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Everybody seems to have the idea that Lucifer was an angel who rebelled in heaven, then was cast down and became Satan. But where did this story come from? And what does it really mean for us in our lives today?
Eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg learned the truth, and it’s not quite what you’d imagine. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose reveal the true nature and meaning of the devil.
Spiritual knowledge can make you a better person, and for some it also seems to bring some degree of power. But really, it should be used to better all of humanity and to advance the divine plan.
Everybody knows that Lucifer is a scary name, but the name is only used once in the whole Bible:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! (Isaiah 14:12)
It’s pretty clear from its context in Isaiah, though, that it’s referring to the king of Babylon.
At another point in the Bible, Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), but Swedenborg learned that he’s really talking about evil ideas, not “fallen angels.” The true “satans” are evil states of mind and heart to which we can fall prey, and they are what Jesus came to earth to battle.
Why a falling star?
“And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the ground.”—This means thoughts of truth falsified, and thus changed into falsity. This is evident from the meaning of “stars,” which are thoughts of goodness and truth . . . and from the meaning of to “fall” and to “drop from heaven,” which is to die. Thoughts of truth die both when they are denied and when they are falsified. In this case, it means when they are falsified, since this book is not about those who deny truth, but about those who falsify it. . . . People who do not acknowledge the Word, except as it applies favorably to their own loves and to the principles they make from their own understanding, falsify the thoughts of truth and goodness that are from the Word. Thus they turn the truth of the Word into falsity. In this way thoughts of good and truth die in them. You can see from all this that “a star fallen from heaven to the ground” means that thoughts of truth have been falsified, and therefore turned into falsity. (Apocalypse Explained §535)
Good ideas can be turned evil through denial and falsity. This is what the fallen star and the devil truly represent.
Arrogance consists in loving oneself more than others, putting oneself ahead of them, and wanting to control them. People who desire this also despise others in comparison with themselves. If another puts him- or herself first or fails to worship them, they go after that person in a spirit of hatred and revenge. Arrogance is self-love, and self-love is such that the more free rein it is given, the faster it races, increasing to whatever degree it possibly can till eventually it even reaches for God’s throne and wishes to take God’s place. That is what all the inhabitants of hell are like. This character of theirs can be sensed from the efforts it leads them to make and from the venomous hatred and fearsome vengefulness each inhabitant has for the other over the question of dominance. . . . People like this are also meant by Lucifer in Isaiah. . . . Pride of heart, which is self-love, pushes the Deity away and removes heaven from oneself, and this is obvious from the state in which we accept the Deity and heaven, which is a state of love for our neighbor and of humility toward God. The more ability we have to humble ourselves before the Lord and love our neighbor as ourselves or even above ourselves (as they do in heaven), the more we accept the Deity and are therefore in heaven. (Secrets of Heaven §8678)
Lucifer is the desire in us to be bigger and better than others. We can see plenty of people even today who give in to this type of self-worship. But the more heavenly state would be to love others even more than we do ourselves.
“Babylon” or “Babel” means a church made up of people who use the holiness of the church to try to rule over the entire world. They try to do this by ruling over people’s souls—claiming for themselves the power of saving whoever they want. Eventually, they even try to give themselves rulership over heaven and hell. . . . A church made up of this kind of person is not the same over time as it was in the beginning. In the beginning, the people are in a state of fervor for the Lord, for the Word, for love, and for faith, and especially for saving humanity. However, there is a passion for dominance and rulership that lurks within that fervor. As time goes on, the passion for ruling grows, and eventually breaks out. To the extent that this passion is acted on, the holiness of the church becomes a means to the end of ruling. When people’s goal is to rule, then the holiness of the church is used as a tool to serve that goal, and so as a means of serving themselves. When this happens, they not only attribute to themselves the power of saving souls, but also credit themselves with all the Lord’s divine power. By doing this, they pervert all the goodness and all the truth of the church. . . . In fact, the devils in hell would love nothing more than to rule over heaven and over the Lord himself. They attempt this in all kinds of ways, but as they try, they are swallowed up by hell. . . . It is important to know that in the Word a “king” means the same thing as his “kingdom.” The reason that Babel is called “Lucifer, son of the dawn” is because in the beginning Babel is a church that has a fervor for the Lord, for the goodness of love, and for the truth of faith. However, within the pastors’ fervor lurks a craving to use the holiness of the church to rule over everyone they are able to subject. This is why Babel is called “Lucifer, son of the dawn.” (Apocalypse Explained §1029:1, 3, 11)
So Babylon, in this case, isn’t referring to the literal kingdom on earth but instead to people who set themselves up as gods over others and in doing so dedicate themselves to hell.
To find out what actually happened in the spiritual world as a result, check out our episode “The Last Judgment.”
Having planted those three seeds in our minds, let’s take a moment to meditate on these ideas.
There is no fallen angel opposed to God, but humans may try to set themselves up as gods. When they do, they’re freely choosing hell. God isn’t fighting some adversary; he’s helping us use our free will to overcome our own tendencies toward domination.
Jonathan: Eternal Now
Curtis: Harmony in Diversity
At the beginning of the episode, we asked about the use of spiritual knowledge. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- To be of use – Matthew Bush
- Spiritual knowledge is clearly for growth. – Sean Smith
- Bring us together in love – Bonnie Gates
- To be as kind and compassionate to our fellow man as possible. “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” – Lisa
- I think God wants us to take spiritual knowledge to help people and make this place more heavenly for everyone. – Janni Roberts
- To be a light to someone in darkness. – Jen Blossoms
- okay I’m not quite gone yet I believe I use spiritual knowledge to understand the trappings of humanity – Robbie Tullos
- to make the right decision for yourself – AprilShowersD
- God wants us to love and bring others into the consciousness of love – Amber Stephens
- I think would be to learn and grow spiritually, and share – Amy King
- He wants us to embody it lovingly. And this often means forgetting it, just like you don’t really remember the mechanics of walking, but you do it every day. – Christian Swenson
- enlightenment? I want to understand God. – Cryptameria *
- To course correct, develop, grow, and ultimately allowing the divinity to humbly flow for the betterment of humankind. Without spiritual hubris but humility and love – Stephanie MoDavis
- To keep taking the truth in so that it keeps my head on straight so I can be a nicer and more useful person – Jon Childs
- God wants us to take the knowledge and send it down to our feet! Get it out of our head and into our daily encounters! – Jan
- I think God wants us to participate in an ascending spiral of love between the Creator and the created. – Michael C
- Perhaps, all the gifts that are given, no matter their form . . . are for the enhancement and betterment of all – Vikki Collins
- it is for god and the harvest so that when he looks down he sees all the seeds brought to fulfillment. – Franklin Famulski
- God wants us to be a full and whole human being. just like he wants a bird to live a full healthy bird life. but no matter how long one’s life span is one can never know the creation in its entirety! – Gabriel H
- Maybe in a way it’s not utilitarian. maybe spiritual knowledge is meant to make life richer by knowing that the physical level of life isn’t all there is. – Carrie Parsons
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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