THE SELF (or Proprium), SELFISHNESS and UNSELFISHNESS
The material world was needed in the creation of the universe because this is the only way God could create beings with a self that is distinctly other than Himself. Since Love can only be realized or reciprocated FREELY and WILLINGLY, human beings must also have the option to reject Divine Truth and Love. And it is on Earth where man is in spiritual equilibrium where he can choose between Truth and Falsehood, Good (unselfishness) and evil (selfishness). The only way man can be free is if he has a self that is distinct and separate from God. But the human self in reality has no Being of its own. It is simply a receptacle that is able to receive Divine Love and Wisdom by means of correspondence and influx. Thus those humans who foolishly choose to reject God are in fact devoid of any Love and Truth and they are compelled to reside in the darkness, fasehood and evil of their own self (or hell).
Nothing evil or false can possibly exist that is not the proprium or derived from the proprium. For man’s proprium is evil itself, which means that man is nothing but evil and falsity. This has become clear to me from the fact that when the contents of the proprium are presented to view in the world of spirits they look so ugly that nobody can paint any uglier picture. (Those contents vary however according to the nature of the proprium.) As a result when anyone is offered a glimpse of the contents of his proprium he is horrified at himself and wishes to run as though from the devil. On the other hand contents of the proprium which have been given life by the Lord look beautiful and attractive, varying according to the life to which a celestial quality that is the Lord’s can be added. Indeed people who have received charity, that is, been made alive by it, look like boys and girls with very attractive faces. And people who have received innocence look like naked small children adorned in different ways with garlands of flowers twined around their breasts, and precious stones in their hair, living and playing in brightest light, with a sense of happiness stemming from the depths of their being. AC 154
What is the proprium? The human proprium consists of everything evil and false that gushes out of self-love and love of the world. It involves people believing not in the Lord or in the Word but in themselves, and their imagining that what they do not grasp through sensory evidence or through facts does not exist at all. They become as a consequence nothing but evil and falsity and so have a warped view of everything. Things that are evil they see as good, and those that are good as evil; things that are false they see as true, and those that are true as false. Realities they imagine to be nothing, and things that are nothing they imagine to be everything. They call hatred love, thick darkness light, death life, and vice versa. In the Word such people are called ‘the lame and the blind’. This then is the human proprium which in itself is hellish and condemned. AC 210
Because the proprium of man is of such a nature, therefore the Lord, from His Divine mercy, has provided the means by which he may be withdrawn from his proprium; these means are furnished in the Word, and when man acts in accordance with them, that is, when he thinks and speaks, wills and acts, from the Divine Word, then he is kept by the Lord in things Divine, and thus is withheld from his proprium. And as he perseveres in this course, as it were, a new proprium as well voluntary as intellectual, which is altogether separated from his own proprium, is formed in him by the Lord; thus man becomes as it were created anew. This is called his reformation and regeneration by truths from the Word, and by a life according to them. On this subject more may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, in the articles concerning Remission of sins and concerning Regeneration. To repent is actually to turn oneself away from evils, because the quality of every man is according to his life, and the life of man principally consists in willing and thence in acting. It follows from this, that repentance, which is of the thought alone, and thence of the lips, and not at the same time of the will and thence of action, is not repentance, for in such case the life remains of the same quality afterwards as it was before. It is therefore evident, that to repent is actually to turn oneself away from evils, and to enter upon a new life, as may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. AE 585
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