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For why, will it be asked, should this divine work necessitate the moral experience of mankind? Why should it not be accomplished at once, so to speak, and without involving in the creature any knowledge of good and evil ?
This question proceeds upon a misconception of the whole matter in discussion. It proceeds upon the assumption that the divine end in creation was to make an essential or absolute conjunction of himself with the creature, which of course is absurd, for it would be to make the creature the Creator. Essentially or absolutely the creature is of necessity embraced in the Creator, and therefore to talk of the Creator effecting a conjunction in this point of view between himself and the creature, effecting an essential or absolute conjunction, would be to use words without understanding. What is essential or absolute cannot be effected, or disclaims all actual genesis, for the simple reason that it is itself the basis of all effects or actuality. The divine end in creation, then, imports no such conjunction as this, but wholly a formal conjunction, or a conjunction to the creature's consciousness.
But how shall this conjunction take place while the creature is without a consciousness or self hood? For absolutely, of course, the creature is without a selfhood, or is not, God being the only absolute selfhood. How, then, shall the conjunction in question take place ? Manifestly the first condition is, that the creature possess, if not an absolute, yet a quasi, or apparent, self hood, a phenomenal self-consciousness, which shall furnish the requisite basis of conjunction.
But here again a difficulty occurs. For how shall this quasi or apparent selfhood become pronounced, become possible? How shall this phenomenal self-consciousness become developed ? For God is essentially creative, and His creature, therefore, cannot be a mere illusion; he must be a real and actual verity. If all this be undeniable, then it results of absolute necessity, that this self hood of the creature become pronounced only by the descent of the Divine to natural conditions, by His manifestation in the principles of natural order. It results, in other words, that the absolute or infinite reveal himself in the conditional and finite, that the Creator manifest himself in the creature.
Creation, then, considered objectively,— as a divine achievement or finished work, - is the reproduction of the Divine perfections in the laws of natural order.
But creation considered subjectively, considered as the actual revelation of the Creator in the creature, or, in Swedenborg's language, as the Divine proceeding, involves of necessity a mediate plane of existence, a plane intermediate to that of absolute life and absolute death, or, absolute good and absolute evil. For absolute life or good of course cannot be imparted, and absolute death or evil is equally, of course, an impracticable experience, since its experience would be tantamount to a denial of the subject's creatureship. Hence we repeat, that creation, regarded as a subjective process, as the procession of the creative subject towards the created subject, as the transit from absolute to conditional existence, necessarily involves a mediate experience, an experience which shall be that neither of absolute life nor of absolute death, but the indifference or equilibrium of the two. And the subject of this experience is exclusively the MORAL man, the man who is both good and evil, or, in Swedenborg's phrase, both angelic and infernal.
The reason, then, why the fulfilment of the Divine end in creation, which is the conjunction of the Creator with the creature, necessitates the moral man, or the moral experience of mankind, is plain. For inasmuch as the Creator in himself is absolute and hence incommunicable life, and the creature in himself is the absolute negation of life, so there can he no actual conjunction of the two save in some middle life which shall be common to both.
Swedenborg accordingly depicts the mediate or spiritual sphere of creation altogether under this mixed aspect, or as wholly made up of this moral subjectivity. No trace of absolute life appeared in it, but the Deity varied according to the endless varieties of the individual subjectivity, and this subjectivity reflected every phase between an almost total absorption in Deity, and an almost total denial of Him: or between the sensible experience of Him as a vivifying and overpowering splendor, and a destructive and overshadowing darkness. The true divine man, in whom the Deity dwelt as in Himself, or, what is the same thing, with whom He was sensibly conjoined, was nowhere visible ; for, to the senses of the morally good or angelic man, the Deity shone as a beneficent sun, at an infinite remove above his head; and to the senses of the morally evil or infernal man, He appeared as that sun eclipsed, at an infinite remove below his feet. In the one subject, the Creator was seen dominating the creature, in the other the creature was seen dominating the Creator. NO. III.
In neither subject were the two presented in perfect accord or combination, for in neither do we see the Creator dwelling as in Himself, nor, consequently, the creature bringing forth all divine fruit as of himself. The heavenly man, in proportion to his relative superiority, acknowledged only the creative subjectivity; the infernal man, in proportion to his relative inferiority, acknowledged only the created subjectivity.
Now, to our apprehension, what renders Swedenborg of infinite “pith and moment” to the theologian or philosopher, is the strictness with which he exhibits the minute and perfect subordination of this subjective sphere of creation to the grand ultimate or objective sphere, which was to reveal the true Divine Humanity, or the man with whom the Deity should be sensibly conjoined. This man is exclusively the Artist, or Worker; the man who, in Swedenborg's phrase, loves Use or Art for its own sake, and not for its subserviency to his physical or social necessities. Art is the only positive or divine good on earth. Its products may exhibit every variety of comparative excellence; but there is none of them, however humble be its sphere, which is positively evil - which is not, when considered in itself, positively good, and does not therefore attest the conjunction of God and man. When, accordingly, the true divine man appears, perfectly reconciling self-love and universal love, in the supreme love of Art or Use, then the antagonism of heaven and hell, or moral good and evil, will be seen to import only the difference of internal and external,
or soul and body, and both alike will proclaim the exuberant Divine goodness.
We have now given, according to our apprehension of it, a faithful statement of the doctrine of the LORD, or the DIVINE HUMANITY, a doctrine which gives to Swedenborg's pages all their interest. The essential Divine Humanity consists in CREATIVE love. The divine natural humanity consists in every varied form of Art, or productive use, and is conditioned upon a perfect society. This latter theme is the mystic burden of all sacred scripture since the world began, and we are now, according to this gifted seer, on the very verge of its accom. plishment.
The great obstruction, according to Swedenborg, which this doctrine meets among Christians, lies in their sensuous or material conceptions. They cultivate no faculty of supersensuous thought. Hence they conceive of the Lord, or the glorified Humanity, as a material body exalted into the heavens, and
challenging the personal homage and adoration of every neophyte spirit, under penalty of death and destruction. They doubtless fail to see that they thus obliterate every vestige of the spirit which actuated Jesus on earth, and convert him into a being of consummate selfishness and vanity. It is this sensuality of the Christian mind which has always kept the church from the true acknowledgment of the Divine Humanity. Having no conception of God but as a body conditioned in time and space, they could only conceive of Christ's divinity as lying in the conjunction of some other person with him ; they never dreamt of his actual humanity or human nature becoming divine. If they had done this, then we should doubtless have lost among the professed followers of Christ much of the nauseous cant and whining flattery which have always greeted his name, and gained much of the practical truth and sweetness which constitute its divinest charm.
We have only space barely to indicate the bearing of this great truth upon a rational doctrine of nature. The universe, spiritually regarded, is a man: all creation flows through man: nature is but a type of man: these and a thousand similar maxims stand in the truth of the divine natural humanity. If true humanity be exclusively the fruit of a conjunction between the Creator and the creature; if, in other words, the man whom God creates have of necessity no being in himself, and derive all being from the divine conjunction with him : then all the tribes of inferior nature, of a nature below the human, serve but to mark the successive stages of elevation between absolute creatureship or nonentity and truly divine conjunction, through which the creative love lifts its creature. In the impalpable ethers and gases, in the palpable but unorganized mineral, in the organized and sensitive vegetable, and in the sensitive and intelligent animal, we see only so many enlarging types of the human nature struggling out of absolute nothingness into positive self-consciousness; and in the unity which binds all these lower natures together, the unity of a perfect subjection to the human nature, is typified the subjection which the natural self hood thus pronounced, itself undergoes to the divine self hood, and which is illustrated in every ennobling form of Art or social use. Thus man involves the universe, and the history of nature is to be sought only in the history of man.
ART. III. – 1. De la Misère des Classes Laborieuses en An
gleterre et en France. Par EUGENE BURET. Paris. 1840.
2. Report of the Massachusetts Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Condition of Idiots in the Commonwealth. By S. G. HOWE. — Senate Document, No. 31. 1848.
The interest which is beginning to be so generally manifested in the condition even of the most wretched members of the human family, is one of the cheering signs of the times. Nothing more truly tests the degree of progress which a people has made in true civilization, than the respect which it shows to humanity by raising up and tenderly caring for those who, in the earlier and ruder march of society, are trampled under foot, or left behind to perish.
As soon as the nobler part of men's nature begins to be de veloped, they are pained and shocked by the sight of suffering and misery, and they strive to relieve or remove them. It is not, however, benevolence or religion alone that bids us to care for the unfortunate and the helpless, but self-interest comes in and repeats the command, for all History teaches that there can be no real peace, no true social happiness, no lasting prosperity, so long as the just claims of any large class of men to their share in the benefits arising from the social union are despised or neglected. Revolution has followed upon revolution, and will continue to follow so long as one class enjoys the wealth, the comforts, and the luxuries of life, and leaves others to labor on in ignorance, poverty, and misery. Each society is repeating upon a small scale what humanity has so long been undergoing upon a large one. We live in the midst of changes, called revolutions when effected by force, reforms when brought about peaceably, the totality of which is carrying us forward in the career of progress, though now and then we seem to take a step backward.
Not only the freedom but the practical equality of men, as far as it regards political rights and social privileges, is becoming less a matter of theory and more a matter of fact. It is beginning to be seen that the chief end of man in this state of existence is the development of all his faculties, capacities, and affections, and the enjoyment of all the objects with which God has stored this beautiful world for the gratification of