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Conscience in 1748

From Rev. Jeremy Simons, Cathedral Chaplain
November 16, 2020

This Sunday we turn our attention to Thanksgiving and begin thinking about the Christmas holidays coming up. But in 1748 Swedenborg was not thinking about Thanksgiving on November 22. To my knowledge, there was no similar celebration in Sweden then, nor is there now.
On November 22, 1749 Swedenborg wrote the following. Some spirits that he was speaking with were ignorant of the concept of conscience:
“They asked me what conscience is, and I was inspired to tell them that it is all that inner feeling that one is doing something contrary to what is good and true, as when one realizes that something is against truth and goodness, the person feels it to be against them, and that there is a certain conscious holding back, as there was with me. Further, that there is a perception given by the Lord, together with pain, that one is doing something contrary to goodness and truth, and one is touched by sorrow, and almost sheds tears – which
is an innermost conscience, for so do they weep when something contrary to goodness occurs. 1748, 22 November” (Spiritual Experiences 4036)
This is the concept of conscience that is familiar to most people. One of its interesting features, described in the Writings, is that if we have some conscience in this world we will have much more of it in the next:
“Those who had acquired a conscience in the life of the body, or those who had received goodness and truth, receive in the other life much more, indeed, infinitely more, for all their faculties are immeasurably increased – just as also with the evil, the qualities of evil there are so increased that those who in the life of the body had been a little deceitful, in the next are
very deceitful. 1748, 22 November” (Spiritual Experiences 4039)
While the efforts of parents and teachers may not always seem to successfully instill conscience in children, it is comforting to know that even a start will be a help.
The same will surely be true of other things that we try to teach. At Thanksgiving, the efforts to communicate the importance of gratitude may sometimes seem to fall on deaf ears, but gratitude is something that grows over time, along with conscience.


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