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  • Writer's pictureHoward Thompson

The Devil Didn't Make You do ANYTHING!

In today's world, one doesn't necessarily need to step inside a church or attend a religious school to grasp a concept of Satan or the Devil. Intriguingly, the widespread perceptions surrounding the Devil or Satan seldom find their roots in Biblical scripture. Instead, they often derive from an amalgamation of ancient cultures, mythologies, theological interpretations, classical literature, and contemporary pop culture.

Significant literary masterpieces, such as Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" (primarily "Inferno") and John Milton's "Paradise Lost," have profoundly sculpted the prevailing notions about Hell, Satan, and the downfall of the angels. These texts, rich in vivid portrayals and intricate characterisations, have undeniably moulded subsequent literature, art, and theological discourses.

While expressions like "the Devil made me do it" have entrenched themselves in our colloquial language, giving the Devil his proverbial due, it's essential to understand that there isn't a singular, anthropomorphic Devil or Satan. No malevolent deity stands as an antithesis to God. So, logically, if there's no Devil, it can't be held responsible for our actions.

In "True Christianity," the 18th-century Swedish theologian and scientist, Emanuel Swedenborg, explains that envisioning Lord Jesus Christ as a person is pivotal for establishing a tangible and meaningful relationship with God, underpinning our path to salvation. Without this anthropomorphic lens, the very essence of God risks becoming an intangible, remote concept. Notably, Swedenborg refrained from positing a similar perspective on the Devil. Instead, he argued that the term "devil" in Biblical contexts signifies not a singular entity, but an entire ensemble of malevolent spirits or, more abstractly, evil itself. Swedenborg further articulated that there isn't a supreme devil reigning over hell; "devil" represents egotism or self-love, which is antithetical to divine love.

Evil, in essence, emerges from the conscious decision of individuals to repudiate God. It symbolises God's absence rather than the devil's presence. The binary moral choice between good (aligned with divine intentions) and evil (a deliberate deviation from God) lies within us. Persistent choices distancing oneself from God, driven by selfishness, culminate in a state described by Swedenborg as "hellish." Contrarily, hell isn't a punitive realm lorded over by a demonic entity. Heaven and hell, according to Swedenborg, represent internal states reflecting our profoundest affinities. A proclivity towards virtue leads to a heavenly state, while an inclination towards vice results in a hellish state. It's pivotal to recognise that such states are self-selected, stemming from our inherent nature, rather than being divinely imposed.

Indeed, internal conflict and temptations are palpable facets of our existence. Yet, these are not orchestrated by an externalised Devil but originate from our inner tumult between self-serving instincts and loftier, altruistic impulses. Such internal discord is integral to spiritual maturation, enabling individuals to discern and repudiate malevolent inclinations. Some might find solace in personifying the evil they combat during moments of internal strife. However, it's paramount to comprehend that there's no inherent devil within; merely facets of our persona that have diverged from divine guidance.

Swedenborg's insights pivot the emphasis from an extrinsic, cosmic confrontation between God and the Devil to an introspective moral and spiritual duel within each individual. Embracing personal accountability, aligned with Divine Truth, and harmonising our souls with Divine Love, are the cornerstones for welcoming the divine within, leaving no space for its absence.

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