Evil’s Three Essentials

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

What advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed? (Luke 9:25)

In the sermon two weeks ago, we learned about the three essential qualities of genuine love that is from the Lord: 1) That it is directed to others outside of self; 2) that it wishes to be conjoined with the ones loved to eternity; and 3) that it wishes to make others happy from itself.

While reflecting on these truths from the Word, it became apparent that a lot could be learned about evil by looking at the opposites of these three essential The more clearly we see and understand the true nature of evil, the easier it will be for us to discover it in ourselves and, with the Lord’s help, remove it.

Diabolical love is opposite to Divine Love, and is, in itself, hatred. We see this clearly illustrated in our lesson about Amnon, King David’s son who lusted after his half-sister: Did he love her? He said he did, but his actions say that everything he did was directed towards himself and his own needs. Did he wish to be conjoined with her? Physically, yes. But as soon as his own needs were satisfied, he ordered her thrown out. Did he wish to make her happy? Not at all. From start to finish, everything had been craftily planned to bring pleasure to himself and for himself only.

This is what evil does. It hides in the mind and disguises itself as love or longing, but as soon as it is expressed, as soon as it comes out into the open, it can be seen for what it is. Amnon apparently believed at first that he loved Tamar1, but once he had achieved his objective,

Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.2

There are, from creation, three universal loves. They are the love of heaven, the love of the world, and the love of self. The Word is so full of condemnation for the loves of self and the world that we may have a hard time understanding the fact that they are loves that are given to man by the Lord from creation.

We are created with the love of self for the simple reason that without it, we would not eat, would not protect ourselves, and in general would very quickly die. If we had no love of the world, there would be no drive to learn or to build: there would be no civilization at all!

The loves of self and the world have been given to us for a reason. When they are subordinated to the love of the Lord and the love of the neighbour, they perfect a person It is only when they are out of order, when we put the loves of self and the world ahead of everything else that they pervert.

Real love, love that flows outward from the Lord, and is given to every human being as a gift, looks outward to others. But diabolical love is the opposite It is totally introverted, and although it may appear to look outward at times, the bottom line is that whatever is being done is being so that it will eventually bring some benefit to self. Self, and the glorification of self, underlies everything, and causes everything.

Evil is the opposite of love. The doctrines of the New Church frequently use warmth to illustrate the nature of love. The opposite of warmth is cold, and that in itself is a very revealing thing, for cold is not in itself a thing, but rather it is the absence of heat. A refrigerator does not make cold, it moves the heat out of the insulated box. Any device that cools does so by removing the heat. The same thing is true about light and darkness You cannot darken a room by turning on a “dark,” you darken a room by preventing light from entering Cold and dark are what you get when warmth and light are removed or prevented from entering The point of this is to say that evil is not really a thing, but rather describes the empty state of the person who has turned away from God and looks only to self. Hell is cold and dark, because those there have turned away from the light and warmth of the spiritual sun of heaven.

We know that genuine love looks outward to the good of others Evil continually strives to do anything that will benefit self at the expense of others, and so, evil itself is often called in the Heavenly Doctrines, “the love of self.”

The love of self is not merely the love of honour, glory, fame, and eminence, but also the love of meriting and seeking office, and so of ruling over others. The love of self is wishing well to oneself only and not to others except for the sake of self, not even to the church, one’s country, any human society, or to a fellow-citizen; it is also doing good to them only for the sake of one’s own reputation, honour, and glory. When such a person cannot feel and perceive something that adds to his sense of power or reputation, he says in his heart, “What does it matter Why should I do this? What will I gain by it?” – and if he cannot sense any gain at all, he leaves it undone.3

The second essential of true love is to wish to be conjoined with others, to actually become one with them, to give up something of your own personality and replace it with something from another. The husband in a conjugial marriage gives up the loves of his own will in order to make room for the loves and affections of his wife. The wife, for her part, is willingly led by her husband’s wisdom The angels of the highest heaven constantly acknowledge that their very life is from the Lord, freely giving away the feeling that life is from themselves, and the Lord is conjoined with them by means of that truth.

The love of ruling from self is from the deepest hell, because the love of ruling from the love of self is the same as ruling from what is one’s own, or the old will. Our hereditary nature is from birth evil itself, although we can, through regeneration, rise above it. The old will is therefore diametrically opposite to the Lord. Consequently, the more that a person follows that love, the more they turn away from the Lord and the church.

There are people who will look at their lives and say that they are not in the love of self because they care deeply for many people, and do many kind things for them.

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.4

But the Doctrines add the warning that when someone loves only those who are in his own immediate family, but not others, it is merely an expanded form of the love of self.

The True Christian Religion teaches,

He who loves himself also loves those who belong to him who are especially his children and grandchildren, and in general all who make one with him, whom he calls his own. Loving these is loving himself .5

The third essential of genuine love is to make others happy. The prime example of this is the Lord’s creation of heaven as our eternal home as the expression of His love for us. We also see it in the gifts and gestures that are the obvious signs of love between married partners, parents and children, and friends.

By contrast, evil has no desire to make anyone else happy. In fact, those who are in the love of self actually hate others and try, in subtle or open ways, to cause unhappiness. At first, it may show itself in mild forms, but if it is indulged it develops into hatred, and persecution. If allowed to develop still father it becomes a burning for revenge, and the desire to see the other destroyed. We are told that eventually, such people love to be cruel to others.

Just as all the essentials of true love are united in genuine love towards the Lord and the neighbour, all the essentials of the loves of self and the world are focused in the opposite of the love of the Lord, that is, in the love of dominion. The love of self continually strives to rule over others, to control them, to bend them to its own particular will. It cannot stand to see that others have anything of value that gives them pleasure, but strives to possess the goods of all – as much to deprive them of their pleasure as to have them for himself.

These things are all illustrated in the story of Tamar and Amnon. In it we see his love of dominion illustrated in the way that he contrived to take away Tamar’s freedom of choice, and put her in a situation where through his physical strength and her fear he was able to take from her that which was to be preserved as a gift to her husband Then, once Amnon had taken away Tamar’s virginity, she no longer had anything of value or interest for him, and he exposed his inner hatred and cruelty by having her thrown out of his rooms.

When the love of self is fully developed, as it is with the devils in hell, it no longer concerns itself with the neighbour, but directs its attention to hatred of God Himself, accompanied with the desire to overthrow Him, and rule in His place.

Swedenborg describes in TCR 661 seeing hells in which all there thought they were kings, and they would struggle with each other to become the absolute ruler, the king of kings. Then he saw another hell, where all thought they were emperors, and fought with each other to be the emperor of emperors. Finally, he was shown a hell where all there thought they were gods. They, too, strove with each other to rule over that hell and become “god of gods.” This is why those who are in hell do not acknowledge the Lord, but rather acknowledge those spirits as gods those who surpass others in power. Therefore they acknowledge lower and higher, or lesser and greater gods, according to the extent of their power. And, as each one of them believes that he should rule over all others, that he should be the god of gods, every one in hell burns with hatred against his own god.

This “god,” for his part, burns with hatred against those who are under his control, treating them as no more than vile slaves, to be treated well only so long as they worship him. This evil spirit who thinks himself god rages with fire against all others, and also inwardly, or in his heart, against his own subjects.6

There is not one of us who does not know that the love of self is opposed to the love of the Lord, that the love of self seeks to have dominion over others, and to possess the goods of others. We also know that it lurks within each one of us from creation, hiding itself from us, and from others, because we fear that if it were to show itself we would loose our reputation among others, our honour in the world, or the means to earn our livelihood. We also know that if the love of self is kept in its proper order, in submission to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour, serving them, then it can assist us and perfect us in our life in this world.

The problem that we face while in this world, then, is how to identify the love of self within ourselves, and how to judge whether or not it is subjugated to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour, or whether it is in fact the ruling love of our lives. How can we know if we perform uses from the loves of self or the love of use? Every man, both good and bad, performs uses and performs them from some love.

Suppose a society in the world consisting of devils only, and another consisting of angels only; …the devils in their society, moved by the fire of love of self and the splendour of their own glory, would perform as many uses as the angels in theirs. Devils perform uses for the sake of themselves and their reputation, in order that they have honoris, or acquire wealth; but angels perform uses for the sake of the uses from love of uses.7

While we are yet in the world, we are unable to distinguish these two kinds of uses, but the Lord does.

All who believe in the Lord and shun evils as sins, perform uses from the Lord; but all who do not believe in the Lord and do not shun evils as sins, perform uses from themselves and for their own sake.8

If we wish to know about our own inner states, and the loves that rule in them, we must examine ourselves in our quiet moments, in the thoughts that we have when we are alone, daydreaming What kind of things do we think about? What is the nature of our fantasies Do we imagine ourselves helping others? Do we imagine ourselves having dominion over others? Do we feel delight in the misfortune of others? Do we ask ourselves “What’s in it for me?” before helping another person Do we seek the good of other who are outside our immediate family or circle of friends? These are the questions that we must constantly ask ourselves if we are to determine the course of our lives, and turn that course away from hell.

Then (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed?”9 AMEN.



Lesson: 2SA 13:1-17

After this Absalom the son of David had a lovely sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. {2} Amnon was so distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her. {3} But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Now Jonadab was a very crafty man. {4} And he said to him, “Why are you, the king’s son, becoming thinner day after day? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” {5} So Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me food, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” {6} Then Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let Tamar my sister come and make a couple of cakes for me in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.” {7} And David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Now go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” {8} So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was lying down. Then she took flour and kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. {9} And she took the pan and placed them out before him, but he refused to eat. Then Amnon said, “Have everyone go out from me.” And they all went out from him. {10} Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them to Amnon her brother in the bedroom. {11} Now when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” {12} And she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! {13} “And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” {14} However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her. {15} Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Arise, be gone!” {16} So she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. {17} Then he called his servant who attended him, and said, “Here !Put this woman out, away from me, and bolt the door behind her.” Amen.

Lesson: TCR 661:14

[14] At these words a like sphere appeared to me surrounding them, and a sense of something aromatic came from it, as I also told them, and I begged them to add something more to what they had said about the love of use. And they continued, “The dignities which we enjoy we indeed sought, but for the sole end of being more fully able to perform uses and to extend them more widely. Moreover, we are surrounded by honour, and we accept it not on our own account, but for the good of the society. For our brethren and companions there, who are of the common people, hardly know otherwise than that the honoris of our rank reside in us, and thus that the uses we perform are from us. But we feel otherwise; we feel that the honoris of our rank are outside of ourselves, and that they are like the garments with which we are clothed; while the uses we perform are from a love of uses that is within us from the Lord, and this love acquires its blessedness from a sharing with others by means of uses. And we know by experience that so far as we perform uses from a love of uses, that love increases, and with it the wisdom by which the sharing is effected; but so far as we retain the uses in ourselves, and do not share them, the blessedness perishes; and then use becomes like food retained in the stomach and not diffused throughout the body to nourish it and its various parts, but remains undigested and causes nausea. In a word all heaven is nothing but a containant of uses from things first to things last. What is use but the actual love of the neighbour? And what keeps the heavens together but this love?”

Having heard this, I asked, “How can anyone know whether he performs uses from love of self or from a love of uses? Every man, both good and bad, performs uses and performs them from some love. Suppose a society in the world consisting of devils only, and another consisting of angels only; and I am of the opinion that the devils in their society, moved by the fire of love of self and the splendour of their own glory, would perform as many uses as the angels in theirs. Who then can know from what love or from what origin uses proceed?”

To this the two angels replied, “Devils perform uses for the sake of themselves and their reputation, in order that they may be exalted to honours, or acquire wealth; but angels perform uses not for such reasons, but for the sake of the uses from love of uses. Man is unable to distinguish these two kinds of uses, but the Lord does. All who believe in the Lord and shun evils as sins, perform uses from the Lord; but all who do not believe in the Lord and do not shun evils as sins, perform uses from, themselves and for their own sake. This is the distinction between the uses performed by devils and those performed by angels.” Amen.



Copyright © 1982 - 2006 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 23, 2006



12SA13:1,3

22SA13:15

3TCR 400

4Luke 6:32-33

5TCR 400:3

6TCR 45

7TCR 661:14

8TCR 661

9Luke 9:23-25