Wednesday, September 9, 1994

Location - FNCA 1989

The radical change in Soviet policies under Gorbachev has raised hopes for world peace to a level they

have not reached since the nuclear arms race began. In many ways, the change of climate is refreshing,

and I would not want to cast a cloud over it; but at the same time, I believe that if we look at our

world in the light of our theology, we cannot escape the conclusion that we have still a long way to

go. We are making progress, I would insist, but the millennium is not just around the corner. When our

own Pentagon defines peace as "permanent pre-hostility," we seem to have a problem right here at home.

We might start, then, by looking at what we mean by peace. The desire for peace finds one of its most

conspicuous forms in efforts toward disarmament, and especially toward the abolition of nuclear

weapons. The end of war, however, is not the same as the achievement of peace. A nuclear holocaust

would bring an and to war. Let me quote from Arcana Coelestia (n. 5662.2):

At this day scarcely anyone knows what is the "peace" which is mentioned in the Word; as in the

benediction. . . . Almost everyone believes that peace is security from enemies, and that it is

tranquillity at home, and among our companions; but this peace is not meant there, but a peace which

immeasurably transcends that peace. It is heavenly peace. . . . No one can be gifted with this peace,

except one who is led by the Lord, and is in the Lord, that is, in heaven, where the Lord is the all

in all. For heavenly peace inflows when the cupidities which originate from the love of self and of

the world have been taken away; for these are the things which take away peace, for they infest the

interiors of man, and cause him at last to place rest in unrest, and peace in things which cause

troubles; because [they cause him to place] delight in evils. So long as man is in these, he cannot

possible know what peace is; nor even so long as he believes that this peace is of no account.

The next thing that must be said is that heavenly peace is an active state. Again from Arcana

Coelestia (n. 454),

Some (suppose that heaven consists) in an idle life, in which they are served by others. But they are

told that no happiness ever consists in being at rest, and thence having happiness; for thus everyone

would want to have the happiness of others for himself; and when everyone wanted this, no one would

have it. Such a life would not be active, but idle, in which they would become torpid. . . . The

angelic life consists in use . . . .

This last statement, "the angelic life consists in use," bring us straight to the statement from which

my title is taken. It is from Marriage Love, and reads as follows:

No one is wise, or lives, for himself alone. . . . To live for others is to do uses. Uses are the

bonds of society, which are as many in number as there are good uses; and uses are infinite in number.

Marriage Love n. 18

"Uses are the bonds of society." The implications of this simple statement are extensive. Put together

with the previous quotations, it is saying that peace is something we must do. It is not just a nice

feeling, not the knowledge that no one wants to hurt us or that we are strong or isolated enough to be

safe. Peace is an active and constructive way of living together; and since it is inseparable from

use, we can experience it on any scale, simply by focusing on our own use in whatever situation we

find ourselves.

Let me give a simple and general example. It can be disturbing to be misunderstood. Say we have tried

to do something worthwhile, and others have see this as aggressive behavior, as an effort to butt in

or to put them down. As long as we focus on our own wounded ego, on the injustice we are suffering, we

are disturbed. But suppose we find the wisdom to look at our use in this situation. Suppose, that is,

we start trying to see what we can do that will actually make things better. Our whole mood changes.

We experience the kind of peace that comes when we are totally absorbed in doing something we love to


"Uses are the bonds of society." This, I would suggest, is Swedenborg's answer to the Jacques Brel

song that was popular some time ago, "If We Only Have Love." To quote Swedenborg again,

Love and wisdom, without use, are not anything, but are only ideal entities, and do not become real

until they are in use; for love, wisdom, and use are three things which cannot be separated; if

separated, neither of them is anything.

The Apocalypse Revealed n. 875e

It is far too easy to get caught up in self-analysis, berating ourselves with the thought that we

should not be feeling the way we are. We try in vain to make ourselves feel differently, to suppress

the resentment or the anger, but this is simply not effective. What we can do much more usefully is to

shift our attention away from ourselves at such times. O.K., the anger and resentment are there. I may

not be able to banish them by an effort of will, but they do not need to control my behavior. Is there

anything I can do or say that will help? It may even be expressing the negative feelings--that is by

no means ruled out. It may very well be saying out loud, "That hurts," not to defend or justify

ourselves, but to help nurture mutual understanding. If if succeeds, we are delighted, and if it

fails, then we try something else. The main point is that we find ourselves operating from a place

within ourselves that is not threatened, from a place of peace. We find that place by focusing on the

use that can be found in the particular moment. "Love and wisdom, without use, are not anything, but

are only ideal entities, and do not become real until they are in use . . . ."

I think it is clear, on this scale, how inevitably and effectively "uses are the bonds of society."

All we have to do is to imagine a community in which this was the dominant spirit, in which every

problem that arose prompted people to look for the most helpful way to deal with it. It would be an

extraordinarily close and peaceful community, and at the same time a thoroughly active one. Further,

this kind of peace would be wonderfully resilient, because it would not depend on everything going

right all the time. It would not be destroyed by outbreaks of anger or even of violence. Such

incidents would instead call forth extra efforts, would call forth the very best the community could


Last winter, there was a newspaper article about a woman in the Midwest who styled herself as an

expert in writing effective letters of complaint, and who could back this up with results. Her first

rule, as I remember it, was to assume that the person she was complaining to was not the individual

who had made the mistake. As a result, her letters were never angry or self-righteous. She focused on

clarity, and wrote with the assumption that the company wanted to do things right. I would recommend

her as an example of a genuine peacemaker, and stress the fact that she was not making peace by

abdicating her own rights or by ignoring wrongs. If this were the prevalent attitude, we would have

not only a "kinder and gentler" America, but a more just one as well.

There is abundant evidence, however, that this is not the prevalent attitude. After a brief affair

with idealism during the Kennedy years, we seem as a nation to have fallen hopelessly in love with

money, for its own sake. Polls taken of high school seniors show the principal goal in life as "making

lots of money"--a sharp and apparently dismaying shift from the years in which the Peace Corps was

attracting young people by the thousands. College graduates are flocking in unprecedented numbers to

Wall Street, and our headlines are full of stories of people making fortunes by the manipulation of

money. When a company can come away from a failed takeover with a profit of millions of dollars, when

a company is ripe for takeover because it is investing seriously in research instead of turning a

quick profit, the foundations of our economy are shaky indeed. When the hero of the hour is the

entrepreneur rather than the statesman or the healer or the discoverer, then the focus is not on use.

This is not a question of one political party as against another. it is a question of our national

mood and of our national priorities. We will begin to see world peace, I would suggest, when we begin

to ask out loud what use our nation can be to the rest of the world. Whatever the theorists may claim,

competition motivated by greed will not usher in universal prosperity, and neither will the

redistribution of wealth. We will have an economy of scarcity just as long as the name of the game is

to contribute the minimum and extract the maximum. We will begin to experience surpluses when we look

first of all to our contribution, our use, and draw out only what we need to perform that use. Or as

it is stated in our theology,

It is becoming abundantly clear that the poor and the oppressed are not somehow automatically

virtuous. On the individual level, when abused children attain adult strength, they very often become

abusive parents. On the national scale, revolutions by violence seem most often seem to produce new

tyrannies, as we are beginning to recognize especially in the former colonies in Africa. Before women

were granted the right to vote in this country, as astute an individual as Helen Keller honestly

believed that once women could vote, there would be no more war. In Israel, we are seeing perhaps the

most oppressed people of the world discovering the pitfalls of power. It is not, I would suggest, that

"power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It is that power enables us to do what we

wish, and strips the masks off from our selfishness.

What would it be like to "desire an abundance for the sake of one's country and the neighbor"? It

would be to have a mission in life, a contribution that one wanted deeply to make, and to work fairly

and honestly for the resources to make that contribution. Or let me make another, perhaps less

palatable, suggestion. It would be to avoid the lottery because one might win, and thereby be faced

with the responsibility of contributing something of at least equal value.

The relevance of this may be clearer in the light of another quotation, bearing in mind the general

principle that uses are the bonds of society.

By uses are meant not only the necessaries of life . . . for one's self and one's own; but also the

good of our country, of the community, and of our fellow-citizen. Mercantile business is such a good

when the love of it is the end, and money is a mediate subservient love; provided the man of business

shuns and is averse to defraudings and evil arts as sins.

Divine Providence n. 220.11

The flow of goods and services is a primary factor in the unity of our country. We have prospered

relative to the rest of the world in large measure because of the scale on which we could operate, the

area, resources, and population included within our boundaries, without barriers to commerce. We are

currently looking with some anxiety at the nascent European Common Market, which could provide stiff

competition in spite of its linguistic diversity. We have long been aware that either Russia or China

could dominate economically if either could resolve its own internal problems.

We should also be aware that international trade can be one of the most potent forces for world unity,

provided there is mutual benefit. The more clearly both parties profit from an arrangement, the more

remote is the likelihood of war between them. By the same token, when the benefit is one-sided, the

effect is divisive. When a country's personal and natural resources are exploited, as was often the

case under colonialism and is still characteristic of too many third-world countries, then it may seem

to the exploited that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by armed insurrection.

If it seems overly idealistic to expect international conglomerates to renounce any form of

exploitation or inequity, that is simply an indication of how far we have to go before we are within

reach of world unity. Try telling the head of a major company that "Mercantile business is such a good

when the love of it is the end, and money is a mediate subservient love," and see how far you get. We

could make significant steps toward world peace if our legal structures rewarded companies for the

equity of their dealings. We could make some steps toward world peace if such companies got impartial

publicity, and there were equally impartial reporting of abuses; but the direct effects of legal

encouragement would be more effective.

The principle is the same as the personal one, focusing first on the contribution we can make, and

regarding the profit to ourselves simply as a means to that contribution. We cannot honestly recommend

to others policies that we are unwilling to adopt for ourselves, but there is more to it than that.

We cannot add up a vast number of small, personal inequities and expect the sum to be fairness and

justice. The Gospels tell us that those who are faithful in little things are faithful also in great

things. And our theology puts this principle mo re philosophically, as follows:

For every general use is composed of innumerable ones, which are called mediate, administering, and

subservient uses. All and each are coordinated and subordinated according to Divine order, and, taken

together, they constitute and perfect the general use, which is the common good.

Heaven and Hell n. 392

Ronald Reagan did not so much change the mood of the country as strengthen what was already there by

giving it voice. So did Washington, Lincoln, Grant, Hoover, and all the rest, some for better and some

for worse. Just as our single votes are essential to the working of a democratic system, no matter how

insignificant they may seem, so our own attitudes are integral to the national mood. In fact, they are

far more powerful than our votes, because they directly influence all the people we deal with. We

contribute to a more peaceful country, to a kinder and gentler America, whenever we treat anyone

kindly and gently, and the more consistent, the more persistent we are in our kindness and gentleness,

the more contagious is our example.

This does not and cannot mean glossing over evils. To quote Swedenborg again,

But man does not feel and perceive the love of doing uses for the sake of uses, as he does the love of

doing uses for the sake of self; and therefore, while he is doing uses, he does not knwo whether he is

doing them for the sake of the uses, or for the sake of self. But lethim know that he is doing uses

for the sake of uses in proportion as he is shunning evils; for in proportion as anyone is shunning

these, in the same proportion he is doing uses, not from himself, but from the Lord.

If our kindness and gentleness lead us to pretend that nothing is wrong, then they are not from a love

of use. They are almost certainly from a desire to be liked, from a corresponding fear of offending.

But on the principle that the good in the neighbor is the neighbor to be loved, this desire and fear

are wholly misleading. The good in the neighbor is not some abstract principle; it is the angel-to-be,

the Lord flowing in. When the focus is on use, then we address the "erring neighbor" on the assumption

that that individual wants to do his or her best. We stand with that person against his or her

failings. "Shunning evils" cannot be restricted to our treatment of ourselves, if we are to love our

neighbor as we love ourselves.

This has its international equivalent, and I should like to back up for a moment to ground the next

point in as central assertion of our theology. That assertion is that all life flows in from the Lord.

At the point at which it flows in, it is utterly pure and heavenly, but that point, "the inmost," is

quite beyond the reach of our consciousness. As the life flows through the deeper levels of our being,

it is first individualized, and eventually distorted by the unregenerate forms of our own inheritance

and our own making.

If we trace this process in reverse, something interesting happens. We find ourselves looking first at

some of our more antisocial tendencies, finding what may seem to be their roots in our self-concern,

and then discovering that this very self-concern has deeper and more legitimate roots. The

strength--as opposed to the form--of every desire we feel is the Lord's strength. There is a valid

basis for every human effort, however destructive. The Lord is the life of the hells.

On the international scene, this suggests that whenever another nation is at cross purposes with us,

we should first of all try to seek out the legitimate roots of both our and their efforts. There are

two major benefits to this. First of all, as we discover what it is that we legitimately want, we can

become more flexible in our means without in any way compromising our principles. Second, and equally

important, we can begin to talk to the other nation in terms it can understand, because that nation

sees its intentions as legitimate. It is heartening at this time in history, for example, to see other

nations concerned about our national deficit spending. It may be that in the long run, the most

beneficial result of the Reagan years will be the sharp rise in foreign investment in the American

economy. We are no longer the world's banker, but are its greatest debtor. We have lost our economic

independence, and that may well be just what the doctor ordered.

I want to close, though, by stressing the importance of our own individual focus on use. National

policies simply cannot rise much higher than the general level of morality, no matter what the form of

government; and in a democracy the tie is particularly close. I'd like to read, in this connection, a

fascinating quote which at first hearing may seem a bit unrelated.

By this (seeds) are in the potency of conjoining themselves with the use from which comes their

prolific principle; and then, through conjunction with matters from a natural origin, of producing

forms of uses, and then sending them forth as from a womb. . . . This conatus is afterwards continuous

through the root even to the ultimates, and from the ultimates to the primes, in which the use itself

is in its origin. Thus do uses pass into forms; and the forms, in their progression from primes to

ultimates and from ultimates to primes, derive from the use--which is like a soul--that each and all

things of the forms are of some use. It is said that the use is like a soul, because its form is like

a body. It also follows that there is a conatus still more interior, which is the conatus of producing

uses for the animal kingdom through vegetable growths . . . . It also follows that in these there is

an inmost conatus, which is a conatus of performing uses to the human race.

Divine Love and Wisdom n. 310

We can take this back a step, if we wish. We can look at a stone, which would seem to have no

"prolific principle" whatever. But it holds soil in place, and very gradually disintegrates to form

new soil. From this grow plants, which nourish animals, including people, who are potential angels.

The great purpose of world peace is made up of countless little purposes. To quote again,

For every general use is composed of innumerable ones, which are called mediate, administering, and

subservient uses. All and each are coordinated and subordinated according to Divine order, and, taken

together, they constitute and perfect the general use, which is the common good.

Heaven and Hell n. 392

"The common good," on the natural level, is nothing less than world peace--peace, that is, regarded as

living together in the spirit of mutual care. The bonds of society are formed or severed in our

dealings with each other, because we are mediate, administering and subservient uses. We strengthen

the foundations of the common good by some actions, and undermine them by others; and one final quote

may serve to define our task, on whatever level we may be called to serve.

The worship of the Lord itself consists in performing uses; and uses are (in this life) that everyone

should rightly discharge his function in his station; thus [they consist in his] being of service to

his country, to societies, and to the neighbor, from the heart; in his acting sincerely with his

associates; and in performing kind offices prudently, according to the quality of each person. These

uses are chiefly the exercises of charity; and are those through which the Lord is chiefly worshipped.

Frequenting a place of worship, prayers, etc., are also necessary; but without those uses, are of no

avail; for these things are not of life; but teach what the life should be.

Arcana Coelestia n. 7038

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