Ask yourself an important question: Am I self-existent? If you were self-existent, you would not depend on anyone or anything for your existence. But we know that man relies on many resources that are outside himself. In fact, if it were not for your parents, you would not even emerge from humanity and exist. If it were not for Light, air, water, minerals, plants and animals, you would not be able to sustain and maintain your physical existence. But, even more pertinent, if it were not for the Divine Love and Wisdom of the mental, emotional and spiritual atmosphere, you would not be able to feel and think. Therefore, to believe that we possess an independent self is an illusion that results from our spiritual sleep. We have forgotten that we are connected to God and it is only God that can sustain, maintain and heal our soul. Only God is self-existent because God is Infinite Being. And Divine Love and Wisdom are the only self-existent substance and form in the universe from which all other substances and forms were derived by correspondence and influx. Therefore, any created being cannot be self-existent. And the self (or free will) that each human being possesses is a free gift that involved and evolved from God’s substance (Divine Love). God’s self is Divine but our own self is natural. This natural self was designed to freely receive Love and Wisdom from God and reflect it by understanding Truth, loving God and others and doing what is useful and just. Our natural self corresponds to the ground or soil of the earth where seeds of Truth can be sown to produce trees of knowledge in which fruits or useful deeds are produced. These fruits can eventually feed our useful animals or spiritual affections. But we are also free to misuse and abuse our gift of freewill and rationality by loving our own self and the world.
Many people have trouble believing that their existence is sustained, maintained and connected to a God of Mercy and Love when they see what is occurring in the world and within their inner mind and heart. They regularly witness injustice, cruelty, violence, disease, poverty, immorality and perversity in the world, their mind is in confusion and perplexity and their heart is tormented and depressed. Why would a loving God leave us in such a disastrous state? Hence, many give up on God and religion altogether. But it would surprise most of us to learn that the answers to these difficult questions are in the Bible or Word of God. Like the world itself, the literal sense of the Bible appears to consist of meaningless stories replete with violence, battles, wars, plagues, disasters, immorality and corruption. But these literal stories contain higher meanings that make perfect sense.
We should not blame God for our fallen state of being. God never abandoned us; we abandoned Him. The cause of the present state of humanity is FREEWILL. In order to realize Love, God requires beings that are free to reciprocate Love. Human beings and angels must evolve from the earth because this is the only way they can acquire a self that is distinct and separate from God. Only such a self is able to FREELY and WILLINGLY choose to love or reject God. God is INFINITE LIGHT, LIFE, TRUTH and LOVE. But the human self is only a reflected image or empty receptacle that is able to receive and reflect Love. Our human ancestors exercised their freewill and chose to love their own self and the world instead of loving God and their neighbor. This explains why we are in such a disastrous state of being. We seem lost and abandoned by God because we are no longer affiliated with the harmonic fields of Heaven and we are more associated with the spiritual darkness and disorder of our self-centered hell.
This also explains why spiritual evolution is such a long and arduous process. We must FREELY, WILLINGLY and gradually choose to repent and compel ourselves to resist our evil (selfish) urges. It also means that only God is Good and Wise and any compassion that we may feel or intelligence that we may think must come from God. We should keep this in mind when we are doing any useful or loving works and not attribute any merit to ourselves. All the glory belongs to God. Swedenborg says that those who have attributed merit to themselves from doing good works during their life must undergo an agonizing process of vastation in the spiritual world after they die and before they are raised into Heaven. Such a process is required because they still retain elements of selfishness.
We must then remember that the human self is void, empty and evil. God gives us such a self because only such a self can be free to reciprocate Love. In order to reciprocate Love freely, we must have the option to reject Divine Love and exercise selfishness and hatred. Otherwise, we would resemble robots and have no choice but to love God. If God wanted robots, he could have created them instantly. But human evolution, reformation, regeneration and salvation is a long process that involves many spiritual wars and battles and takes many ages to complete. This spiritual evolution is described in the internal sense of the Bible. Joshua, Saul, David and Solomon represent the Lord within us who is fighting for our salvation. Thus, we should remember that it is God who is doing all the fighting against the hells and not attribute any merit to ourselves.
One’s own prudence persuades and confirms the idea that all good and truth originate from and are in man, because man’s own prudence is his intellectual proprium flowing in from the love of self, which is his voluntary proprium; and the proprium cannot do otherwise than make all things its own, for it cannot be elevated above that idea. All who are led by the Divine Providence of the Lord are elevated above their proprium and then they see that all good and truth are from the Lord; indeed, they even see that what is in man originating from the Lord is always the Lord’s and never man’s. He who believes otherwise is like one who, having his master’s goods deposited with him, claims them for himself or appropriates them as his own. Such a man is not a steward but a thief; and as man’s proprium is only evil he immerses those goods in his evil, whereby they are destroyed like pearls cast upon a dung heap or into an acid solution. DP 316
Man’s proprium when viewed from heaven looks just like something bony, lifeless, and utterly misshapen, and so in itself something dead. But once it has received life from the Lord it appears as something having flesh. For man’s proprium is something altogether dead, though it has the appearance to him of being something; indeed it appears to be everything. Whatever is living within him comes from the Lord’s life; and if this were to leave him, he would fall down dead as a stone. For he is purely an organ of life, though the nature of the organ determines that of the life-affection. The Lord alone possesses Proprium. By His Proprium He has redeemed man and by His Proprium saves him. The Lord’s Proprium is Life, and from His Proprium man’s proprium, which in itself is dead, is given life. The Lord’s Proprium was also meant by His words in Luke,
A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me have. Luke 24:39, 40.
It was also meant by the requirement that no bone of the Paschal lamb be broken, Exod 12:46. AC 149 EMANUEL SWEDENBORG
In the lower earth, under the feet and the soles of the feet, are also those who have placed merit in good deeds and in works. Some of them appear to themselves to cut wood. The place where they are is rather cold, and they seem to themselves to acquire warmth by their labor. With these also I conversed, and it was given me to ask them whether they wished to come out of that place. They replied that they had not yet merited it by their labor. But when this state has been passed through, they are taken out thence. These also are natural, because the desire to merit salvation is not spiritual; and moreover, they regard themselves as superior to others, and some of them even despise others. If such persons do not receive more joy than others in the other life, they are indignant against the Lord; and therefore when they cut wood there sometimes appears as it were somewhat of the Lord under the wood, and this from their indignation. But as they have led a pious life, and have acted in this way from ignorance, in which there was something of innocence, therefore angels are occasionally sent to them who console them. And sometimes there appears to them from above on the left as it were a sheep, at the sight of which they also receive consolation. [AC 4943]
I have wondered how the thousands, and perhaps myriads, who were raised by God Messiah from the pit, or the lower parts of the earth, could all be allotted their own places in the heavens. At length I learnt today that the greater part of them seem to themselves as though they are conveyed in chariots or carriages and carried around to various places, to try whether this or that place is suitable, that is, whether there is agreement with the souls who are there. If there is not, as for the most part is the case, they are carried on until at length they find agreement and thus quiet, that is to say, until they are with souls who are in agreement with their nature. Nor is any soul ever raised up by God Messiah who does not find his own quiet, and thus companionship with others in conformity with his own nature. This transference may continue for a long time with some, but there is no anxiety. In the meanwhile they are also being rendered more adaptable and perfect, so that they may be able to be within a heavenly society.[SE 297] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG
In the diagram above, we can see that God did create the Heavens and the Earth in His own likeness (Love) and image (Wisdom) by correspondence and influx. But, since He is Infinite Light, Life, Truth and Love, He never created any hell. The hells were created over the ages by human beings who exercised their freewill and willingly chose to reject God and others through the fulfillment of selfishness, lust, greed and hatred.
While on earth, our human self is at a fork in the road. We are free to choose whichever road we desire. But, once we leave the earth and enter the spiritual world, we can no longer change our mind or heart because we will be attracted to a spiritual sphere that corresponds exactly to our real loves and beliefs.