EVIL INDUCES FALSITY.
39He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (LUKE VI. 39.)
The ignorant instructor misleads both himself and his pupil.
Physical blindness represents mental blindness. Those who are spiritually blind are those whose mental eyes are closed against the light of truth. For truth must be seen in its own light. Those who are in the belief and practice of false principles are not in the light of truth, and do not see in such light. They have eyes, but they see not.
DEGREES OF BLINDNESS.
But there are degrees of blindness, mentally, as well as physically. Blindness may be the result of a natural defect, or of our own bad habits. So, spiritually, blindness may be from ignorance, or from evil.
And there are several varieties of mental blindness; viz., First, Ignorance of truth, where the truth is not known, at all. Second, Error in doctrine, where the truth is known, as doctrine, but innocently misunderstood, Third, Falsification of truth, where the truth is known theoretically, but misapplied, to suit the man’s selfish desires. Fourth, Rejection of truth from the will, where the man is not willing to receive the truth, because he feels its opposition to himself “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”· He “hateth the light, his deeds being evil.”
In the third case, the man makes the law of God of no effect, in his own mind, by perverting it, according to the traditions of men. He observes the form of the truth, but not its spirit. He carefully pays “tithes of mint, and anise, and cummin,” but omits “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and truth.”
SCRIBES AND PHARISEES.
In Matthew xxiii. 16, 17, blindness is specifically applied to the Scribes and Pharisees, who are called “blind guides.” But the Scribes and Pharisees were representative of all men, in all ages, who are in similar states of mind and, life; and who do not admit into their minds the light of spiritual truth; and who, while influencing others, mislead both themselves and those whom they teach. And the result is, that “they both fall into the ditch;” or, literally, the deep place,” or “pit.”
As the man who is blind is liable to fall into a pit, so, spiritually, the man who is blind to spiritual truth is liable to fall into mental pits, false principles of thought and of life.
In the letter of the Scripture, much is said of persons “going down into the pit,” etc.; i. e., mentally sinking into false principles. “He brought me up, also, out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay” and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” The pit is falsity, and the rock is the truth. “He hath conceived mischief and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.” Here, it is shown, in terms, that the wicked man falls a victim to his own false principles.
And the parable shows that his influence tends to drag down with him, those whom he teaches and influences. And, to show the evil of misleading others, we have the prohibitions of the law in the Old Testament : “Thou shalt not curse the deaf nor put a stumbling-block before the blind.” “Cursed be he who maketh the blind to wander out of the way.” “If a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; the owner of the pit shall make good [the ox or ass], and give money unto the owner of them ; and the dead beast shall be his;” i. e., if a man shall teach a falsity, and mislead another person, he shall, on recognizing the facts, exert himself to undo his bad work, and give the truth, instead; and so far as he did wrong, the evil shall be his fault.
And what a beautiful rule of life this is, for our practical use. We do not desire to be “blind leaders of the blind;” and so, when we realize that any selfish pride, or other evil, has induced us to take a wrong stand, in any matter, we should be prompt and energetic to undo the bad work that we have done, so that our influence may be good, and not evil.
MISLEADING BY EXAMPLE.
Those who have the letter of the Word of God, but who falsify it in their own lives, are practically teaching falsity. For a man teaches by his example, more than by precept. The Scribes and Pharisees had the letter of the Word, and yet, in falsifying it, they were blind leaders of the blind. And so is every man who follows their example. The sincere teacher must be in earnest, applying truth to men’s actual lives, for their regeneration.
There are many persons who, in their easy-going mental ways, have no vigorous hatred of evil. They imbibe the ordinary general sentiments of their clay and community, against sin, and in favor of goodness; but they have no profound knowledge of the distinctions between good and evil, and no rational discernment of the quality of their own affections and thoughts. They love smooth things; they feel offended at plain characterizations of practical sins. They can associate with what they call small evils, without any abhorrence; and they think it is unkind to call such things by hard names.
And towards this class of persons, every earnest teacher of truth feels a serious duty, if he would avoid being a blind leader of the blind. He must try to help them to develop a vigorous repugnance towards all evils, no matter how small in appearance; for small evils are merely infant scorpions, growing and gathering strength, for their infernal work. The teacher who has not, himself learned a horror of evils, is not in condition to teach truth to others;. Without danger of misleading them into the ditches of practical falsity, under the appearance of truth, A teacher needs not only to be instructed in doctrines, held in the memory, but also to be in a right state of mind towards the truth; if not, he may make wrong applications of right doctrine, and may practically mislead others, to their injury.
For instance; it is true that” the Lord will provide; but it is not to be inferred from this truth, that men shall not exert themselves, to provide as of themselves, An unwise man may do a charity in an unwise way; and in so doing it, he may do injury to others; and he may make himself a blind leader of the blind, teaching them practical falsity, under the guise of truth.
Every man becomes a blind leader of the blind, who fails to teach men that the way to happiness is to shun every evil, as a sin against God, and to learn and obey what the Lord teaches, that they may know good from evil.
THE LIGHT OF TRUTH.
Those who think rationally, know that truths appear in their own light; but those who think irrationally, or unsoundly, do not believe in the truth from any insight, or any perception of the truthfulness of what is taught. Interior thought is in the light of heaven, which is the spiritual light of truth. But exterior thought is in natural light. And the understanding of a man must be elevated into interior light by love and wisdom ; and then he can see that a thing is true, though he never before heard it stated. A merely sensuous man can no more see heavenly truth, as truth, than his physical body could bear the pure heat and light of the sun, untempered by atmospheres.
SPIRIT AND FORM OF TRUTH.
And it is not enough to be in the knowledge of right doctrine; we need to be in the spirit of it also; and this depends upon the state of our will towards the truth.
“No words, whate’er their wisdom, more can tell
Than what the hearer’s wisdom understands.”
And so, even in an argument, we must see that we advocate the spirit of the truth, and not merely the form of it. If we take the form of truth, to uphold ourselves in a practical wrong, we falsify the truth; and, to the extent of our influence, we thus become blind leaders of the blind. And, in the context, we read that we must first cast the beam out of our own eye, before we can see clearly to pull the mote out of our brother’s eye. The real difficulty is not in the lack of truth, but in the lack of perception of it.
THE TRUTH AS LAW.
Truth is everywhere, Wherever there is anything, there is law; for God is everywhere: and God’s methods of practical operation are natural laws, Over the whole creation, from centre to circumference, law is supreme. And every law is a truth. The ignorant savages of the earth stand appalled before the demonstrative phenomena of outward nature, which are scientifically understood by civilized men. And yet such phenomena are, in the lands of the ignorant, as fully governed by law as are similar phenomena among enlightened nations. But, by knowledge of law, civilized men have escaped the terrors of ignorance. And so, spiritually, the terrors of spiritual ignorance pass away before rational intelligence in spiritual truth.
The Blind that is interiorly instructed in the truths of the New-Church, has a vast store-house of rational knowledges, which are of practical use, in the building up of spiritual life.
Blindness may be a misfortune, rather than a fault. And so may ignorance. But, though all men are born ignorant, no sane man need remain ignorant of spiritual truth. And every man is responsible for the results of his own neglect.
THE PROFOUNDER MEANING.
And this brings us to a profounder sense of the parable, its most practical spiritual meaning. In this sense, the blind leader is our blind will, blinded by evil; and the blind one who is led is our blind understanding, blinded by falsity. And they both fall into the ditch of falsity.
See the condition of our natural will. It is full of impulses, but it has no light. It cannot see principles; it can only feel. It has no insight into the quality of its own impulse? But, in order that we might not be without mental sight, our Lord implanted in our minds, an understanding; or intellect; and this is the eye of our mind, And so we are taught the truth, and thus given to see the character of the passions that dwell in our own hearts.
And on this ability to see the truth depends our capacity to be regenerated. The will and the understanding can cooperate, in a heavenly marriage of good in the will and truth in the understanding, united in the life.
But if we “love darkness, [our] deeds being evil,” then our blind will leads our blind understanding, and both fall headlong into the ditch of false principles. “‘The light of the body is the eye: if, therefore, thine eye be single [literally, free from defect], thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.”
A wrong impulse is always a blind leader, and we are always unwise to follow it. “Can a devil open. the eyes of the blind?” Can an evil passion open our eyes to the Lord’s truth? No; it closes our spiritual eyes. When we fall into anger, we let ourselves down into the mere light of the senses, which are blind to spiritual things. We may take this as a rule of practical life: Whenever we are in a bad passion, we are not in condition to trust our judgment as to what is true. The passion blinds us; it is a blind leader of a blind understanding; and it is sure to lead us to false views and false conclusions, even when we think we are right, and think we intend to be right, and intend to do right. From the unholy fires of anger there arises a dense smoke of sensuous thought, which obscures the clear light of spiritual truth. Good influences, only, can open our minds to the truth.
Sometimes, in an emergency, our good impulses come first; and, afterwards we go against them. But this is the case when we allow an evil desire to overcome a good one. Our Lord then first arouses our interior life, before our evil passion is aroused. And, if we yield to our bad impulse, and reject the good, we refuse to follow our Lord as a leader; and we are being led by our blind will. And the result will be disastrous.
We cannot trust our own impulses: for they always need the light of the revealed Word, and the leadership of our Lord. Often, when we think we are right, we are utterly wrong, blinded by a blind leader. “Thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
OPENING BLIND EYES.
When, in the prophesies of the Word, we read of the time when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened,” how natural it is to think that the words apply to the heathen; and to forget that we are the spiritual heathen to whom they especially apply. How little we see of the grandeur and glory of regenerate life. How little we open our eyes in the light of heavenly truth. None are so blind as those who will not see.
In the verse following the parable, we have the remedy presented, by means of which we can come out of spiritual blindness, and into the light of heavenly truth. “The disciple is not above his master ; but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.” The Lord is the Master, and the man is the pupil. And, as the Lord teaches by truth, so truth is the master. And the man must not place himself above the truth, or above the Lord. But he who, in love, faith and obedience, follows his Master, in the light and life of truth, shall be as his Master; i. e., he shall be in the image and likeness of his Divine Master. “Now ye are clean, through the Word which I have spoken unto you.”
Here lies the whole story: the man who sets himself and his desires, and his views, above the truth, remains in spiritual blindness, unable to see in the heavenly light; but he who sets the truth first, and submits his affections, his thoughts and his deeds to the test and control of the truth lives in the light of heaven, and walks with his heavenly Master.
The spiritual coming of the Lord to the minds of men, is to open their spiritual eyes, their understandings, to the light of spiritual truth. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;” they shall see God in His Divine Truth in His holy Word. And, because their hearts are pure, or free from evil, there will not be, in them, a blind will, to mislead their understanding.
Because of the representative signification of blindness, the blind men among the priests, in Israel, were forbidden to officiate in the worship. And the Israelites were commanded not to offer up to the Lord, in sacrifice, any blind animal,
Each of us has some influence, and is responsible for that Influence. Everyone is called upon to be a good leader, and not a blind one. And we are responsible, not only for our own work, while we live, but also for the continued influence of our earthly life, after we have passed beyond this world. Every bad state of our life goes on down the ages, doing bad work, and making it harder for others to do right. Every evil passion sets in motion some current of unhappiness. And who can tell where it will stop?
I do not, mean that we may comfort our self-love with the idea that others are to blame for our outbursts of evil. We are prone to say, “You made me do it.” But there is another side of the case: we have no right to be in condition to be driven to sin, even by the evils of others; much less by things that are not evil. Generally, our own over-sensitiveness, which is selfishness, is to blame for our outbursts of evil temper.
If I allow matches to lie around on my floors, I cannot justly censure you, if you unintentionally tread upon them, and set fire to my house. I am responsible, for allowing my floors to be in such an inflammable condition.
When we are stirred up, we can see what evils are in us, needing restraint. The tiger is most truly himself when he is in a rage. When he is quietly sleeping, or inactive, he is not exhibiting his characteristic life. So, if we have evils in us, we must judge of our own character by these evils, and not by the quiet moments when nothing arouses us.
We are apt to judge of our own character by our best states. But our “longings, or aspirations, are not real, until fixed in our conduct, As a man, living on a dry, uninviting island, amid many hardships and little joy, may occasionally, when the wind is in the right direction, catch the fragrance of the orange groves, and the melodies of the music, wafted
to him from the main-land, beyond; so we, even in our hard, cold, selfish life, may at favorable times, when under good influences, catch something of the fragrance and the melodies of heaven, sent to us in heavenly mercy, to arouse us to exertion, that we may permanently reach such a lovely life. But we must not mistake these occasional visitors for our own mental family, Many things are yet needed before we can permanently possess these things.
COURAGE AND LOVE.
And those who help to lead us to these heavenly things, must have spiritual courage enough to hear the Word at the Lord’s mouth, and to warn the people, from Him, And, if we love the truth, even though we are rebuked, love will take away the sting of the rebuke: for we shall see that the rebuke is directed to our evil, that our souls may be saved
from evil. But, if we sink into natural-minded states, and fail to value the strength of love which goes out with all well-meant criticism; if we fall into the terrible falsity that our best friends are those who never see any faults in us; we shall be making friends of the most subtle and dangerous influences, and rejecting the heaven-sent aid of our best friends: and then, with our self-deluded hearts on fire with infernal passions, and our clouded understandings enslaved by our corrupt hearts, our hearts will be blind leaders of the blind, carrying us down into the pits of direful falsities.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887