind of conceit (n. 6813), supposing that they know so many things that it is scarcely possible to know more. But they have been told by the spirits of our earth that they do not know many things, but only a few, and that the things which they do not know are relatively infinite and that the things which they do not know relatively to those which they do know are like the waters of the greatest ocean as compared with those of a tiny spring. In order that they might know that such is the case it was granted that a certain angelic spirit should speak with them, and should tell them in general what they do know and what they do not know; and that there are infinite things which they do not know; and also that to eternity they cannot know even the generals of things. He spoke by means of angelic ideas much more readily than they, and as he disclosed what they know, and what they do not know, they were struck with amazement. I afterward saw another angel speaking with them, who appeared at some elevation to the right; he enumerated very many things which they do not know; and afterward spoke with them by means of changes of state, which they said they do not understand. He then told them that every change of state contains infinite things, and so also does every least thing of it.
 When they heard this, as they had been in conceit on account of knowledges, they began to humble themselves. The humiliation was represented by the sinking of their roll downward, for that company then appeared like a roll, in front toward the left at a distance, in the plane of the region below the navel; but the roll appeared as it were hollowed out in the middle, and elevated at the sides; a reciprocal movement was also observed therein. They were also told what this signified, namely, what they were thinking in their humiliation, and that they who appeared elevated at the sides were not as yet in any humiliation. And I saw that the roll was separated, and that they who were not in humiliation were relegated toward their own globe; the rest remaining. As the spirits of the planet mercury shun the spirits of our earth, on account of the material things in which the latter are, and as they had asked whether such can become angels (n. 6929), they now received the reply, that the angel who had spoken with them was from this earth.
AC 7078. Be it known that the spirits of other earths do not appear within the sphere where the spirits of our earth are, but outside of it, some at greater, some at less distance, and also in different quarters. The reason is that the spirits of one earth are not of the same genius and life as those of another; also that they constitute different provinces in the Grand Man. The unlikeness of the state of life causes this appearance. But in the inmost heaven they do not appear separated from one another. The spirits of Mercury however do not appear in a fixed quarter, nor at a fixed distance, but appear now in front, now to the left, and now a little to the back. The reason is that they are allowed to wander through the universe to acquire knowledges, and thereby to enrich the memory. Their planet is presented to spirits at the back, as is also the sun of the world, when they are thinking about it, for nothing whatever of it appears. The reason why it is presented at the back is that to those who are in the other life the sun of the world is in complete obscurity, and is thick darkness; but the sun of heaven, or the Lord, appears in front before the right eye, because from this sun they have all their light; for the right eye not only corresponds to the intellectual sight in so far as it is illumined by truth, but also in so far as it is illumined by good (n. 4410). In this way does the Lord look at man from good, and illumine him through good.
AC 7079. A continuation concerning the spirits of the planet Mercury will be found at the end of the following chapter. previous - next - text - Exodus - BM Home - Full Page