Extracts

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Self-love

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[1 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Love, of self, self-will, selfishness" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.9": detail "Section 7367 - 7369"
The love of self rules with man, that is, man is in the love of self when, in what he thinks and does, he regards not the neighbour, thus not the public, still less the Lord, but himself and his own relations only, consequently when he does everything for the sake of himself and his own relations, and if he does anything for the sake of the public and the neighbour, it is only that it may appear.
 It is said, for the sake of himself and his relations because he with them and they with him make a one: as when any one does anything for the sake of his wife, children, grand-children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law he does it for the sake of himself, because they belong to him; in like manner he who does anything for the sake of connections, and for the sake of friends who favour his love, and by that means conjoin themselves to him, for by such conjunction they constitute a one with him, that is, they regard themselves in him, and him in themselves.
 In proportion as man is in the love of self, he removes himself from the love of the neighbour; consequently, in proportion as man is in the love of self, he removes himself from heaven, for in heaven is the love of the neighbour; hence also it follows, that in proportion as man is in the love of self, he is in hell, for in hell is the love of self.


[2 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Love, of self, self-will, selfishness" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Divine Providence": detail "Section 206"
Man's own prudence is from man's proprium, which is his nature and is called his soul from his parent. This proprium is self-love and the accompanying love of the world, or it is love of the world and the accompanying self-love. Self-love by nature regards self only and others as cheap or of no account. If it regards any it does so as long as they honor and do it homage. Inmostly in that love, like the endeavor in seed to fructify and propagate, there lies hidden the desire to become great and if possible a king and then possibly a god. A devil is such, for he is self-love itself; he adores himself and favors no one unless he also adores him; another devil like himself he hates, because he in turn wants alone to be adored. Since no love is possible without its consort and the consort of love or of the will in man is called the understanding, when self-love breathes itself into its consort, the understanding, it becomes pride there, which is the pride of self-intelligence, and from this comes man's own prudence.
 The acknowledgment of nature alone is also hidden in it, for self-love has closed the window overhead through which heaven is plain and the side windows, too, in order not to see or hear that the Lord alone governs all things, that nature in herself is lifeless, and that man's proprium is infernal and consequently love of it is diabolical. With the windows shuttered, self-love is in darkness, builds itself a hearth fire at which it sits with its consort, and the two reason amicably in favor of nature as against God and in favor of man's own prudence as against divine providence.


[3 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Love, of self, self-will, selfishness" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.12": detail "Section 10038"
To be ‘burnt with fire’ denotes to be consumed by the evils of the love of self, because that love consumes all the goods and truths of faith. That the love of self does this scarcely anyone knows at this day, and consequently it is not known that this love is hell with man, and is meant by infernal fire. For there are two fires of the life of man, one is the love of self, the other is the love to God; those who are in the love of self cannot be in love to God, since they are opposites; and this is the case because the love of self is the source of every kind of evil — contempt of others in comparison with one's self, enmity against those who do not show favour, and at length hatred, revenge, rage, cruelty, which evils completely oppose the Divine influx, and therefore extinguish the truths and goods of faith and charity, for these flow in from the Lord.
 That each one's love is the fire of his life, anyone who reflects may know — for without love there can be no life, and such as the love such is the life — and therefore the love of self gives rise to evils of every kind and it does this so far as it is regarded as an end, or is the ruling love.


[4 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Love, of self, self-will, selfishness" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "True Christian Religion": detail "Section 400"
1. The love of self consists in wishing well to ourselves alone, and to no others unless it be for the sake of self, not even to the church, to our country, to the society to which we belong, or to any fellow-citizen. The love of self, however, can confer benefits on these several relations when its own reputation, honor, and glory are concerned; but unless it sees that these will be promoted by the good offices it may do them, it says in its heart, 'What matters it? Why should I do this? What good will it be to me?' and so omits it: whence it is evident that a man who is in the love of self has no love either for the church, for his country, for the society to which he belongs, for his fellow-citizens, or for real goodness of any kind, but only for himself and what relates to himself.
 2. A man is in the love of self, when in his thoughts and actions he has no regard to his neighbor, thus none to the public, and still less to the Lord, but only to himself and his own connections. To let his actions thus centre in himself and his connections, and to do nothing for the public, except from motives of ostentation, or for his neighbor, except with a view of securing his favor, is a sure indication of self-love.
 3. We connect the terms ‘himself and his own connections’; for he who loves himself, also loves those who belong to himself, who are in particular his children and grandchildren, and in general all who act in unity with him, whom he calls his friends; but his love for these is nothing but the love of himself, for he regards them as it were in himself, and regards himself in them. In this same class of those whom he calls his friends, are likewise ranked all who praise, honor, and pay their court to him: others he regards indeed with his bodily eyes as men, but with the eyes of his spirit as little better than phantoms.
 4. Another indication of the love of self is, when a man thinks contemptuously of his neighbor in comparison with himself, and when he esteems his neighbor as his enemy if he does not show him marks of favor, and pay him respect and attention. It is an indication of greater self-love, when a man for such reasons hates and persecutes his neighbor; and of still greater, when he burns with revenge against him, and lusts for his destruction. Such persons at length delight in cruelty.
 5. The nature of self-love may be plainly discovered by a comparison with heavenly love. It is the nature and character of heavenly love, to love for its own sake the use or the good which the church, a man's country, the society to which he belongs, or his fellow-citizens, require of him; but where a man loves such things for his own sake, he then loves them in the same manner as he would his domestics, because they serve him. Hence it, follows, that he who is in the love of self would have the church, his country, the society to which he belongs, and his fellow-citizens, to be his servants, rather than himself their servant: he places himself above them, and them beneath himself.
 6. Moreover, in proportion as a man is in heavenly love, which consists in loving useful services and good deeds, and in being affected with heartfelt delight in the performance of them, so far he is led by the Lord, for it is this love in which the Lord is and which proceeds from him; but in proportion as a man is in the love of self, he is led by himself, and so far also he is led by his self-hood, which is nothing but evil, being that hereditary evil which consists in loving self in preference to God, and the world in preference to heaven.
 7. The love of self is also of such a nature, that in proportion as the reins are given it, that is, in proportion as external restraints are removed, such as the fear of the law and its penalties, the loss of reputation, honor, gain, office, or life, it rages with such unlimited lust as to grasp at universal dominion, not only over this world, but over heaven, and over God himself; it knows neither bound nor end. Such a tendency lurks in every man who is in the love of self, although perhaps it may not be apparent to the world, where it is held in check by the ties and restraints above mentioned, and where, if an insuperable obstacle stands in its way, it remains quiescent till the obstacle be removed; hence it is that even those who are in this love, do not know that such a mad unbounded lust lies lurking within them. That this, however, is the case, may be seen by everyone in the actions of potentates and kings, who not, being subject to such checks, restraints, and insuperable obstacles, overrun, and as far as success attends their enterprises, subjugate provinces and kingdoms, and pant after unlimited power and glory. It is still more apparent in those who would extend their dominion even to heaven, usurping and claiming as their own the divine power of the Lord: these are perpetually in the desire of acquiring power beyond what they actually possess.
 8. There are two kinds of dominion, one originating in love towards our neighbor, and the other in the love of self. These two kinds of dominion are directly opposed to each other. The man who exercises dominion under the influence of love towards his neighbor, desires to promote the welfare of all, and feels no greater delight than in the exercise of use, and thus in serving others (to serve others consists in doing good from a principle of good-will, and in the performance of uses): this is his love, and the delight of his heart. Such a person, the higher he is exalted in dignity, the more is he glad, not indeed on account of the more dignity, but because his sphere of use is thus rendered wider in extent and more excellent in degree: such is dominion in the heavens. But the man who exercises dominion under the influence of the love of self, does not desire to promote the welfare of anyone except himself and those who belong to him, and the uses which he performs are done only for the sake of his own honor and glory, which he regards as the only uses: he serves others, that he may himself be served, honored, and permitted to exercise dominion: he is ambitious of dignity, not to extend his ability of doing good, but that he may be in the enjoyment of glory and pre-eminence, and thence in the delight of his heart.
 9. The love of dominion remains also with every man after the termination of his life in the world: those who have exercised it under the influence of love towards their neighbor are then entrusted with dominion in the heavens, but then it is not they who rule, but the uses and the goods which they love; and when these bear rule, it is the Lord who rules. Such, on the contrary, as have exercised dominion under the influence of the love of self, when they leave this world, are stripped of all pre-eminence, and reduced to a state of servitude. From what has been said, it is very plain to discover who are in the love of self: it matters not how they appear externally, whether elate or humble; for the distinctions here noted are in the internal man, which the generality of mankind study to conceal, while they teach the external to assume the appearance of love for the public weal and their neighbor, and thus take a false character, which is the very reverse of their true one: this also they do for the sake of self, knowing that the love of the public weal and their neighbor has the power of interiorly moving the affections of all men, and that they will be held in estimation in proportion as they seem to be under its influence. The reason why that love has such an affecting power is because heaven, by influx, enters into it.
 10. The evils which prevail in those who are in the love of self are in general contempt of others, envy, enmity against such as do not favor their designs, hostility on that account, hatred of various kinds, revenge, cunning, deceit, unmercifulness, and cruelty; and where these evils are cherished, there is also a contempt of God and divine things, which are the goods and truths of the church, to which if any respect is shown, it is with the lips only, and not with the heart. As such evils result from the love of self, it is also attended with similar falses; for falses are derived from evils.