FREEDOM OF CHOICE
IT IS A LAW OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
THAT MAN SHALL ACT FROM FREEDOM
ACCORDING TO REASON
As is known, man is free to think and will as he wishes, but not to speak whatever he thinks or to do whatever he wills. The freedom meant here, therefore, is spiritual freedom and natural freedom only as they make one; for thinking and willing are spiritual, and speaking and acting are natural. The two are readily distinguishable in man, for he can think what he does not utter and will what he does not do; plainly, spiritual and natural are discriminated in him. He can pass from the former to the latter therefore only on a decision to do so—a decision which can be likened to a door that must first be unfastened and opened. This door, it is true, stands open, as it were, in those who think and will from reason in accord with the civil laws of the land and the moral laws of society, for they speak what they think and do what they will to do. But in those who think and will contrary to those laws, the door stands shut, as it were. One who watches his volitions and subsequent deeds knows that such a decision intervenes, sometimes more than once in a single utterance or action. This we have premised for it to be understood that by acting from freedom according to reason is meant to think and will freely and thence to speak and do freely what is according to reason. [DP71]
Since few know, however, that the law above can be a law of divine providence, principally because a man is also free then to think evil and falsity (still divine providence is continually leading him to think and will what is good and true), for clearer perception we must proceed step by step and shall do so in this order:
i. The human being has reason and freedom or rationality and liberty, and has these two faculties from the Lord.
ii. Whatever a man does in freedom, whether with reason or not, provided it is according to his reason, seems to him to be his.
iii. Whatever a man does in freedom according to his thought, is appropriated to him as his and remains.
iv. A man is reformed and regenerated by the Lord by means of the two faculties and cannot be reformed and regenerated without them.
v. A man can be reformed and regenerated by means of the two faculties so far as he can be led by them to acknowledge that all truth and good which he thinks and does are from the Lord and not from himself.
vi. The conjunction of the Lord with man, and man’s reciprocal conjunction with the Lord, is effected by means of these two faculties.
vii. In all the procedure of His divine providence the Lord safeguards the two faculties in man unimpaired and as sacred.
viii. It is therefore of the divine providence that man shall act in freedom according to reason. [DP72]
(i) The human being has reason and freedom or rationality and liberty, and has these two faculties from the Lord. Man has a faculty of understanding, which is rationality, and a faculty of thinking, willing, speaking and doing what he understands, which is liberty; and he has these two faculties from the Lord (see the work Divine Love and Wisdom, nn. 264-270, 425, and above, nn. 43, 44). But many doubts may arise about either of the two faculties when thought is given to them; therefore I want to say something at this point just about man’s freedom to act according to reason.
 First, it should be known that all freedom is of love, so much so that love and freedom are one. As love is man’s life, freedom is of his life, too. For man’s every enjoyment is from some love of his and has no other source, and to act from the enjoyment of one’s love is to act in freedom. Enjoyment leads a man as the current bears an object along on a stream. But loves are many, some harmonious, others not; therefore freedoms are many. In general there are three: natural, rational, and spiritual freedom.
 Natural freedom is man’s by heredity. In it he loves only himself and the world: his first life is nothing else. From these two loves, moreover, all evils arise and thus attach to love. Hence to think and will evil is man’s natural freedom, and when he has also confirmed evils in himself by reasonings, he does them in freedom according to his reason. Doing them is from his faculty called liberty, and confirming them from his faculty called rationality.
 For example, it is from the love into which he is born that he desires to commit adultery, to defraud, to blaspheme, to take revenge. Confirming these evils in himself and by this making them allowable, he then, from his love’s enjoyment in them, thinks and wills them freely and as if according to reason, and so far as civil laws do not hinder, speaks and does them. It is of the Lord’s divine providence that man is allowed to do so, for freedom or liberty is his. This natural freedom is man’s by nature because by heredity, and those are in this freedom who have confirmed it in themselves by reasonings from enjoyment in self-love and love of the world.
 Rational freedom is from the love of good repute for the sake of standing or gain. The delight of this love is to seem outwardly a moral person. Loving this reputation, the man does not defraud, commit adultery, take revenge, or blaspheme; and making this his reasoned course, he also does in freedom according to reason what is sincere, just, chaste, and friendly; indeed from reason can advocate such conduct. But if his rational is only natural and not spiritual, his freedom is only external and not internal. He does not love these goods inwardly at all, but only outwardly for reputation’s sake, as we said. The good deeds he does are therefore not in themselves good. He can also say that they should be done for the sake of the general welfare, but he speaks out of no love for that welfare, but from love of his own standing or gain. His freedom therefore derives nothing from love of the public good, nor does his reason, which complies with his love. This rational freedom, therefore, is inwardly natural freedom. The Lord’s divine providence leaves everyone this freedom too.
 Spiritual freedom is from love of eternal life. Into this love and its enjoyment only he comes who regards evils as sins and therefore does not will them, and who also looks to the Lord. Once a man does this he is in this freedom. One can refuse to will and do evils for the reason that they are sins, only from an interior or higher freedom, belonging to his interior or higher love. This freedom does not seem at first to be freedom, yet it is. Later it does seem freedom, and the man acts in real freedom according to true reason, thinking, willing, speaking and doing the good and the true. This freedom grows as natural freedom decreases and serves it; and it unites with rational freedom and purifies it.
 Anyone can come into this freedom if he is willing to think that there is a life eternal, and that the joy and bliss of life in time and for a time is like a passing shadow to the joy and bliss of life in eternity and for eternity. A man can think so if he will, for he has rationality and liberty, and the Lord, from whom he has the two faculties, constantly enables him to do so.[DP73]
IT IS A LAW OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE THAT MAN SHALL NOT BE COMPELLED BY EXTERNAL MEANS TO THINK AND WILL,
THUS TO BELIEVE AND LOVE WHAT PERTAINS TO RELIGION, BUT BRING HIMSELF AND AT TIMES COMPEL HIMSELF TO DO SO
This law of divine providence follows from the preceding two, namely: man is to act in freedom according to reason (nn. 71-99); and is to do this of himself and yet from the Lord, thus as of himself (nn. 100-128). Inasmuch as being compelled is not to act in freedom according to reason and also not to act of oneself, but to act from what is not freedom and from someone else, this law of divine providence follows in due order on the first two. Everyone knows that no one can be forced to think what he is unwilling to think or to will what he decides not to will, thus to believe what he does not believe, least of all what he wills not to believe, or to love what he does not love and still less what he wills not to love. For the spirit or mind of man enjoys complete freedom in thinking, willing, believing and loving. It does so by influx which is not coercive from the spiritual world (for the human spirit or mind is in that world); and not by influx from the natural world, received only when the two agree.
 A man can be driven to say that he thinks and wills, believes and loves what is religious, but if this is not a matter of his affection and reasoning or does not become so, he does not think, will, believe or love it. A man may also be compelled to speak in favor of religion and to act according to it, but he cannot be compelled to think in its favor from any faith or to will in its favor out of love for it. In countries in which justice and judgment are guarded, one is indeed compelled not to speak or act against religion, but still no one can be compelled to think and will in its favor. For everyone has freedom to think and to will along with, and in favor of, hell or along with, and in favor of, heaven. Reason, however, teaches what either course is like and what lot awaits it, and by reason the will has the choice and decision.
 Plainly, then, what is external cannot coerce what is internal; nevertheless it happens sometimes, but that it works harm will be shown in this order:
i. No one is reformed by miracles and signs, for they coerce.
ii. No one is reformed by visions and communication with the dead, for they coerce.
iii. No one is reformed by threats and penalties, as these coerce.
iv. No one is reformed in states of no rationality or no freedom.
v. Self-compulsion is not contrary to rationality and freedom.
vi. The external man is to be reformed through the internal, and not the other way about. [DP129]
EVILS ARE TOLERATED IN VIEW OF THE END,
WHICH IS SALVATION
If man were born into the love for which he was created, he would not be in evil, in fact would not know what evil is. For one who has not been in evil and is not in it, cannot know what it is; told that this or that is evil, he would not believe it. This is the state of innocence in which Adam and his wife Eve were; that state was signified by the nakedness of which they were not ashamed; the knowledge of evil subsequent to the fall is meant by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The love for which the human being was created is love to the neighbor, to wish him as well as one does oneself and even better. He is in the enjoyment of this love when he serves his neighbor quite as parents do their children. This is truly human love, for in it is what is spiritual, distinguishing it from the natural love of brute animals. Were man born into this love, he would not be born into the darkness of ignorance as everyone is now, but into some light of the knowledge and hence of the intelligence soon to be his. To be sure, he would creep on all fours at first but come erect on his feet by an implanted striving. However much he might resemble a quadruped, he would not face down to the ground but forward to heaven and come erect so that he could look up. [DP275]
When love of the neighbor was turned into self-love, however, and this love increased, human love was turned into animal love, and man, from being man, became a beast, with the difference that he could think about what he sensed physically, could rationally discriminate among things, be taught, and become a civil and moral person and finally a spiritual being. For, as was said, man possesses what is spiritual and is distinguished by it from the brute animal. By it he can know what civil evil and good are, also what moral evil and good are, and if he so wills, what spiritual evil and good are also. When love for the neighbor was turned into self-love, however, man could no longer be born into the light of knowledge and intelligence but was born into the darkness of ignorance, being born on the lowest level of life, called corporeal-sensuous. From this he could be led into the interiors of the natural mind by instruction, the spiritual always attending on this. Why one is born on the lowest level of life known as corporeal-sensuous, therefore into the darkness of ignorance, will be seen in what follows.
 Anyone can see that love of the neighbor and self-love are opposites. Neighborly love wishes well to all from itself, but self-love wishes everyone to wish it well; neighborly love wants to serve everyone, but self-love wants all to serve it; love of the neighbor regards everyone as brother and friend, while love of self regards everyone as its servant, and if one does not serve it, as its enemy; in short, it regards only itself and others scarcely as human beings, esteeming them at heart less than one’s horses and dogs. Thinking so meanly of others, it thinks nothing of doing evil to them; hence come hatred and vengeance, adultery and whoredom, theft and fraud, lying and defamation, violence and cruelty, and similar evils. Such are the evils in which man is by birth. That they are tolerated in view of the end, which is salvation, is to be shown in this order:
i. Everyone is in evil and must be led away from it to be reformed.
ii. Evils cannot be removed unless they appear.
iii. So far as they are removed they are remitted.
iv. The toleration of evil is therefore for the sake of the end in view, namely, salvation.[DP276]
That which a man receives with freedom remains, because his will accepts it and appropriates it, and because it enters his love, and the love acknowledges it as its own, and by means of it is formed. This shall be illustrated by comparisons, in which, because they are taken from natural things, heat will be substituted for love. It is well known that by means of heat, and according to the amount of it, the doors are opened in every plant, and as these are opened the plant inwardly returns into the form of its nature, spontaneously partakes of its proper nutriment, retains what is suitable, and grows. It is the same with a beast; all that it selects and eats from the love of nutrition which is called appetite, is added to its body, and thus remains. That which is suitable is continually added to the body, because all its components are perpetually renewed. This is known to be so, although by few.
 Also with beasts heat opens all parts of the body, and causes their natural love to act freely. This is why in spring and summer they enter and return into the instinct of propagating and rearing their young, which they do from the utmost freedom, because to do so belongs to the ruling love implanted in them by creation for the sake of preserving the universe in the state in which it was created.
 The freedom of love may be illustrated by this freedom induced by heat, because love produces heat, as is evident from its effects, for man is enkindled, heated, and inflamed as love is exalted to zeal, or to a blaze of anger. The heat of the blood or the vital heat of men, and of animals in general, is from no other source. It is because of this correspondence that it is by heat that the bodily parts are adapted to receive freely those things to which the love aspires.
 In such equilibrium and consequent freedom are all things that are within man. In such freedom the heart propels its blood upward and downward alike, the mesentery distributes its chyle, the liver does its work for the blood, the kidneys secrete, the glands filter and so on. If this equilibrium were to suffer the member would sicken, and would labor under a paralysis or loss of strength; and herein equilibrium and freedom are one. There is not a substance in the created universe that does not tend to equilibrium, in order that it may be in freedom. [TCR496]
MAN’S WILL AND UNDERSTANDING ARE IN THIS FREEDOM OF CHOICE;
NEVERTHELESS IN BOTH WORLDS, THE SPIRITUAL AND THE NATURAL,
THE DOING OF EVIL IS RESTRAINED BY LAWS;
BECAUSE OTHERWISE SOCIETY IN BOTH WORLDS WOULD PERISH.
Every man can know that he has freedom of choice in spiritual things merely by observing his own thought. Is not any man able to think in freedom about God, the Trinity, charity and the neighbor, faith and its operation, and about the Word and all its teachings, and, when he has studied theology, about the particulars of these subjects? And who cannot think and even draw conclusions, and teach and write, either for or against these things? If man were deprived of this freedom for a single moment, could he continue to think; would not his tongue be dumb, and his hand powerless? Therefore, my friend, you may if you choose, by merely observing your own thought, reject and detest that absurd and hurtful heresy, which at this day has induced upon Christendom a lethargy respecting the heavenly doctrine of charity and faith, and of salvation thereby, and eternal life.
 The reasons why this freedom of choice resides in man’s will and understanding are the following: (1) Because these two faculties must first be instructed and reformed, and then by means of these the two faculties of the external man, which cause him to speak and act. (2) Because these two faculties of the internal man constitute his spirit which lives after death, and which is subject only to Divine law, the primary thing of which is, that man should think of the law, should practice and obey it of himself, although from the Lord.
3 Because, as to his spirit, man is midway between heaven and hell, thus between good and evil, and therefore in equilibrium, and in consequence of this he has freedom of choice in spiritual things (on which equilibrium see above, n. 475 seq.). But so long as man lives in the world, he is as to his spirit in equilibrium between heaven and the world, and then he is scarcely aware that so far as he withdraws from heaven and draws nearer to the world, he draws near to hell. He is aware of this and yet not aware, in order that even in this respect he may be in freedom, and may be reformed.
4 Because these two, the will and the understanding, are the two receptacles of the Lord, the will the receptacle of love and charity, the understanding the receptacle of wisdom and faith; and each one of these is made active by the Lord while man is in complete freedom, in order that there may be a mutual and reciprocal conjunction between them, whereby salvation is effected. (5) Because all the judgment that is effected in man after death is in accord with the use he has made of freedom of choice in spiritual things. [TCR497]
The conclusion from all this is that freedom of choice itself in spiritual things resides in the soul of man in all perfection, and from that it flows, like a stream into a fountain, into his mind, into the two parts of it, which are the will and the understanding, and through these into the bodily senses, and into speech and actions. For in man there are three degrees of life, the soul, the mind, and the sentient body; and all that is included in the higher degree is more perfect than that which is in a lower degree. It is this freedom of man, through which, in which, and with which, the Lord is present in him, and unceasingly urgent to be received; but He in no way sets aside or takes away this freedom, since, as said above, whatever man does in spiritual things, that is not done from freedom, does not endure. It may therefore be said that the Lord’s abode in man is this freedom of man which is in his soul.
 It is evident without explanation that the doing of evil, in both the spiritual and the natural world, is restrained by laws, since otherwise society would everywhere cease to exist. Nevertheless, it must be made clear that without such external bonds, not only would society cease to exist, but the whole human race would perish. For man is enticed by two loves, the love of ruling over all, and the love of possessing the wealth of all. These loves, if uncurbed, rush onward to infinity. The hereditary evils into which man is born have arisen principally from these two loves; nor was the sin of Adam any other than a desire to become as God, which evil the serpent infused into him, as it is written; therefore in the curse pronounced upon him it is said:
That the earth should bring forth the thorn and the thistle to him (Gen. 3:5, 18);
which means all evil and falsity therefrom. All who are enslaved by these loves, look upon themselves as the one only object, in which and for which all others exist. Such have no pity, no fear of God, no love for the neighbor; consequently they are unmerciful, inhuman and cruel, and are possessed by an infernal lust and greed for robbing and plundering, and by craft and cunning in working out their purposes. Such evils are not innate in the beasts of the earth; these do not slaughter and devour each other, except from the love of satisfying their hunger or defending themselves. Therefore a wicked man, viewed with reference to these loves, is more inhuman, fiercer, and worse than any beast.
 That man is inwardly such, is manifest in seditious disturbances when the bonds of law are loosed, and also in massacres and pillaging, when the signal is given to soldiers that they are free to satiate their fury upon the conquered or besieged; from which scarcely anyone desists until the drum beats the order to do so. From all this it is clear that if no fear of legal penalties restrained men, not only society, but the whole human race, would be destroyed. But none of these evils can be removed except by the true use of freedom of choice in spiritual things, and this is done by directing the mind to reflection upon the state of life after death.[TCR498]
Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772