Free Choice

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. Viktor Frankl

Many people argue that they have no choice in what they intend, believe, say and do because this is the way they were born or how they have been raised. They say that they desire to be free to express their nature. This would only be true if humans were purely natural beings like animals. But the fact is that humans are not only natural; they are also spiritual.

It is certainly true that we have no choice when it comes to our heredity, the circumstances of our birth, the nature of our parents or the manner they raised us. But, the fact is that some people who were born and raised in the most horrifying circumstances or with inherited diseases eventually turn out to be the most noble of human creatures. In contrast, some who were born in wealth and health and raised by loving parents eventually become criminals. How can this be explained?

It is true that we have no choice when it comes to our hereditary DNA or our early circumstances. Animals are free to follow their natural desires. However, what makes us human and different from animals is our God-given ability to reason and the freedom to choose what we love, desire or intend.

Due to our heredity and the fall of mankind, our mind may be flooded with false thoughts and our heart with selfish urges. And we may choose to play the victim and blame what we intend and do on our lower nature. But the truth is that we are willfully choosing to believe these false thoughts and obey these selfish lusts from our own volition. Thus, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we fall into disorder, abuse and addiction. We could in fact have freely chosen instead to resist temptation, followed our conscience and acted in accordance with the laws of Heaven because the noble ideals and harmonies of Heaven were equally flowing into our mind and heart.


It is an interesting fact that animals are born fully clothed and cannot change their garments while humans must freely choose and wear their own garments. Now, we know that in the world of spirit, our garments represent our own intelligence or our beliefs, the means by which we express and protect the affections of our soul. Angels are clothed with beautiful garments of various colors in exact correspondence with their True beliefs.

On earth, animals cannot choose their garments or beliefs because they are purely natural beings. However, humans are in spiritual equilibrium or freedom and they are always free to choose and change their beliefs at any time.

When we arrive in the material world, we are naked (innocent) and our mother eventually chooses the garments we wear. In childhood, our parents transmit their own beliefs and traditions to us. However, when we become an adult, we are free to choose our loves and beliefs (garments).

In the Bible, we read that John the Baptist “wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” He was literally clothed like an animal. Even his food was not very pleasant. This is because his beliefs came forth from the literal sense of the Word. When Jesus came into the world, the Jews’ understanding of the Bible was purely literal or natural. A camel represents literal, harsh or natural understanding. And John the Baptist was a representation of this literal or crude understanding of the Word. Now, the Lord came into the world to teach us that the Word also contains a Spiritual and a Celestial sense. These higher meanings are in correspondence with the Spiritual and Celestial Heavens. He came to give us better food (Unselfish Love) and lovelier garments for our soul. When we freely choose to believe the Truths that Jesus taught, our soul is clothed in Heavenly garments (True beliefs).


Who, except a stupid person, cannot see that without freedom of choice in spiritual things man cannot be regenerated? Can he without this approach the Lord, acknowledge Him as the Redeemer and Savior and the God of heaven and earth, as He himself teaches (Matt. 28:18)? Without that freedom of choice who can believe in the Lord, that is, from faith look to Him and worship Him, and adapt himself to receiving the means and benefits of salvation from Him, and from Him cooperate in the reception of them? Who without freedom of choice can do any good to the neighbor, can practice charity, or take into his thought and will other things pertaining to faith and charity, bring them forth, and put them into acts? Otherwise, what is regeneration but a mere word dropped from the lips of the Lord (John 3), which either remains in the ear, or having dropped upon the lips from the thought nearest to speech, becomes merely an articulated sound of twelve letters, which sound cannot by any meaning be raised into any higher region of the mind, but falls upon the air and is dissipated? Emanuel Swedenborg [TCR 615]


That God could, in one day, if freedom of choice in spiritual things had not been given to man, lead all the inhabitants of the world to believe in Him, follows as a true conclusion from the Divine omnipotence when not rightly understood. Those who do not understand the Divine omnipotence, may suppose either that there is no such thing as order, or that God can act contrary to order as well as according to it; when yet, without order, no creation was possible. The primary thing of order is for man to be an image of God, consequently, that he be continually perfecting in love and wisdom, and thus becoming that image more and more. To this end God is working continually in man; but this would be in vain, for it would be impossible, if man were destitute of freedom of choice in spiritual things, whereby he could turn to God and reciprocally conjoin himself with God. For there is an order from which and according to which the whole universe, with each and all things in it, was created; and because all creation was effected from that order and according to it God is called order itself. Thus it is the same whether we say, acting contrary to order, or acting contrary to God. God Himself, even, cannot act contrary to His own Divine order, since this would be to act contrary to His very Self; and therefore He leads every man according to that order which is Himself, guiding the wandering and the fallen into it, and the resisting toward it. If man could have been created without freedom of choice in spiritual things, what would have been more easy for an omnipotent God than to lead all the inhabitants of the world to believe in the Lord? Could He not have implanted this faith in everyone, both without means and by means, without means by His absolute power and its irresistible operation, which is unceasing in its efforts to save man; or by means, through torments brought upon man’s conscience, or through mortal convulsions of the body and awful threats of death, if he did not receive that faith; or still further, by the opening of hell and the presence of devils therefrom holding frightful torches in their hands, or by calling forth therefrom the dead whom they had known, in the forms of fearful specters? But to all this there is a reply in the words of Abraham to the rich man in hell,

If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:31).Emanuel Swedenborg [TCR 500]

But this shall be still further illustrated by comparisons, as follows: Without some kind of freedom of choice in all created things, both animate and inanimate, no creation could have taken place; for without freedom of choice in natural things for beasts there would be no choice of food conducive to their nourishment, and no propagation and preservation of offspring; thus, no beasts. If the fishes of the sea and the shellfish at its bottom, had no such freedom, there would be no fish or shellfish. In like manner, unless this freedom were in every insect, there would be no silk-worm yielding silk, no bee furnishing wax and honey, no butterfly sporting with its consort in the air, feeding on the juices of flowers, and representing, after he has shed his exuviae as a worm, the happy state of man in the heavenly realm.

Unless there were something analogous to freedom of choice in the earth’s soil, in the seed sown in it, in all parts of the tree that has grown out of it, and in its fruit, and again in the new seed, there would be no plant life. Unless there were something analogous to freedom of choice in every metal, and in every stone both precious and common, there would be no metal or stone, or even a grain of sand; for even this freely absorbs the ether, emits its natural exhalations, throws off its worn-out elements and restores itself with new. From this there is a magnetic sphere about the magnet, an iron sphere about iron, a coppery one about copper, a silver sphere about silver, a golden one about gold, a stony sphere about stone, a nitrous sphere about niter, a sulfur sphere about sulfur, and a different sphere about every particle of dust. From this sphere the inmost of every seed is impregnated, and its prolific principle vegetates; for without such an exhalation from every least particle of the earth’s dust, there would be no beginning of germination and no continuance of it. How could the earth, except by what is exhaled from it, penetrate with dust and water to the inmost center of a grain sown in it, as into a grain of mustard seed, for example:

Which is less than all seeds, but when it is grown, it is greater than herbs, and becometh a tree? (Matt. 13:32; Mark. 4:30-32).

Since freedom has been thus implanted in all created subjects, in each according to its nature, why should not freedom of choice have been implanted in man according to his nature, that he may become spiritual? This is the reason that free will in spiritual things is given to man, from the womb to the last hour of his life in the world, and afterward to eternity. Emanuel Swedenborg [TCR 499]