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Charity, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1766], tr. by John Whitehead [1914] at



He who does not make distinctions in regard to the neighbour in accordance with the quality of the good and truth with him may be deceived a thousand times; his charity becomes confused and at length what is not charity. A devil-man may exclaim, "I am your neighbour: do good to me!" and if you do good to him, he may kill you or others. You are placing a knife or a sword in his hands.


This is what the simple do. They say, "Every man is equally my neighbour," also "It is not my business to investigate his quality, but this is regarded by God; I must simply help my neighbour." Yet this is not loving the neighbour. He who loves a neighbour from genuine charity finds out what sort of a man he is, and does good to him with discrimination, in accordance with the quality of his good.


In the other life such simple people are removed from others and kept apart; for if they come among diabolical spirits they are drawn into doing good to them, and into doing evil to the good. The evil cry out, "Set me free, help me!" This 53-1 is the very great strength that they acquire for themselves. Without the help of the simple, and as it were conjunction with them, they are not strong at all; but together with those they have deceived by the name of "neighbour," they are strong.


Genuine charity itself is prudent and wise. The 54-1 other charity is spurious, because it is of the will or of good only, and not at the same time of the understanding, or of truth.


4. The degree of neighbour is in accordance with the degree of good and truth with the man; and hence one man is not neighbour in the same degree [as another]. Good is distinguished, in accordance with its degrees, into civil good, moral good, and spiritual good.


The neighbour a man ought to love from charity is spiritual good. Apart from this good there is no charity; for the good of charity is spiritual good, since it is in accordance with that good that, in the case of each one in the heavens, conjunction is effected.


Moral good, which is human good itself, being the rational good according to which man lives with man as a brother and companion, is the neighbour according to how much it derives from spiritual good. For moral good without spiritual good is external good; it is of the external will, and is not internal good. It may be evil, which ought not to be loved.


Civil good is the good of a life in accordance with the civil laws; and its beginning and foundation, which is "not to act against those laws," is on account of the penalties. If there is not moral good in this good, and spiritual good within that, then it is no other than the animal good in which beasts are, when kept shut up or chained, towards those who feed, punish, or caress them.


A man learns these goods in early childhood from the Decalogue. The laws of the Decalogue are first made civil laws, next moral laws, and at length spiritual laws; and then first the goods become goods of charity, in accordance with these degrees.


Charity itself regards the good of a man's soul first, and loves it as being that by which conjunction is effected. Next, it regards his moral good, and loves that in so far as he lives morally, in accordance with the state of perfection of his reason. And lastly it regards the civil good, in accordance with which a man has his standing in the world. Through his civil good a man is a man of the world; in accordance with his moral good he is a man above the worldly man and lower than the heavenly; but in accordance with his spiritual good he is a man of heaven, or an angel. The associating of men together is effected through this good, and then, according to these degrees, through the goods of the lower degrees. For example: There is the spiritual man who wishes well and does not understand well; and a man who does not understand well does not do well, so that he is scarcely a rational moral man. There is the man who understands well and does not wish well. He is the neighbour according to the understanding. But a man who does not wish well, however well he understands, is not the neighbour.


In a word, the will makes the neighbour, and the understanding in so far as it is of the will.


5. The good of the internal will is the neighbour to be loved, and not the good of the external will, unless this makes one with it. There is an internal will and an external will; likewise an internal and an external understanding.


The internal will has conjunction with heaven, and the external will with the world.


Every good is of the will; and the good-of-charity itself is the good of the internal will.


It is customary for these to be separated with man; and they are separated to the greatest extent with hypocrites, pretenders, and flatterers for the sake of gain.


But when those wills make a one, then both the goods make one good, which is the neighbour. These things to be illustrated by means of examples, and comparisons.


6. Truth is the neighbour in so far as it makes one with good, and it makes one with it as a form makes one with its essence. Every form derives its own [character] from an essence; therefore, such as the essence is, such is the form.


This can be illustrated by the fact that the understanding, regarded in itself, is such as the will is.


It can be illustrated by sound and speech. And by several other things.


That truth is good in form, may be seen in THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED. 70-1


From this it is evident that, in a spiritual idea, good is the neighbour to be loved; or a man according to his good.


IV THE OBJECT OF CHARITY IS A MAN, ALSO A SOCIETY, ALSO ONE'S COUNTRY, ALSO THE HUMAN RACE; AND ALL ARE THE NEIGHBOUR IN A NARROW AND IN A WIDE SENSE. That a man is the neighbour is well known. A society is the neighbour because a society is a composite man; one's country is the neighbour because it consists of many societies, and so is a more composite man; and the human race is the neighbour because it is composed of large societies, each one of which is a man in composite form, hence it is a man in the widest sense. Let these things be explained in this order: (1) Every individual man is the neighbour according to the quality of his good. (2) A society, small or large, is the neighbour according to the good of its use. (3) One's country is the neighbour according to its spiritual, moral, and civil good. (4) The human race is the neighbour in the widest sense; but, because it is distinguished into empires, kingdoms, and republics, any one of these is a neighbour according to the good of its religion, and according to the good which it performs to one's country and to itself.


1. Every individual man is the neighbour according to the quality of his good. Since, in a spiritual idea, good is the neighbour, and a man is the subject of good, and also the object of him who does good, it follows that in a natural idea a man is the neighbour.


One man is not the neighbour more than another in respect of his person merely, but in respect of the good from which he is such and such a man; for there are as many differences of neighbour as there are of good, and the differences of good are infinite.


It is supposed that a brother, a kinsman, or a relation, is more the neighbour than a stranger; and that anyone born in one's country is the neighbour more than one born outside it; but everyone, whether Greek or Gentile, is the neighbour according to his good.


The neighbour indeed is what everyone is according to spiritual relationship and kinship. This can be seen from the fact that after death every man comes among his own, with whom he is similar in respect of good, or, what is the same, similar in regard to affections. Moreover, natural relationships perish after death, spiritual relationships taking their place; for all in the same heavenly society recognize one another, and are associated together because they are in a similar good. Of ten brothers in the world, five may be in hell, and five in heaven, and the latter five in different societies; and when they meet they do not recognize one another. In fact they are, each one, in face, their own affections. From this it is evident that every man is the neighbour according to the quality of his good.


The goods according to the quality of which a man is the neighbour are especially spiritual goods. Charity regards these in the first place.


2. A society, small or large, is the neighbour according to the good of its use. Every society in a kingdom is established in accordance with the uses [in that kingdom], which are various. There are societies whose work is to administer justly various civil affairs, which are manifold; various judicial affairs; various affairs relating to the structure of the state; and various ecclesiastical affairs, such as consistories, academies, and schools. There are societies for the advancement of knowledge, which also are several.


Every society can be regarded no otherwise than as a man in composite form; for which reason it is the neighbour according to the good of use it performs. If a society performs eminent uses, it is the neighbour to a greater extent; if lowly uses, it is the neighbour to a lesser extent; if evil uses, it is the neighbour no otherwise than as a wicked man is; and the good I desire for him is that he may become good, and be provided, so far as is possible, with the means to improve, even though it should be by threats, corrections, penalties, or privations.


A society having one function cannot be regarded except as one composite man. When a kingdom is regarded as a man, certain persons are called members of the government; but among themselves they constitute one man, whose members are the individuals therein.


This is the same as in heaven. There every society, small or large, is as one man. It is also presented to view as one man. I have seen an eminent society as one man. The form of heaven is the human form.


So, too, a society on earth appears as one man before angels in the heavens.


3. One's country is the neighbour according to its spiritual, moral, and civil good. In everyone's idea his country is as it were one thing; and therefore all the laws, both those relating to justice and those relating to the structure of the state, are framed as it were for one man. His country, therefore, is as it were a man in compound form: it is, besides, called a body, in which the king is in the supreme position. Its good, which ought to be considered, is termed the public good and the common good. It is also said of the king that the people are in the body of his government.


Indeed, when it pleases the Lord, any one kingdom is presented to view before angels in heaven as one man, in the form, moreover, answering to its quality. That form is the form of their spiritual affection; the form of its face being the form of the affection of its spiritual good, and the form of its body being the form of its civil good, while its manners, speech, and the like, are its rational good. When one sees a kingdom as one man, it can be seen such as it really is; and in accordance with this it is the neighbour.


Birth does not make anyone the neighbour more than another, not even when it is one's mother or father; nor does education. These are estimations from natural good. Nor does kinship nor relationship make anyone a neighbour more than another, thus country does not either. One's country should be loved according to the quality of its good; but it is a duty to do good to it, and this is done by having regard for its use, since one thus has regard for the welfare of all. It is not a duty to do good to other kingdoms outside that one, because kingdom does not desire the good of another, but would like to destroy it as to wealth and power, thus also as to its protection. To love another kingdom more than one's own, therefore, by having more regard for its use, would be contrary to the good of the kingdom one is in; for which reason one's country should be loved in a higher degree.


Take this example: If I had been born in Venice or Rome, and if I were a Reformed Christian; ought my country, or where I was born, to be loved, for its spiritual good? I cannot love it on that account, nor on account of its moral and civil good in so far as this depends, as it does, on its spiritual good. In so far, however, as it does not depend on this, I can, even though that country hates me. So I must not hate an unfriendly or hostile country, but must still love it, bringing no harm upon it, but having regard for its good, in so far as it has good, but not having such regard to it as to confirm it in its own falsity and evil. But more about the love of country in another place.


4. The human race is the neighbour in the widest sense; but, because it is distinguished into empires, kingdoms, and republics, any one of these is a neighbour according to the good of its religion and of its moral qualities, and according to the good which it performs to one's country, and which makes one with its own good. These subjects are too extensive to be separately elucidated. It is enough that, if some man or other, from some kingdom or other, is at my house, and I am staying in the same house as he is, or I in the same city, to me he is then the neighbour according to his good. It is the same with all in that kingdom whom that particular man resembles. Supposing he is an ambassador of that kingdom, representing his king and therefore the kingdom; it cannot then be denied that to me he is the neighbour according to the good of his religion and of his moral qualities, and according as he wishes good to my country and his own; especially in so far as this makes one with his own good.


I am not speaking of any other good than the good of charity, and the good of genuine charity. It is possible for wicked people, for robbers and devils even, to love each other mutually, but not from charity, or the good of interior love. But because of their joining in evil-doing, stealing, whoring, taking revenge, killing, and blaspheming, they are neighbours among themselves. These are not meant, however, because charity and its good are treated of here.


I can love all in the universe according to their religion, not more so those in my native land than those in other kingdoms, nor those in Europe more than those in Africa. I love a Gentile in preference to a Christian, if he lives well according to his religion, if he worships God from the heart, saying, "I will not do this evil because it is against God." I do not love him on account of his doctrine however, but on account of his life; since if I love him on account of his doctrine only, I am loving him as an external man, while if I love him on account of his life, I am loving him as an internal man. For if he has the good of religion, he also has moral good, and civil good as well. They cannot be separated. But he who is only in doctrine cannot have religion. And so his moral and civil good does not have life in it. It is merely external. It wants to be seen, and to be thought to exist.


V MAN IS THE SUBJECT OF CHARITY, AND SUCH AS IS THE CHARITY WITH HIM SUCH A SUBJECT OF IT HE IS; AND SUCH IS THE CHARITY HE EXERCISES TOWARDS THE NEIGHBOUR. 90-1 Let these things be explained in this order: (1) Man was created to be a form of love and wisdom. (2) At this day, for a man to be man, he ought to be a charity in form. (3) A man ought to be a charity in form, not from himself but from the Lord; thus he is a receptacle of charity. (4) A man is a form of charity of such a quality as, with him, good of the will is conjoined to truths of the understanding. (5) Whatever proceeds from such a man derives from that form that it is a likeness of it; thus it is charity. (6) The neighbour can be loved from what is not charity; and yet this, regarded in itself, is not loving the neighbour. (7) He is loving the neighbour, who loves him from the charity in himself.


1. Man was created to be a form of love wisdom. He was created into the image of God, into the likeness of God; 91-1 and God is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself.


It is well known that such as a man is by virtue of wisdom, such is the man; but the life of wisdom is love, and love is the essence, and wisdom is the form of love, as is shown in many places in ANGELIC WISDOM CONCERNING THE DIVINE LOVE AND WISDOM, to which it is not necessary to add more here.


2. At this day, for a man to be man, he ought to be a charity in form. It is said, at this day, because, in the process of time since the first creation, man has become external. For from love to the Lord he has turned away to wisdom. He has eaten of the tree of knowledge, and eaten of wisdom; and internal love is turned into exterior love.


The third heaven, which is from the first men, is in love and wisdom; whereas the second heaven is from the lower love called charity, and from the wisdom called intelligence. And at length, when man has become altogether external, then his love is called charity, and his wisdom, faith. Such is the state of the Church with men at this day.


With some there is spiritual love, but not celestial love, and spiritual love is charity; but with them then faith is the truth, and the truth makes the understanding or intelligence.


By a charity in form is meant that the man's life is a charity, and the form is from his life; but how this is will be told in what follows in the fourth article.


In heaven an angel appears in form as a charity. The quality of the charity is apparent from the face and is heard from the voice, a man after death becoming his own love, that is, the affection of his own love. Neither spirit nor angel is anything else; indeed, the form of his charity is in fact the spirit or angel himself in respect of his whole body. By some an angel was seen, and they discerned the form of his charity in each of his members, which is marvellous.


In the world a man is not a charity in respect of his form, in face, body, or voice, but his mind may be; and after death his mind is a spirit in human form. Nevertheless, a sincere man, who thinks nothing contrary to charity, can be known from his face and voice; with difficulty however, because there exist such hypocrites as are able to imitate to the life, and even to put on, the sincerity of charity. But if an angel looks at his face and hears his voice, he recognizes what he is, not seeing the material covering that is over it, to which, however, a material man pays attention.


The forms of charity are innumerable, as many as the angels of the second heaven. In number they are unlimited. The varieties of charity are as many as the varieties of the affection of truth from good; and this affection is charity.


He who is not a form of charity is a form of hatred, or he who is not a form of the affection of truth from good, is a form of the affection of falsity from evil. It is of such that hell consists: they are all varieties of hatred and of lusting.


53-1 In the margin: "N.B."

54-1 In the margin: "N.B."

70-1 See nos. 136, 242:2, 478:2, 725:4.

90-1 In the MS. this heading has been deleted. Cf. 4a in the "Order and Arrangement" in number 0, and V in "The sections in their series" in number 199.

91-1 Genesis i. 26.

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