18. Encounter With Nicodemus IV (3:17-21)

For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. The one believing into Him is not condemned; but the one not believing has already been condemned, for he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness more than the Light, for their works were evil. For everyone practicing wickedness hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, that his works may not be exposed. But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his works may be revealed, that they exist, having been worked in God. (John 3:17-21)

As regards Judgment it is twofold, namely, from good and from truth. The faithful are judged from good, but the unfaithful from truth. That the faithful are judged from good, is plainly evident in (Matthew 25:34-40), and that the unfaithful are judged from truth (Matthew 25:41 to 46). To be judged from good is to be saved because they have received it; but to be judged from truth is to be condemned because they have rejected good. Good is the Lord’s, and they who acknowledge this in life and faith are the Lord’s, and therefore are saved; but they who do not acknowledge it in life, and consequently not in faith, cannot be the Lord’s, and therefore cannot be saved. They are therefore judged according to the acts of their life and according to their thoughts and ends; and when they are judged according to these, they cannot but be condemned; for it is a truth that of himself a man does, thinks, and intends nothing but evil, and of himself rushes to hell in so far as he is not withheld therefrom by the Lord.

But as regards judgment from truth the case is this: The Lord never judges anyone except from good; for He desires to raise all into heaven, however many they may be, and indeed, if it were possible, even to Himself; for the Lord is mercy itself and good itself. Mercy itself and good itself can never condemn anyone; but it is the man who condemns himself, because he rejects good. As in the life of the body he had shunned good, so does he shun it in the other life; consequently he shuns heaven and the Lord, for the Lord cannot be in anything except good. He is likewise in truth, but not in truth separated from good. That the Lord condemns no one, nor judges any to hell, He says in John:– God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their works were evil (John 3:17, 19) and in the same:– If anyone hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12:47). (Arcana Coelestia 2335{2-3})

In our first article regarding NicodemusEncounter with Nicodemus I, we had a reading from the doctrines of Spiritual Christianity that spoke of three general states that every person passes through in the processes involved in being regenerated or reborn. These are 1. A state of condemnation; 2. A state of reformation and; 3. A state of regeneration. (Arcana Coelestia 5280). Today, we are going to look at these states so that we can build an understanding of them from the perspective of Spiritual Christianity. But before that we need to just summarise a few key concepts that we have dealt with so far.

The first has to do with what the spirit of a person actually is. This is such an important truth because when clearly grasped it shows us what spiritual work involves and where we will find it. Questions like, Who am I? What is man? What makes us who we are? are some of the most profound questions we can ask. Every genuine spiritual path seeks to provide answers for questions such as these and the teachings for Spiritual Christianity are no different. They offer us truths that seek to guide us towards finding the answers to such questions. We learn that our spirit is our mind, and that the quality of our self is revealed in the thoughts and affections that we identify with, take delight in, and so make our own.

This ability to gather and bring together a system of thoughts and affections that we identify with and call our self, suggests that there is something deeper to the self than just the thoughts and feelings that we experience. This deeper part is found in the fact that we can look at our thoughts and affections and choose which ones we will entertain. Our ability to do this shows that we can think of the self, or spirit or mind, in terms of levels. On one level there is the self that is made up of the thoughts and affections that we gather and identify with and then on another, there is the self who does the selecting and gathering. And we can be conscious of our thoughts and affections, but we are much less conscious of what underlies and organises these into that sense of our self that we are aware of.

What sits beneath the myriad of feelings and thoughts that pass through our minds or spirits every day is a set of belief structures and values which govern how we see and relate to the world with its situations, circumstances, people, and ultimately, God. Beliefs and values tend to be a much more stable level of being than the thoughts and feelings that we experience, and they act like a filter through which the more external spiritual influences are organised. It is these beliefs that determine what we are sensitive to, how we affected by the conditions that we experience and how we interpret and give meaning to things. While there is no denying that we experience an external world, there is also no denying that each person’s experience of that world is unique to them.

This is because no two people have identical belief systems. Our experience of life is unique to each of us, so in this sense each of us lives in a very different world to every other person, at least as far as our inner world is concern. The point here is that our individual, inner, personal worlds are constructed and created by the beliefs that we hold. Now this truth can be liberating and full of hope because it means that if our sense of self is dependent on the beliefs that we hold, then it can be changed. It means that if we take to ourselves the new beliefs that truths in a genuine religion teach, and live from these, then we can undergo a transformation and be reborn as to our spirits.

But we can go a little deeper and ask ourselves what holds our belief systems together? The teachings for Spiritual Christianity offer us an answer to this question as well. Our belief systems are built around what we love most. And while there is an infinite variety of loves, as many as there are individuals, all can be traced back to either one of two pairs of loves. In simple terms, every state of mind that we might experience, is a unique expression of one of these two pairs of loves. The first pair of loves, and it is these that everyone entering the world is born into, are natural loves, being that of love of self and love of the world. The second pair of loves is that into which a person is born by virtue of undergoing the spiritual rebirth, being that of love to the Lord and love to the neighbour.

Now if love to the Lord and our neighbour sits at the centre of our sense of self, our mind is organised, in terms of its beliefs and values, very differently to our mind when the loves of self and the world dominate. The two mental worlds, that is, the mind that is created by these two pairs of loves, will be very different in their structure and quality – worlds apart in fact. For each set of values and beliefs will offer a very different way of viewing and interpreting its world; with its situations and circumstances, interactions with others, what we are sensitive to, and the meaning which we ascribe to all aspects of our life. One of the most important principles of spiritual life is this idea that how we view the outer world of our experience is a reflection of how our inner world is organised with its system of beliefs, values and loves.

Now we can ask ourselves another question, What makes a human being a human being? Again, the teachings for Spiritual Christianity point us to an answer. They teach that there are to two things that set human beings apart from animals. The two pillars upon which the human mind is founded are the freedom which belongs to the will faculty and the rationality which belongs to the understanding faculty. The way in which these two faculties are structured are such that a person can go from being natural and become spiritual through a conscious ‘as of self’ experience in being free to acquire one’s own life through choosing what values one is going to live from. This means that we are given the ability to have the core loves around which our mind is organised changed, which is not the case with animals as they are purely natural and function from within a very limited range of behaviours that are fixed or bound to the instincts into which they are born.

Relative to human beings, animals are born with all they need to live their life and so reach maturity and come into the function in the life of their species in a comparatively quick degree of time. No point occurs in an animal’s life where it has an opportunity to make a conscious decision to live its life in a particular way, according to a particular set of values or beliefs. This capacity is a uniquely human one, and it is something all of us have from the Lord whether He is acknowledged or not. Generally speaking, human life, or what is the same, the life of the human mind, involves gathering information, formulating and organising it and using it to act in order to fulfil its desires.

It is this capacity to grow and develop on the mental plane and then build a life or world in accordance with the values and loves there, that is central to our experience of being human. Human self-consciousness only exists where there is a sense of having choice within the finite limitations which we all exist under. The experience of freedom in a spiritual and psychological sense then, or a truly human sense, is the ability to see, assess and choose courses of action in the light of our values and conscience. Along with this comes the ability to take responsibility for our actions knowing that for each choice that we make, there are a number of possibilities that remain unfulfilled from those that were not chosen.

Our sense of having an ability to act in freedom requires the ability to be conscious that we are the agent who is acting, and that our actions are the result of a free choice for which we are responsible in view of the values and principles which we hold to. If our actions are purely the result of instinctual drives with the most powerful one finding expression, then we are not in a state of choice nor can we be regarded as free, nor can we really be regarded as human. The kind of freedom that provides us with a sense of being an independent, autonomous self, demands that we have the ability to reflect on our motives, and so know that we exist as an independent conscious being who is responsible for our actions. This provides us with the capacity to actually reject acting on an impulse or strong instinct; in fact, it gives us the ability to consciously refuse to act on certain desires from a matter of principle. And it is in this ability to weigh the content of our mental life and assess its quality in the light of our values, that the human sense of self lies. And it is also this very ability that makes it possible for human beings to be regenerated and so become spiritual.

So, lets come back to the teaching referred to earlier, that all people are born natural, that is, into natural loves with the potential to become spiritual. Because we are born into natural loves, which are the love of self and the love of the world, over the course of our natural mental development our sense of self becomes wedded to beliefs that support these loves. There is no way of minimising the nature of these loves when they are separated from the governance of the higher loves of love to the Lord and love to the neighbour. The Word and the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity are emphatic on this; these natural loves are ‘hell’ bent, for they look to place the self at the centre of life in the place of God. Whether they are successful in this or not depends on how we respond to truths.

Barring any serious debilitation in a person’s mental functioning, everyone enters adulthood with a capacity to reflect on their life in the light of truths and to act to amend things in accordance with the insights which they receive. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no hope of having our sense of self lifted out of identification with the loves of the natural man into new higher spiritual associations or heavenly loves. In other words, without this ability there would be no hope of salvation because there would be no possibility for change.

The loves of self and the world, into which we are all is born, are so opposed to heavenly loves that nothing could be more opposite. These loves, for the better part of our lives, work tirelessly to conceal this spiritual fact from us and we have real difficulty seeing it. In fact, without Divine Revelation in the form of the Word and the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity, we would remain totally oblivious to their opposition to all that is good and true. The sense of self, or proprium, that identifies with these natural loves can be seen in the state of condemnation that rules in us until we are born again. This sense of self is built upon a foundation of fear and defensiveness because this is all the loves of self and world can produce in us.

Over the course of lives, this old self builds a fortress of belief systems around it which shut the Lord out. Of course, these systems of belief are often presented to us under the guise of a whole army of rationalisations, justifications and illusions which make out that this old self is perfectly acceptable. It offers us a wardrobe of outer garments and masks, of acceptable moral and civil behaviours that we can wear in the hope that its true nature is not exposed. But at the end of day, while this self and its loves and beliefs is in charge, everything life presents is only ever taken and used on its own terms. Everything and everyone becomes an extension of this self, and those who fail to meet up to its expectations are dismissed as of no real consequence.

Until we undergo a rebirth as to our spirit and acquire new ways of thinking and being, our whole sense of self is organised around the loves of self and the world. To be saved then is to have a new structure of mind organised around love to the Lord and love towards our neighbour, which is to love truths and do them for their own sake, that is, to love them because they are true and as such produce what is good which is what is of the Lord, for He is Goodness Itself. Until this begins to take place, our identity remains bound to a state of condemnation, not because the Lord condemns us, He doesn’t, but because we choose of our own free will to remain attached to what is of hell. And no matter how much the Lord desires to remove us from this destructive state of being, if we don’t use the faculties of freedom and rationality to use truths to self-examine and apply what we see, then He can’t be experienced as entering into our life and offering us salvation. For the Lord can’t remove our sense of self from natural loves if we are unwilling to work with Him to have these evils identified. Because it is in the recognition that our sense of self is attached to them – that effectively allows the sense of self to become detached from them.  These are those two levels of self that we spoke about earlier. There is the self that identifies, and then there is the self that selects and gathers the information. But now, because it is truths, that is, the Word as the Lord that is enabling this recognition of our attachments, this self that selects and gathers is effectively the Lord. It is Him that is doing the observing and detaching but experienced as ‘if of our self’. He, the Word, is the new set of values and beliefs from which a new sense of self is arising.

So, everything needed for our spiritual birth is provided for, but we must reach out and take hold of that provision. To learn truths and to use them is what is meant by loving the Lord and our neighbour. Love in this sense is a response not a feeling. To believe in the Lord is nothing more and nothing less than to act from truths and it is this that leads to the re-forming of the mind. This work with truths is what is meant by states of reformation. As our sense of self is extracted from the old selfish proprium, so the Lord binds us more fully and completely to the loves of heaven. He gives us a new regenerated will, a new sense of our self, a heavenly proprium that is grounded in new higher delights which are destined to break forth in a regenerate mind. A real delight in doing the will of the Lord.

For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. The one believing into Him is not condemned; but the one not believing has already been condemned, for he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God…For everyone practicing wickedness hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, that his works may not be exposed. But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his works may be revealed, that they exist, having been worked in God.

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