Watching the attitude and behavior of convicts in prison can teach us a great deal about human nature. And, it goes without saying that the vast majority of these prisoners must be in love of abuses, love of the world and love of self.
Now, most of these prisoners insist that they are not guilty, complain about the conditions of their incarceration and argue and fight with their fellow prisoners. In fact, prison life is mainly characterized by fear, cruelty and violence.
Prisoners pretend that they are innocent of their crimes or justify their evil behavior using all sorts of fallacious arguments because, when our will is in evil (selfishness), our mind is in spiritual darkness (falsehood or lies). And, although they are at ease with their own evil, they are intolerant of the crimes of their fellow prisoners. For example, some prisoners who have committed murder seek out child abusers and torture or even kill them. Prisoners who snitch are also not tolerated. It is ironic that those who have proven to be evil (selfish) should be offended by the sins of their fellow humans. But the source of this indignation is not righteousness but self-righteousness. They in fact believe that they are better than others and that, unlike those of others, their own sins are justified.
Many convicts, while they are doing time in prison, can also be seen reading and studying the Bible. And some even claim that they love and believe in God. However, when it comes to their intentions and actions, God (Divine Love) is nowhere to be found. To love God is to intend and do His will (Unselfish Love). And to believe in God is to believe his Word (Truth) and obey His Laws. The only God in whom these prisoners believe and whom they really love is their own self.
In prison, violence breaks out over the faintest disagreements and arguments. This anger that erupts from being disrespected originates from their self-love. The human self is egotistical and it believes the world revolves around it. Hence, each prisoner also attempts to rule others through fear, threat and punishment. And, over time, they become addicted to intending, scheming and inflicting pain upon others because this is how they experience fleeting, temporary or infernal delight. Thus, they are enslaved through cruelty to others or through fear of punishment. In fact, this is where sadomasochism originates.
It would also be reasonable to believe that those prisoners who have been released from prison would learn their lesson and not wish to return to such a harsh, confining and cruel environment. But the fact is that more than half of those who are in prison are repeat offenders. It seems that freedom is a heavy burden and some of these offenders prefer to return to prison where they are told exactly what to do.
To be a human being is indeed a difficult task because we are in spiritual equilibrium. We are free to choose to express our selfish urges or obey our spiritual conscience. And we do not have to go to a physical prison to experience the horror of prison life. When we are in love of abuse, love of the world or love of self, we already are in an emotional, mental and spiritual prison (hell). Hence, most of us are enslaved in addiction, greed, lust, hatred, fear and suffering. And the only way to be released from this spiritual prison and enter a Heavenly society where we can live in usefulness and spiritual freedom is by repentance, spiritual temptation and obedience to the Laws of Divine Order.
By nature, self-love runs wild to the extent that its reins are loosened, that is, to the extent that the outward restraints constituted by fears of the law and its penalties, fears of losing reputation, esteem, profit, position, and life are taken away. It runs wild even to the extent of wanting to rule not only over the whole globe but even over all heaven and the Lord himself. It knows no bound or limit. This is latent in everyone who is focused on self-love even though it may not show in the world, where the restraints we have mentioned hold it back.
We cannot fail to see this in people in power and kings who are not held back by any such restraints. They run wild and conquer as many territories and kingdoms as they can and aspire to boundless power and glory. This is even clearer in the modern Babylon, which extends its control into heaven and transfers all the Lord’s divine power to itself and even craves more.
The reader may see in the booklet Last Judgment that people like this are diametrically opposed to the Divine and to heaven and that they favor hell when they arrive in the other life after death.
Picture a community made up of people like this, all totally in love with themselves, not caring about others unless they are allies, and you will see that their love is no different from that of thieves for each other. To the extent that they are acting in concert, they embrace each other and call each other friends; but once they stop cooperating, once anyone resists their control, they attack and butcher each other. If their deeper natures-their minds-are probed, it will be clear that they are full of virulent hatred for each other, that at heart they ridicule anything fair and honest and even ridicule the Deity, tossing it aside as worthless. This comes out even more clearly from their communities in the hells, which will be described below.
The deeper levels of the thoughts and affections of people who love themselves above all are turned toward themselves and the world-and are turned away, therefore, from the Lord and heaven. This is why such people fall prey to all kinds of evil and why the divine nature cannot flow in. It is because the moment it does flow in, it is submerged in thoughts about self and polluted, and is saturated with evils that arise from their self-centeredness. This is why they all look away from the Lord in the other life, toward the gloom that occupies the site of our world’s sun there and is directly across from heaven’s sun, which is the Lord. Darkness means evil, and our world’s sun means self-love.
In broad terms, the evils characteristic of people focused on love for themselves are contempt for others; envy; enmity toward anyone who is not on their side, and a consequent hostility; various kinds of hatred; vengefulness; craft; deceit; callousness; and cruelty. In religious matters, this extends not only to a contempt for the Divine and for the divine gifts that are the true and good elements of the church; it extends also to anger at such things, an anger that turns into hatred when we become spirits. Then not only can we not stand hearing about these matters, we blaze with hatred against everyone who acknowledges and worships the Divine. Emanuel Swedenborg [HH 559-562]