The darkness overcoming humanity before the birth of Jesus was dire. As He always has, the Lord prepared a way to recover. The earthly vastation of the Jews was the means of preventing the people from profaning; (though it may seem diminishing, it was an act of great mercy). There are various degrees of profaning, and the Jews were in danger of the very worst state of profanation. (The seven degrees of profanation are described and referenced in scripture in Swedenborg’s book Divine Providence, 231). This state occurs when a person acknowledges and professes belief in the Word from their heart, then later turns around and denies it in their heart. The Lord’s effort in preparing for the incarnation focused on keeping the people of the Jewish nation from doing this.
It is important to understand the nature of the Word and the spiritual world to grasp the terrible problem that profanation is. We discussed the nature of the Word and spritual world in the beginning, but lets look at it more deeply. The Word is the means of co-joining humanity with heavenly wisdom (and God, Himself) in a way that nothing else is. When a person acknowledges the Word, his or her internal self opens to heaven, and his or her soul is implanted with knowledge of the divine according to the degree of their willingness to recieve. Everything the person acknowledges in heart becomes his or her own, that is, it enters the internal of the soul, and what is implanted remains in his or her soul forever. When a person acknowledges the Word with love in their will and heart, but then turns around and later denies and hates the Word – he or she is profaning. The denial is also implanted in the soul because, whatever a person truly intends, or, more to the point, wills, becomes his or her own and also enters the internal. In such a case, there is a desperate internal disharmony.
Providentially, the Lord constantly provides means to prevent this from taking place. He seeks to govern humanity so that people only receive knowledge and affection for the Word to the degree that they will be faithful to it until the end of their life. It may seem strange to some how it is possible for the Lord to keep these loves of good and evil separate in people. The mechanism that makes this possible is the separation between the internal and external selves, which often people can barely discern. Swedenborg describes how this works:
All things that a man thinks, says, and does from the will are appropriated to him and remain; and the Lord by His Divine providence continually foresees and arranges that good may be by itself and evil by itself, and that the two may be separated. Moreover, they are separated by the Lord after death. From those who are interiorly evil and outwardly good the good is taken away, and thus they are left to their evil. The reverse takes place with those who are interiorly good, but outwardly, like other men, have sought to gain riches, have striven for dignities, have taken delight in various worldly interests, and have favored certain lusts; for with such good and evil have not been mixed together, but have been kept separate like internal and external; thus while in external form they have been in many respects like the evil, they have not been so internally. But with the evil who in external form have presented the same appearance as the good in piety, worship, words, and works, while in internal form they have been evil, the reverse is true; with such also evil is kept separate from good. But in those who have acknowledged the truths of faith and lived according to them, and have afterwards passed over into the opposite and have rejected these truths, and especially if they have denied them, goods and evils are no longer separate, but are mixed together (DP, n. 227).
The effects of profanation do take place in life on Earth, but they especially show up in the spiritual world. To understand this better, we need to understand the dynamics of the spiritual world.
In the spiritual world, Swedenborg describes that each place or community is called a society, and each has its own unique atmosphere. All heavenly societies are defined by their particular use, and their atmospheres by their quality of love. The qualities of love in the heavenly societies are of infinite variety; and, in order to be in a certain society, an individual’s quality of love must be in harmony with it. This is a universal spiritual law. Love and wisdom are not abstractions but are the spiritual substance in the atmosphere of each society of the spiritual world. (I realize this may be difficult for the reader to grasp, for we are so used to thinking in terms of the physical world which is material and concrete). Quality of affection is the spiritual substancve in a heavenly society forms its very atmosphere; love is the air that the people (or angels) breathe, because breath corresponds to affection. Love and affection can only be expressed through the human form and angels are also in the human form. For instance, in common language on Earth, when a person loves, say football or music, they say that they eat, breathe, and sleep that thing, because they love to do it. In the spiritual world, there is no space and time; everything is based on ‘state of being,’ or the affections of the soul. We no longer have a physical form, but are a whole human with mind, soul, and spiritual body, and have many times more refined faculties than in the physcial world.
In the spiritual world like is with like. In Heaven love is expressed in usefullness to others, and the work and creativity of each individual uniquely serves the whole. In the hells there are various levels of the affection of hate, and all the knoledges of how to manipulate, decieve, hurt, and destroy each other. So the love of good and the love of evil repel each other completely; they are opposite spiritual loves that cannot commingle in the pure atmosphere of the spiritual world. It is like the repulsive magnetic force of opposite poles on a magnet; one cannot make them come into the same space. So when during a person’s life the love of the Word has been implanted in a person’s soul, and later in heart they turn against it, and hell is also implanted in their internal – it becomes a terrible problem in the spiritual world. According to Swedenborg, the consequences of severe profanation in a human being is the destruction of that person’s rationality. This is because to be human, a person must be in freedom, and they must choose between Heaven and Hell by the way they live. The person in a state of profanation has lost this freedom because he or she is rooted in both. This is why the Lord entreats us to be hot or cold, not lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). A person who profanes does not have a singular ruling love and, therefore, no singular self. One side of what is implanted in his internal self seeks to condemn and destroy the other. In two remarkable passages, Swedenborg describes this state:
They therefore with whom this is the case have continually within them that which condemns, thus their hell. For when the infernals approach towards the sphere where good and truth are, they instantly feel their hell; for they come into that which they hate, consequently into torment. They therefore who have profaned truth dwell continually with that which torments them; and this according to the degree of profanation (A.C., 3398).
They therefore have no longer rationality in capability nor in power, nor consequently any liberty. For this reason they are like mere forms of fantastic delirium: and no more like men, but as bones with some covering of skin; and therefore when mentioned are not called he or she, but it (DP, n. 226-230).
This state of profanation is the worst of all possible states. It is an anomaly caused by the special power of the Word and the sacredness of freedom of choice. This phenomenon of profanation in the spiritual world demonstrates that the Word is the container of the power and presence of the Lord for the reception of Him in the world. This is what is meant in the Word when it is said that he who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is not forgiven. It does not mean that the Lord does not forgive or will to forgive, it refers to this state of profanation in which the person has entered of their own doing. Because of the horrible consequences of this state, the Lord continually seeks to providentially provide that profanation is avoided. Only the Lord knows the true will inside of people, and only He can foresee if one would deny the divine after knowing it. This is why the Lord had no choice but to painstakingly vastate the Jews of internal knowledge of the Word – it was an act of mercy. He knew, as their actions in the Old Testament show, that they would profane the Word if left to their own devices.