An Impression Of Love – The Gift Of The Proprium

The irony of the remembered delight of childhood innocence of ignorance, is that we then spend the rest of our life acquiring knowledge with the hope that it will lead us back to that feeling of awe and wonder and unadulterated delight. We are chasing the state in which we receive love and instantly offer it to others around us, without expectation of return.

But although childhood is steeped in the magical delights of new discoveries that each day brings, it is also deeply based in the life of the proprium that is anchored in hell.

“What?” I hear them say.

“How can the delight of innocence be steeped in what is evil?”

Well, that’s the irony I was talking about. To all appearances its innocence on the outside but its self-love on the inside. The life of the toddler revolves around the life of the toddler. The young child expects food instantly when it cries. It expects all it’s needs to be met  and is not yet aware that it needs to hide it’s automatic displeasure when these needs aren’t immediately satisfied. It sees all people and things in its environment existing only to serve itself and the centre of its world… is itself.    The young child takes delight in owning what it learns and acquires. All knowledge it acquires belongs to itself. In essence, the young child is it’s own god. It is the lord of its environment and all around it are subject to it.  It has no awareness that there exists any other state apart from this one. It is not awake to any other reality than the one that it lives in day to day.

And it’s not a coincidence that the Word describes the developing sense of self like an infant, when it first starts out in the world. It tells us time and time again that we are born into evil.

No one can come into the kingdom of God unless he has been born again, for the reason that man by inheritance from his parents is born into evils of every kind,  ….. Man’s first state, which is a state of damnation, every one has by inheritance from his parents; for man is thereby born into the love of self and love of the world, and from these as fountains, into evils of every kind. (Divine Providence 83)

And what else can evil be but anything that is not the Lord.

It is the absence of the Lord.

It is the absence of light.

It is the absence of awareness.

It is the absence of any type of consciousness that anything exists outside of the immediate reality that one that can see and touch.

This is the innocence of ignorance. It simply knows nothing else because there is nothing present in which to contrast it with.

Now we might look at this state and see it’s pathetic, sad, unfortunate existence. We might even look at it and know that it is death, that it has no real life. But the mercy in it …. the thing that brings me to my knees every time I look at it, is that without it, we have no sensory experience of what being a God is. Of what it means to be all-present and all-potent.

From all this it can now be seen that the Infinite and Eternal, thus the Lord, must be thought of apart from space and time, and that such thought is possible; also that those have such thought who think interiorly in the rational; and that then the Infinite and Eternal is the same as the Divine. Thus do angels and spirits think. From thought abstracted from time and space a comprehension of the Divine Omnipresence and the Divine Omnipotence, also of the Divine from eternity, is possible, but none at all from thought to which an idea from space and time clings. (Divine Providence 51)

The hellish proprium lives from the natural world and is focused on space and time. It believes that the appearances of the finite senses are what is real and true.  It believes that it is all seeing, all knowing and all powerful. It therefore offers sensory impressions of what it means to be worshipped and loved; of what it means to be the source from which one lives their life from. Without this darkness or this self that is dead, then we have nothing that can be inverted. The proprium that is steeped in self love provides an impression in our life which the Lord can later invert and embody.

Like the negative of the film that gets developed, to unveil what was exposed to the light and show us what is real.

Or the process of relief woodcut printing, where the negative space is carved out, leaving only the lines and shapes that are wanted to appear in print. So what is carved out is actually the opposite of what is wanted to be seen  and brought forth into life.

(The Great Wave off Kanagawa , also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.)

How can we know that the image of the Lord is in everything in the universe, unless we have looked upon the universe and seen an image of ourself in everything?

How can we know that the wisdom of the Lord is the only true wisdom, unless we have looked upon our own intelligence as the only true wisdom?

How can we know that the Lord’s love is the experience of feeling love’s  presences in another’s delight, unless we have experienced love in our own delight ?

How can we identify the nature of an affection or thought and whether it be of the Lord or not of the Lord, unless we have first experienced it and identified with it and felt it as our own?

How can we know that the Lord owns all and is the only owner, unless we have participated in self identification and claimed ownership?

How can we experience the spiritual sensations of the affections of love in the Word when the truth opens up an insight into our own process,  unless we have experienced the delights of the affections for the literal, historical story as it reads on the page unrelated to us?

How do we experience the awakening of consciousness to the inflow of the Divine into everything created, unless we have experienced what it means to be sleeping and not awake to anything other than what our physical senses immediately communicate to us?

And how do we know what it means to be somebody unless we have first been nobody that believed it was somebody?

Countless things can be said about the proprium – about what the proprium is like in the case of the bodily-minded and worldly man, what it is like in the case of the spiritual man, and what in the case of the celestial man.

With the bodily-minded and worldly man the proprium is his all. He is unaware of anything else but the proprium. And, as has been stated, if he were to lose his proprium he would think that he was dying.

With the spiritual man the proprium takes on a similar appearance, for although he knows that the Lord is the life of all, and that He confers wisdom and intelligence, and consequently the ability to think and to act, it is more a matter of something he says and not so much something he believes.

The celestial man however acknowledges that the Lord is the life of all, who confers the ability to think and act, because he perceives that this is so. Nor does he ever desire the proprium. Nevertheless even though he does not desire it the Lord grants him a proprium which is joined to him with a complete perception of what is good and true, and with complete happiness.

Angels possess a proprium such as this, and at the same time utmost peace and tranquillity, for their proprium has within it things that are the Lord’s, who is governing their proprium, that is, governing them by means of their proprium. (Arcana Coelestia 141)

Once we can see that the initial impressions of self love is Mercy itself at work, then we can accept the gift of the proprium.

We know then it’s true nature.

That it is … a gift.


Conjugial Love 350
In their ignorance, the Lord leads those of them who from religion shun evils as sins, and under Divine auspices providentially withholds them from any imputation of guilt, to the end that they may be saved; for every man is born for heaven and none for hell, and every one comes into heaven from the Lord, and into hell from himself.

Conjugial Love 413
Thus, infants are led from the innocence of infancy to the innocence of wisdom, that is, from external innocence to internal innocence, the latter being the end in all their instruction and progression. Therefore, when they come to the innocence of wisdom, the innocence of infancy, which meanwhile has served them as a plane, is adjoined to them. I have seen the nature of the innocence of infancy represented by something woody, almost devoid of life. This is vivified as the infant is imbued with knowledges of truth and affections of good.

Arcana Coelestia 3203
[2]  What it is to be separated from the natural man, was stated and shown above (n. 31613175318231883190), namely, that the affection of truth is separated therefrom when it is no longer a matter of memory-knowledge, but becomes of the life; for when it becomes of the life, by habit the man becomes imbued with it like his disposition or nature; and when he is thus imbued with it, it then flows forth into act as it were spontaneously, and this without his thinking about it from any memory-knowledge; nay, when it becomes of the life it can then exercise command over the memory-knowledges, and draw from them innumerable things which confirm. Such is the case with all truth; in the first age it is a matter of memory-knowledge, but as the man advances in age it becomes of the life. The case herein is like that of children when they are learning to walk, to speak, to think, also to see from the understanding, and to conclude from the judgment; which things, when by habit they have become voluntary, and thus spontaneous, vanish from among matters of memory-knowledge, and flow forth of their own accord.

[3] So also is it with those things which are of the knowledges of spiritual good and truth with men who from the Lord are being regenerated or born again; in the beginning such men are not unlike children, and at first spiritual truths are to them mere memory-knowledges; for doctrinal things, when being learned and inserted in the memory, are nothing else; but these are successively called forth thence by the Lord, and are implanted in the life, that is, in good; for good is life. When this has been effected there takes place as it were a turning round, namely, that the man begins to act from good, that is, from life, and no longer as before from memory-knowledge. Thus he who is being born anew is in this respect like a child (although the things imbibed are of the spiritual life); until he no longer acts from what is doctrinal, or truth; but from charity, or good; and when this is the case, he then for the first time is in a blessed state, and is in wisdom.

Arcana Coelestia 10021
When a man is being regenerated, which takes place when he comes to mature age, he is then first led into a state of innocence; but into a state of external innocence, almost like that of little children, whose innocence is external innocence that dwells in ignorance. During the man’s regeneration, this state is the plane of the new life, and moreover the man is then like an infant; for when he is being regenerated, he is conceived anew, is born, becomes an infant, and grows up to maturity, which is effected by means of truth implanted in good; and insofar as he then comes into genuine good, so far he comes into the good of internal innocence, which innocence dwells in wisdom.


  1. Sarah Walker

    Hi Janna.

    I love that idea of authentic innocence being ongoing prayer as we walk in trust in the Lord. So lovely – thank you …

    Your comments reminded me of the passages that talk about angels not having external memories from their time on earth. And it seems to connect with the idea of nostalgia and the use it serves. That these vessels of delight are waiting to be infilled with higher truths … not backfilled with what it was that formed the vessel originally – ie. the initial sensory delights.

    Here is the number it brought to mind for me
    HH 464[2]
    But the external or natural memory in respect to the things in it that are derived from the material, and from time and space, and from other properties of nature, is not serviceable to the spirit in the way that it was serviceable to it in the world, for whenever man thinks in the world from his external sensual, and not at the same time from his internal or intellectual sensual, he thinks naturally and not spiritually; but in the other life when he is a spirit in the spiritual world he does not think naturally but spiritually, and to think spiritually is to think intellectually or rationally. For this reason the external or natural memory in respect to its material contents is then quiescent, and only those things that man has imbibed in the world by means of material things, and has made rational, come into use. The external memory becomes quiescent in respect to material things because these cannot then be brought forth, since spirits and angels speak from those affections and thoughts that are proper to their minds; and are therefore unable to give expression to any thing that is not in accord with their affections and thoughts as can be seen in what is said about the speech of angels in heaven and their speech with man (234-257).

    and then also I came across this as I was looking for the first number
    AC 1472. And it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee. That this signifies the memory-knowledge of knowledges, which is described as to what it is when they see celestial knowledges, is evident from the signification of “Egypt,” which is the memory-knowledge of knowledges, as before shown; and from this it is evident what is signified by the words “when the Egyptians see,” namely, that this memory-knowledge is such as is described in this verse. The memory-knowledge of knowledges is attended with this, and it is something natural in it, as is manifested in children when they first begin to learn, namely, that the higher things are, the more they desire them; and still more when they hear that they are celestial and Divine. But this delight is natural, and arises from a desire that is of the external man. With other men this desire causes them to feel delight in the mere memory-knowledge of knowledges, without any further end; when yet the memory-knowledge of knowledges is nothing but an instrumental agency having for its end a use, namely, that the knowledges may serve celestial and spiritual things as vessels; and when they are thus serving, they are then for the first time in their use, and receive from the use their delight. Anyone can see, if he pays attention, that in itself the memory-knowledge of knowledges is nothing but a means whereby a man may become rational, and thence spiritual, and at last celestial; and that by means of the knowledges his external man may be adjoined to his internal; and when this is done, he is in the use itself.

    so yes .. it isn’t us that preserves or even identifies what needs preserving. If we walk in that authentic innocence of the work … of attempting to keep the Lord in our focus and hence making our very life or our spiritual work a prayer, then the Word in itself will preserve what is of itself.

  2. Janna King

    This presentation was a much welcome opportunity to reflect on a couple of related challenges of spiritual life that become almost unbearable at times:
    1) The appearance that we have fallen from an innocence that was our own and that we must work our way back to.
    2) The appearance that the old proprium is a reality in itself.

    The problem with the nostalgia and sorrow that a accompanies appearance #1, is that it sucks the life out of a legitimate and humble search for an authentic Innocence, which is simply the ongoing prayer that the Lord will lead us in His way. The beautiful (and essential) innocence that surrounds infants and little children is never their own, although it appears to come from them. It is a sphere stemming from celestial angels that draw near at the Lord’s bidding to provide a seedbed that can be stirred to life as needed for future combat against the unregenerate will.

    The problem with appearance #2 is that as long as we try to preserve, regain, re-ignite or identify with the old proprium, we remain trapped in it.

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