Inherited evil


[1 of 1] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Heredity, evils, goods, passed on via" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.6": detail "Section 4317"
As regards heredity, it is believed in the church at this day that all hereditary evil is from man's first parent, and that all are therefore condemned in regard thereto. But the case is not so. Hereditary evil derives its origin from every one's parents and parents' parents, or from grandparents and ancestors successively. Every evil which they have acquired by actual life, even so that by frequent use or habit it has become like a nature, is passed on to the children, and becomes hereditary with them, together with that which had been implanted in the parents from grandparents and ancestors. The hereditary evil from the father is interior, and the hereditary evil from the mother is exterior. The former cannot be easily rooted out, but the latter can. When man is being regenerated, the hereditary evil inrooted from his nearest parents is extirpated; but with those who are not being regenerated, or who cannot be regenerated, it remains. This then is hereditary evil. This is also clear to everyone who reflects, and also from the fact that every family has some characteristic evil or good by which it is distinguished from other families; and that this is from parents and ancestors is well known.
 But few know what hereditary evil is. It is believed to consist in doing evil; but it consists in willing and hence thinking evil; hereditary evil being in the will itself and thence in the thought; and being the very tendency that is therein, and which adjoins itself even when the man does good. It is known by the delight that is felt when evil befalls another. This root lies deeply hidden; for the interior form itself which receives good and truth from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord, is depraved, and so to speak, distorted; so that when good and truth flow in from the Lord, they are either turned back, or perverted, or suffocated. It is from this cause that there is not any perception of good and truth at this day, but, in place of it, with the regenerate, conscience, which acknowledges for good and truth what is learned from parents and masters. It is from hereditary evil to love self more than others, to will evil to another if he does not honour oneself, to perceive delight in revenge, and also to love the world more than heaven, and also all cupidities or evil affections which are from the same source. Man is ignorant that such things are in hereditary evil, and still more that they are the opposite of heavenly affections; but, still, in the other life, it is manifestly shown how much evil from what is hereditary each one has drawn to himself by actual life, and also how far he has removed himself from heaven by evil affections from this source.