from Robert H. Kirven, "A Concise Overview of  Swedenborg's Theology, (Appleseed & Co. MA 2003)

Table of  Contents


Chapter 3


Proprium; Temptation; Evil; Sin; Remains; Merit; Imputation

THE LATE AND (SERIOUSLY) GREAT PAUL TILLICH often said that the primary task of theology is correlation. He meant that in the context of two definitions, namely, that our Judeo-Christian heritage provides us with a voluminous, if incomplete, set of answers; and our experience of existing in the reality that we know affords us a massive set of questions. The task of theology is to correlate the questions with the answers. The history of preaching and pastoral counseling is replete with futile attempts to disprove Tillich's proposition. That is, innumerable ministers have spent interminable hours answering questions that their hearers had not asked and, of course, failing at the same time to answer the questions that had been asked.

Correlation is the primary challenge of this chapter, too. The seven topics present the largest range of questions that are faced in any single chapter of the course and yet the answers constitute a very compact set of theological ideas. In fact, it might be argued that the list of topics is too small; for it includes evil, which can hardly be defined without simultaneously defining its opposite, good; and good is not defined in the course except by implication in the next three chapters.

Seven is a good number to work with, since in the Lord's Holy Word it signifies what is holy, complete, finished, and divine. Besides, this list of topics provides questions that elicit a solidly coherent set of answers. Let's begin near the middle of the list and define (which includes distinguishing between) evil and sin. Evil is the more general term, because all sin is evil, but evil includes more than sin. Theologically, evil includes everything that has been perverted from God's creative purpose so as to be in direct conflict and opposition to that purpose. Existentially, evil includes everything that flows from the hells, or comes about under hellish influences. In our experience, evil is simply a theologian's word for bad. Suffering is evil and so is making others suffer. Earthquakes, floods, wars, and murders are all evil. Sickness is evil, even if there is no sin directly involved. Painful death, or premature death that leaves loved ones' needs unfilled, is evil. God's will for all his creatures in all his creation is good, and any departure from that happy, satisfying good is evil.

Sin is something else. Sin is evil that is appropriated into the intentionality, becoming an integral and inseparable part of it. Murder is evil; but the desire for murder, the intention to commit murder (even if external forces prevent it) is sin. Suffering is evil; the intention to do harm (even if blocked by external forces) is sin. Helping others is good and hurting them is evil; helping for an evil purpose (as, for instance, helping for the sake of gaining a good reputation at the expense of another's self-image and reputation) is also sin. Doing harm to another as a result of intention to do good is not sin, even though it is evil because the good intention became involved with falsity (a wrong perception of what is really good).
You'll notice that the definition of sin includes the appropriation of evil. "Appropriate" is the verb at the root of Swedenborg's adjective, proprium, which is translated occasionally as the English noun, "Own," but more often is transliterated as the non-English noun, "proprium." (Latin adjectives which have no specific noun to modify are called "substantive adjectives," and they must be translated into English as a noun, as a sailor's white two-piece uniform is called by the noun, "whites." I sometimes translated proprium as "self" or "self-image." Swedenborg frequently used substantive adjectives, so this problem of translation will arise again.)

One's proprium is what one has appropriated to oneself, all that one has appropriated. Therefore, proprium is almost a synonym for one's self: almost a synonym, just as in Chapter 1 "Human beings as they are in themselves" is almost a definition of a human being. In both cases, the synonym is incomplete. A human being is more than what she or he is in herself or himself, because the "image of God" is at the core of human personality; a person is more than he or she has appropriated to himself or herself— more, at least, because of what Swedenborg calls "remains." This latter concept is based on the fact that all of one's experiences, physical experiences as well as spiritual ones—good, bad, false, true, all experiences whatsoever—remain a permanent part of one's self. Some experiences are deliberately appropriated, becoming part of one's proprium; some are repressed, some are ignored, some are rejected. Some are appropriated but later rejected through repentance. However, human personality includes the "remains" or "remnants" (the "precipitate," in chemical terminology) of all the psychic and physical, conscious and unconscious experiences of life.

Most of what Swedenborg says about "remains" refers to the good that has been precipitated from our subconscious encounters with angels and angelic spirits (the distinction will be clarified in Chapter 9), especially during infancy, when our discernment is not sufficiently developed (or clearly enough separated from our intention) to block or reject angelic influences. There are evil and false remains, too, but these are of less significance. Good and true remains are the heritage of every human being, regardless of the comfort or squalor of her or his infancy, regardless of the tender love or harsh cruelty of the childhood environment. (See Secrets of Heaven 8 in Chapter 4, "Passages from Swedenborg.")

It is these remnants, plus the heavenly influences in our lives (see "equilibrium" in Chapter 2, and "influx" in Chapter 5), which produce whatever good we do for ourselves, for others, or for the Lord. Therefore, in human experience, "merit" is an illusion and nothing more. Indeed, it is worse than illusory: it is a delusion, which perverts our thanksgiving to God into pride in ourselves. And pride is the delusive appropriation to ourselves of what is truly God's, and in that sense is the origin of all sin (see Genesis 3).

"Imputation" is a term that Swedenborg takes from the traditional theology of his time, stands it on its head, and then virtually ignores it as a word (though he never neglects the concept). Traditionally, Adam's sin was imputed to all human beings. For Swedenborg, sin cannot be imputed, only appropriated. It is the Lord's triumph of good over evil (or "righteousness," discussed in Chapter 6) which is imputed to us, in such a way that we can appropriate it (make it our own) or reject it.

The final aspect of this seven-fold topic is "temptation," a summary term for all the influences that the hells exert on the intention and discernment of our conscious minds, by means of the spiritual perceptions of the anima as well as the physical perceptions of the animus. The inclination to pervert the Lord's good influences into merit for ourselves after they have been brought to fruition is a type of temptation. The inclination to disown responsibility for the sins we commit by blaming them on imputation of original sin is a type of temptation.

Most frequently in our experience, temptation takes the form of rationalization. Few of us ever recognize clearly what is right and good and then deliberately do what is wrong and evil in sheer defiance of our precepts and our conscience. Rather, we rationalize, or accept the rationalization that comes from the hells through our subconscious, in order to convince ourselves that what is false is true, that evil is good, at least for us individually, at this particular time, under these special conditions.

The more truth we can discern, the more good we are able to intend, the more subtle are the temptations that assail us. The only way to avoid the mental and emotional struggles with temptation that life brings to us is to surrender to the temptations. Each stage of regeneration (discussed in the next chapter) brings us some degree of immunity from certain past temptations, but makes us subject to new ones.

Our proprium is a major base from which temptation can lead us to rationalize our perversion of the good we do into merit, the sin we commit into imputation for which we are not responsible, and something evil into something good. Only our subconscious remains are safe from temptation, protected by the Lord to provide a base for our lifelong possibility of regeneration (the topic of Chapter 4).


Read the following passages from Swedenborg. For further reading in other published versions, see the passages listed just below:

Secrets of Heaven 313, 147-149, 251, 751, 761-762, 847-848, 966, 986-987, 1690, 1787, 1875, 1937, 3603, 3605, 4274, 5398, 8159, 9009
Heaven and Hell 302
Divine Love and Wisdom 264, 271, 336
Divine Providence 19-21, 78
True Christianity 126, 489-491, 523, 643-646, 654-657


Proprium; Temptation; Evil; Sin; Remains; Merit; Imputation

SH 313

The first human being[3. Notes] is not the source of hereditary evil in everyone alive today. . . . The subject here is the Earliest Church, and it is called a human being. When it is called "Adam" it means that humanity first came out of the ground—symbolizing the church being transformed from inhuman to human through the Lord's regeneration. This is the origin and meaning of that name.[4. Notes]

On the other hand, hereditary evil is like this: each of us who commits sin by our own actions acquires a certain disposition as a consequence of that commission, and the evil arising from that disposition is implanted in our offspring and becomes hereditary. In this way, our inheritance from both our parents, our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and so on back, multiplies and increases in our children and remains with each one. Also, each of them increases it still further by sins of their own doing. Hereditary evil is neither dispersed nor rendered harmless except with people who are being regenerated by the Lord. To know this for yourself, pay attention to the way evil inclinations of parents are noticeable in their children. This is so conspicuous that children of one family, even one generation, are distinguished by such tendencies.

And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the human, and the human slept; and God took one of the human ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place (Genesis 2:21).[5. Notes]

SH 147

"A rib," which is a breastbone, means our personal identity when it has very little life, though it is still a cherished identity. The "flesh in its place" is understood as our identity when it does have life. A "deep sleep" refers to the state into which we must be brought in order to feel that we have an identity—a state which resembles sleep because we are conscious only of living, thinking, speaking, and acting on our own. Actually, we seem to "come to" and wake up when we begin to realize that this is false.

SH 148

The reason the Bible calls our identity—the identity we cherish so much—a "rib," which is a breast bone, is that the earliest people said "breast" to mean charity—since that is where the heart and lungs are. They also regarded bones as comparatively worthless because they are barely alive. "Flesh," however, meant something that did have life....

SH 149

[2] From a heavenly viewpoint, human personal identity appears as something bony, lifeless, and completely deformed—essentially dead. But when it is brought to life by the Lord, it looks as if it had flesh. This is because our personal identity is nothing but a dead thing, although it appears to us as if it were something. Indeed, it appears to be everything. But whatever lives within us lives from the Lord's life; if that were withdrawn, we would fall dead as a stone. Human beings are only instruments of life, the nature of the instrument determining the nature of the life's predilection. The Lord alone has universal identity; everyone has been redeemed and is saved by it. That universal identity is life itself and human personal proprium[6. Notes] (which in itself is dead) is vivified by it.

SH 251

"The serpent" signifies all evil in general, and love of self in particular, because all evil originates from sense experience and from sense-data which were the original meaning of the serpent. Therefore, it now means all evil of every sort; but its most specific meaning is love of self, or hatred against the neighbor and the Lord (which is the same thing as self-love). This evil or hatred is complex, including many kinds and even more types, so it is symbolized in the Word by different kinds of serpents—"snakes," "dragons," "asps," "adders," "fiery serpents," "serpents that fly," "serpents that creep," and "vipers," according to the differences in the poison, which is hatred.... In Revelation, the serpent described in Genesis is called "the great and red dragon," "the old serpent," and also "the devil and satan." ... There, as well as in other places, "the devil" does not refer to any particular devil, who is prince over the others, but means the whole crew of evil spirits, and signifies evil itself.

SH 751

Few people, if any, know what temptations are. Few people today undergo such temptations [as endured by biblical heroes like Noah] and those who do are only aware that some inner part of themselves is suffering for some reason. Therefore, I will explain temptations briefly.

There are evil spirits who stir up our evils and falsities, drawing out of our memory anything we have thought or done since childhood. Their activity is the beginning of temptation. Evil spirits are capable of doing this with skill and malice that defies description. However, there are angels with us who bring out good things we have done and true things we have thought, and use them to defend us. This conflict is what we feel and perceive in ourselves—the sting and torment of conscience.

[2]There are two kinds of temptation. One involves what we perceive, and the other involves what we intend. When we are tempted as to our perceptions, evil spirits stir up only the evil actions we have performed (actions portrayed in the Bible as "unclean beasts") and use them to accuse and condemn. They even evoke our good accomplishments (signified by "clean beasts") but they corrupt these in a thousand ways. At the same time, they activate our thoughts (which are meant where "birds" are mentioned). In addition, they awaken the things which are meant by "things creeping over the ground." [7. Notes]

[3]However, this kind of temptation is mild. It is experienced only through our recall of such experiences, and the kind of mental anguish resulting from that.

On the other hand, when our temptation involves our intention, evil demons (as evil spirits of this type may be called) are activated to a greater extent than by our deeds and thoughts. These demons inflame and infect us with lusts and foul passions, attacking by means of our own desires. They do this so wickedly and secretly that we cannot believe an outside force is doing this to us. In a flash, they flood into the life of our desires, contorting our inclination toward what is good and true, perverting it into an inclination toward what is evil and false. They do all this in a way to make us think that all this comes from us—flows forth from our own free will. This kind of temptation is as severe as can be. It is experienced as inner distress and excruciating burning.... I have learned the truth of this from many experiences. Also, I have learned to recognize when evil spirits and demons are infiltrating and overcoming me, to know where they come from, who they were, and how they did what they did.

SH 761

When spiritual temptation occurs, it is a struggle between the evil spirits and angels who are with us. We usually experience it in our conscience....You should know that angels protect us continually in such conflicts, warding off the evils that evil spirits direct against us. They even protect our false ideas and evil purposes, for they are fully aware that these come from evil spirits and demons. There is no way that we can produce any falsity or evil from ourselves. Evil spirits living with us produce them and also convince us that they originated from within us (that is the kind of malice they have). Not only that, as soon they have instilled this stuff into us, they accuse and condemn us for harboring such thoughts! People who have no faith in the Lord cannot see this clearly, and inevitably believe that evil comes from themselves. Consequently they make the evil their own and become like those evil spirits who are infesting them.

Every human being is in this situation, and angels are aware of that. Therefore they protect even our false perceptions and our bad intentions while we are undergoing the temptations that are part of regeneration. Without that protection you would be overcome, because on our own we have nothing but evil intentions and the false thinking those generate....

SH 762

Spiritual temptations are little known these days, nor are they allowed to happen the way they used to. That is because people are not governed by the true perceptions that are enabled by faith, so they would be engulfed by spiritual temptation. Instead of temptations, people undergo other experiences— misfortune, grief, anxiety, and the like—which arise from natural or physical causes. Also, there are illnesses and diseases of the body. These events weaken and break down the life of our pleasures and desires to some extent, limiting and elevating our thoughts toward more inward and nobler things. But these are not spiritual temptations. Spiritual temptations do not occur except with people who have received a conscience from the Lord—i.e., received an ability to recognize what is good and what is true.

SH 847

[2-3] There are many kinds of temptation. The general categories are heavenly, spiritual, and natural. These should not be confused with each other in any way. Heavenly temptations can occur only for people who are moved by love to the Lord, and spiritual temptations only with those who are moved by charity toward their neighbor. Natural temptations are something else again. They are not real temptations, but merely anxious cares arising from attacks on people's natural loves caused by misfortune, sickness, and abnormal conditions of the blood and bodily fluids....

With people moved by love to the Lord, whatever attacks that love to the Lord produces inmost torment. This is heavenly temptation. With those moved by love to the neighbor, which is charity, whatever attacks this love leads to a tortured conscience. This is spiritual temptation.

But in the other cases—people who truly are natural—experiences most often called "temptations" and "the pangs of conscience" are not temptations at all. They are mere anxieties arising from desires which are being attacked—when such people foresee and feel they are to be deprived of honor, the good things of this world, reputation, pleasures, or physical powers, for instance. Still, temptations of this kind normally do some good.

Temptations also are experienced by people who are moved by natural charity, including all manner of heretics, gentiles, and idolaters. These temptations result from something attacking the life their faith demands and which they hold dear. These, however, are anxious cares—mere imitations of spiritual temptations.

SH 848

The purpose of all temptation is that a person may receive new life, or rather receive life—be transformed from inhuman to human, from a dead person to one who is alive. When our former life—our merely bestial life—is destroyed by means of temptations, we are forced to fluctuate between what is true (belonging to our new life) and what is false (belonging to the old). Without the former life being destroyed and that fluctuation occurring, spiritual seed can never be implanted because there is no ground for it.

SH 1875

I have been allowed to perceive angelic ideas surrounding the words in the Lord's Prayer, "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from what is evil." By a certain idea that was perceptible within me, good spirits closest to me drove back "temptation" and "evil" until all that remained was purely angelic—that is, good—and no idea of temptation or evil was left, and the literal sense completely perished in this process. Innumerable ideas were being formed around that good idea which had remained: thoughts about how good may come out of one's affliction, even when the affliction is self-induced from one's evil which carries its own punishment. Connected to these ideas, there was a kind of indignation that people should suppose that temptation and its associated evil should come from any other source, and that anyone should entertain thoughts of evil while thinking of the Lord.

SH 1937

[2-3] There were certain spirits who had held the principle (while they lived in the world) that they should remain completely passive, not compelling themselves in anything. Because they had been told that all good was from the Lord and human beings can do nothing on their own, they thought that circumstance would make all effort a waste of time. Therefore, they waited for direct influx to energize their intentions, and did not compel themselves to do anything good. They carried this to such a point that when anything evil crept in, they felt no inner resistance and surrendered themselves to it, supposing themselves permitted to do so. But the character of those spirits has nothing like an identity, they have no mind of their own, and therefore they are among the more useless of spirits. They allow themselves to be led by what is evil as much as by what is good, and suffer a lot from evil influences.

On the other hand, there are spirits who have compelled themselves to resist what is evil and false, and these are among the happy spirits. It is true that at first they had imagined their self-compulsion was from their own effort, accomplished by their own strength, but later were enlightened to see that their strength was from the Lord, even in the slightest effort over the smallest detail. This illustrates why we ought to compel ourselves to do what is good and speak what is true. The treasure revealed in this is that the Lord gives every person a heavenly identity. This heavenly human identity is formed in the energy of thinking, and if the person does not exert that energy in self-compulsion (since this is the way it appears to be exerted), abstaining from self-compulsion achieves nothing.

SH 3605

[2] Esau hated Jacob (Genesis 27:41) . . . means repugnance in the internal sense, because it refers to good (represented by Esau), and good does not even know what hatred is. Good is completely opposite to hatred, and things that are opposites cannot possibly coexist in the same subject. Instead of hatred, good people—people in whom good purposes are active—feel a certain kind of repugnance, and this is why hatred means repugnance in the internal sense.

Actually, the internal sense is intended primarily for those who are in heaven. Therefore, when it comes down from there and passes into the literal sense, the feeling of repugnance enters into words that denote hatred when historical narratives refer to hatred. But at the same time, no notion of hatred is present in the minds of those in heaven.

SH 4274

And there wrestled a man with [Jacob] (Genesis 32:24) means "temptation that concerns truth." This is established by the meaning of wrestling as temptation. Temptation itself is nothing but wrestling or combat, for [in all temptation] truth is attacked by evil spirits and defended by angels who are with you, and your awareness of that conflict within yourself is temptation. But no temptation can arise unless the good of truth (which means a love or affection for what is true) already exists in you. This is because anyone who does not love the truth he knows, is not affected by it nor concerned about it; whereas anyone who does love it worries lest it suffer harm. What you believe to be true is the only thing that makes your thinking alive, and the only thing that gives life to your intention is what you are convinced is good. This is why attacks on what you believe to be true are attacks on your understanding, and attacks on what you are convinced is good are attacks on your ability to intend. So when you are being tempted, your life is under attack.

SH 8159

[3] It is the nature of temptations that the hells fight against you and the Lord fights for you. Whatever falsity the hells may induce is met with a response from the Divine. False ideas from the hells are injected into your external or natural self, so that is where they enter. But the response from the Divine enters your internal or spiritual self. You are less conscious of this response from the Divine than you are of the false ideas; the Divine does not touch your individual thoughts, but only your general awareness. This occurs in such a way that you scarcely become conscious of it except as a feeling of hope—and a comforting feeling arising from it. Those feelings contain countless blessings outside your conscious knowledge....

SH 8159

[5] It should be recognized that in temptations you are not the one who does the fighting. The Lord alone does it for you, although it appears as if you are doing it yourself. When the Lord fights for you, you conquer in every battle. At the present time, few people are allowed to experience temptations, because they do not live as faith requires and therefore do not possess a conscience composed of truth. Without that, anyone experiencing temptation would be overcome, and would wind up worse than before.

SH 9009

....Evils that come out of one part of our mind, but not simultaneously from another part (such as from the intellectual part but not at the same time from the voluntary part), do not take root and become our own. The only ones which take root and become our own are those which move from our discernment into our intention—or (amounting to the same thing) from thought belonging to our understanding into a purpose of our will—and continue from there into action. Whatever enters your intention can be said to enter your heart.

SH 9009

[3] On the other hand, evils which begin only in your intention, without any prior thought about them, are the kind of evils everyone is prone to because of heredity (or some previous activity resulting from hereditary inclinations). These evils are not ascribed to you unless you firmly establish them in the understanding part of your mind.... But when they have been firmly established there they are inscribed upon you, becoming part of your personal identity. Then they are attributable to you.

HH 302

I have talked with angels about heaven's bond with the human race. I noted that Christians may say that everything good is from the Lord and that angels are around us, still, few of them believe that angels are intimately connected with us. Few people believe that angels are within their own thoughts and affections. The angels replied that...they were surprised.... In fact, heaven's bond with the human race is such that a person cannot have the least thought without spirits being involved. Everyone's spiritual life depends on this bond.

The reason for the ignorance of this fact is people's belief that they live on their own—apart from any connection with the primary reality of life—and their not knowing that this connection exists through the heavens. The fact is that if this connection were dissolved, a person would drop dead in an instant.

If people believed that reality is what it is—that everything good is from the Lord and everything evil is from the hells—then they would not take credit for anything within them that is good, nor be blamed for anything evil within them. In that case, they would focus on the Lord in every good thing they thought and did, and anything evil that entered their thoughts or intentions would be thrown back into the hell it came from. However, people do not believe that anything comes into them from heaven or from hell, so they conclude that everything they think or do is their own idea and action. Therefore, they make the evil injected from the hells their own and defile the good that enters from the Lord.

DLW 264

The origin of evil is in the abuse of the very abilities which make us human—the abilities called rationality and freedom.

"Rationality" means the ability to discern what is true and therefore to recognize what is false and what is good—and therefore what is evil. "Freedom" means the ability to think, intend, and do rational things without restraint.

These definitions open the way to certain principles.... Each of us has these two abilities by virtue of being created—the process in which we were born human. We have them because the Lord gave them to us, and they are not taken away from us. They are the source of the appearance that we think, talk, intend, and act, all on our own. It is in these two abilities that the Lord lives in each of us, and this connection with him is what enables us to live to eternity. There is no possibility that we can be reformed and regenerated apart from these abilities. Finally, it is these abilities which distinguish us from beasts.

DLW 271

Anything that is evil and false is directly opposed to anything that is good and true; all evil and false things are diabolical and hellish, and all good and true things are divine and heavenly. When people hear that whatever is false is opposed to whatever is good, and that whatever is false because it is evil is opposed to whatever is true because it is good, they admit that.

But people involved in what is evil feel and perceive only that evil is good. The evil thing pleases their senses—especially their sight and hearing—and consequently pleases their thoughts and in this way pleases their perceptions. Therefore, while they do indeed admit that what is evil and what is good are opposed to each other, still—while they are involved in something evil—it pleases them to call an evil thing good and vice-versa. . . . No one can see what is good while still involved in what is evil, but a person who is involved in something good can see what is evil.

DLW 336

Evil uses were not created by the lord, but arose together with hell. All good things which come out of action are called uses, and all evil things that come out of action are called uses, too. The latter, however, are evil uses, while the former are good uses.... Only good uses are from the Lord. Evil uses are from hell....

Things that are harmful to us are called uses because they are useful to evil people for doing evil things; and also because they absorb various kinds of ill will, and therefore they heal. This double meaning of use is like love—a good love or an evil love.

DP 19

Anything involving at the same time what is good and what is true is real and anything simultaneously involving what is evil and false is unreal.... Being unreal means being without power or spiritual life. Those who are involved in what is evil and false simultaneously (all of whom are in hell) do indeed have power among themselves, for evil people can do evil—and do so in a thousand ways. Nevertheless, they can only do evil things to others because of the others' own evil. They cannot harm the good at all. If they do harm good people (as sometimes happens), it is by connecting with evil tendencies [remaining] within them.

DP 78

Whatever we do because we are free to do it and choose to do it becomes as much a part of us as if we were made that way and will remain part of us. This is because our self-image and our freedom make a whole. Our self-image is formed from our life, and whatever is done from our life is done in freedom. Our self-image is also formed from our love—for love is our life and whatever is done from love is done in freedom. Doing something because we are free to do it and choose to do it means that whatever is formed from our life and our love is something we have thought and decided, and what we have decided we do in freedom according to our thought. Whatever we do, we do from our intention and our understanding. Freedom is an aspect of our will, and thought an aspect of our understanding.

TC 490

The first chapter of Genesis tells us (in verses 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) God saw that it was good; and finally (in verse 31) God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.... but evil has its origin in people themselves ... in that they were cast out of paradise... .

Unless freedom of choice in spiritual things had been given to us, it would not have been us, but God himself, who was the cause of evil, so that God would have been the creator both of everything that is good and everything that is evil. But to think that God created anything that is evil is abominable. God did not create any evil thing, neither did he ever inspire any evil thought in anyone, because God gave us freedom of choice in spiritual things. This results from the fact that God is Good Itself, and is present everywhere in everything that is good, continually importuning and urging to be received. Even when he is not received he does not withdraw, for if he were to withdraw we would instantly die—indeed, we would dissolve into non-being for our life, and all the substance out of which we come to be, are from God.

God did not create evil; human beings introduced it, because people turn good (continually flowing in from God) into evil by turning away from God and toward themselves. When we do this, our delight in good things remains, but it becomes a delight in evil things. Unless we retained a delight that seemed similar, we could not continue to live, for delight constitutes the life of our love. These two kinds of delight [that seem similar] are diametrically opposite to each other. We do not recognize this so long as we live in this world, but we will know it and perceive it after death. Then, the delight of the love of what is good is turned into heavenly blessedness, while the delight of the love of what is evil is turned into infernal horror.

Every human being was predestined to heaven and no one to hell. However, we give ourselves over to hell by the abuse of our freedom of choice in spiritual things when we embrace such things as exhale from hell. . . . Every one is kept midway between heaven and hell, that we may be in balance between what is good and what is evil, and consequently be in freedom of choice in spiritual things.

TC 52

... In the spiritual world I have met with many who in the natural world had lived like others, dressing finely, feasting delicately, making money by trading like others, attending theaters, joking about lovers as if from licentiousness, and doing other, similar, things. Yet the angels accounted these things as evils of sin to some and not to others—declaring the latter innocent but the former guilty. When they were asked the reason for the different treatment when all had done the same things, the angels replied that they view everyone from their purpose, intention, and goal, distinguishing them accordingly. Therefore, they excuse or condemn those whom the goal excuses or condemns, since good accomplishments are the goal of all in heaven, and evil the goal of all in hell.

TC 643

There is [such a thing as] imputation, but it is an imputation of good and evil, and at the same time an imputation of faith. From numerous passages in the is evident there is an imputation of good and evil, which is the imputation meant in the Word where it is mentioned. (See Matthew 16:21; John 5:29; Revelation 20:12-13 and 22:12; Hosea 4:9; Zechariah 1:6; Jeremiah 25:14 and 32:19; Romans 2:5-6; and First Corinthians 5:10.)

[2]1n the beginning of the church there was no other imputation, nor will there be at its end. We can see that there was no other at the beginning, because Adam and his wife were condemned because they did evil in eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:3). We can see that there will be no other at the end from the Lord's words in Matthew 25:31-41.

[3]Also, there is an imputation of faith, because loving action pertaining to what is good, and faith pertaining to what is true reside together in good actions; otherwise the actions are not good.

TC 654

Faith is not living faith until it is combined with compassion (loving action). Compassion becomes spiritual from faith and faith becomes spiritual from compassion. Faith apart from compassion, since it is not spiritual, is not faith. Compassion, apart from faith, since it is not living, is not compassion. Faith and compassion apply and combine themselves with each other mutually and interchangeably. The Lord, compassion, and faith form a whole—like life, will, and understanding. When separated, they all perish like a pearl reduced to powder....


Secrets of Heaven  313, 147-149, 251, 751, 761-762, 747-748, 966, 986-987, 1690, 1787, 1875, 1937, 3603, 3605, 4274, 5398, 8159, 9009
Heaven and Hell 302
Divine Love and Wisdom 264, 271, 336
Divine Providence 19021, 78
True Christianity 126, 489-491, 523, 643-646, 654-657


Proprium, evil, and the idea of merit all contribute to the power of temptation. Proprium, remains, and imputation help us resist temptation. Describe each of these six helping roles.

Discuss the role of pride (Greek "hubris") as the origin of sin. How is this different from the idea of "original sin?"

Swedenborg gives examples only of good remains in describing the concept. As you understand the concept, would there also be evil and false remains? What would be their function if they do exist? And if all remains are good, how does the concept relate to that of freedom of choice and equilibrium?

What questions or issues does the lesson raise for you?

To Chapter 4