Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Last Temptations of Jesus: the accounts of Swedenborg and Emmerich

It is said that the devil tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness - just, exactly, how bad was it?  And why would God choose to become incarnate in human form, to end up suffering miserably? The gospels are very brief on this subject, and in fact, the passages in the gospels describing the 40 days of temptation are symbolic for the temptations he experienced his whole life, to the very bitter end.

It was so bad, that all of hell was fighting against the Lord.  The temptations we experience were nothing compared to what Jesus experienced.  But how do we know this?  There are so many doubters and skeptics - maybe this is true, maybe it isn't.  The entire Muslim world states the Bible was corrupted so they don't bother to read it, or just doubt every passage as they were taught this as children.  In the western world, so called scholars parse every sentence and wonder who wrote what.

Since the Bible was written, however, a number of private revelations have been given to Christian visionaries.  One of them was Emanuel Swedenborg, a scientist of the 18th century, who had 27 years of waking visions of heaven and hell.  After he died, a Catholic nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich was also given an extensive set of visions. Whereas Swedenborg writes as a scientist, Emmerich was given a grand vision where she saw practically every detail of the life of Jesus.

We can confirm they both had extrasensory perception - Swedenborg had a number of clairvoyant experiences, one of which was confirmed by the German philosopher Kant.  What of Emmerich? For one, she was a stigmatist - a mysterious phenomenon where the visionary becomes so enraptured that they display the signs of the wound of the cross on their body, which bleed profusely, and yet are not self inflicted and can mysteriously heal as quickly as they manifest.  But for Emmerich, a priest was able to take details from her writings, and discovered the house of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus Turkey.  Here is the relevant passage from Emmerich:
Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it. ... Mary's dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem, some three and half hours from Ephesus. This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city, as one approaches it from the south east seems to lie on rising ground.... Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half hour's journey.
Not only that, but she also described in detail the architecture and position of the house. This was unheard of: Catholic tradition, since the 5th century A.D., had stated that Mary had died in Jerusalem.  Many decades later, a priest took the account of Emmerich's visions and made a trip to Turkey, and made a startling discovery:

On October 18, 1881, relying on the descriptions in the book by Brentano based on his conversations with Emmerich, a French priest, the AbbéJulien Gouyet discovered a small stone building on a mountain overlooking the Aegean Sea and the ruins of ancient Ephesus in Turkey. He believed it was the house described by Emmerich and where the Virgin Mary had lived the final years of her life.
Abbé Gouyet's discovery was not taken seriously by most people, but ten years later, urged by Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, DC, two Lazarist missionaries, Father Poulin and Father Jung, from Smyrna rediscovered the building on July 29, 1891, using the same source for a guide. They learned that the four-walled, roofless ruin had been venerated for a long time by members of the mountain village of Şirince, 17 km distant, who were descended from the early Christians of Ephesus. The house is called Panaya Kapulu ("Doorway to the Virgin"). Every year pilgrims made a pilgrimage to the site on August 15, the date on which most of the Christian world celebrated Mary's Dormition/Assumption.
Later, an archaeological investigation determined that the lower portion of the wall and the foundation date from the first century A.D.  Here is a picture of the house of the virgin Mary as it stands today:

So with that preface, lets compare a little between what Swedenborg was told concerning the life of Jesus, and what Emmerich was shown later.  Neither one ever knew of each other.


What is described as a mystery in most Christian traditions is explained rather rationally by Swedenborg, but a rational explanation of Christianity only makes sense if one has knowledge of the spiritual realms beyond the material one.  When discussing the temptations of Jesus, Swedenborg not only states that they were quite severe, but explains the whole reason why the Divine became incarnate in human form. He begins by stating that his human body inherited evil from his human mother Mary, something no Catholic would ever admit:
"That He derived hereditary evil from the mother, is clearly evident from the fact that He underwent temptations. No one can ever be tempted, who has no evil; it is the evil in a man which tempts, and through which he is tempted. That the Lord was tempted, and that He underwent temptations a thousand-fold more grievous than any man can ever endure, and that He endured them alone, and overcame evil, or the devil and all hell, by His own power, is also evident....
"No angel can ever be tempted of the devil; because, while he is in the Lord, evil spirits cannot approach him, even distantly, without being instantly seized with horror and terror. Much less would hell have been able to approach to the Lord if He had been born Divine; that is, without evil adhering from the mother.
"It is likewise a common expression with preachers, that the Lord also bore the iniquities and evils of the human race; but to admit into Himself iniquities and evils, except by the hereditary way, can by no means be done. The Divine is not susceptible of evil. And therefore, that He might conquer evil by His own powers — which no man was able to do, or can do — and so might alone become Justice, He was willing to be born as another man. If it had not been for this, there would have been no need of His being born; for the Lord could assume Human Essence without birth, as He did sometimes assume it, when seen by the Most Ancient Church, and likewise by the prophets; but for the very purpose of putting on evil, against which He might fight, and which He might conquer, He came into the world; also that He might conjoin in Himself the Divine Essence to the Human Essence.
"But the Lord had no evil that was actual, or His own; as He also says in John: Which of you convicteth Me of sin? (viii 46)." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1573)
Swedenborg hints at some of the demoniac attacks against Jesus, which Jesus resisted from love for the entire human race.  One spiritual law: the greater the love, the greater the temptation:
"Hence also it may be evident what the Lord's temptations were, that they were the most grievous of all; for as is the love, so great is the grievousness. The Lord's love for the salvation of the whole human race was most ardent; consequently it was all affection for good and all affection for truth in the highest degree. Against these, with the most malignant wiles and venom, all the hells contended; but still the Lord conquered them all by His own power. Victories carry this with them, that the malignant genii and spirits afterwards dare nothing; for their life consists in being able to destroy. But when they perceive that a man is such that he can resist, then at the first onset they flee away..." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1820.5)
These temptations of Jesus are not well explained in the gospels, but they are laid out in more detail in the hidden spiritual sense of the Old Testament, which Swedenborg explains in detail in his massive work Heavenly Arcana (or Arcana Coelestia). The forty days of temptation described in the gospels describe all the temptations in the spiritual sense, moreover, he fought against the worst kind of evil spirits:
"That the Lord underwent and endured temptations, severe, or the most severe, above all others in the universe, is not so well known from the Word; where it is only mentioned that He was in the wilderness forty days, and was tempted by the devil. The temptations themselves which He then had, are described in a few words only; but these few involve them all; as that it is said in Mark (i. 12, 13) that He was there with the beasts, by which are signified the worst of the infernal crew" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1663.2)
These temptations, and Jesus resisting them, were the means of salvation of the human race.  The passion of the cross of Jesus did not in itself effect salvation, but it was merely the last and final temptation before Jesus overcame them all:
"It is a common belief at this day that the burnt offerings and sacrifices signified the Lord's passion, and that by this the Lord made expiation for the iniquities of all, indeed, that He drew them away upon Himself, and thus bore them; and that those who believe are in this manner justified and saved, provided they think, though but in the last hour before death, that the Lord suffered for them, however they may have lived during the whole course of their life. But the case is not really so: the passion of the cross was the extremity of the Lord's temptation, by which He fully united His Human to His Divine and His Divine to His Human, and thus glorified Himself. That union is itself the means by which those who have the faith in Him which is the faith of charity, can be saved. For the Supreme Divine Itself could no longer reach to the human race, which had removed itself so far from the celestial things of love and the spiritual things of faith, that they no longer even acknowledged them, and still less perceived them. In order therefore that the Supreme Divine might be able to come down to man who was such, the Lord came into the world and united His Human to the Divine in Himself; which union could not be effected otherwise than by the most grievous combats of temptations and by victories, and at length by the last, which was that of the cross." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2776.2)
As I said, Swedenborg gives a more rational explanation of Christianity, and in fact it bears similarities to the ancient healers of Shamanism who battle with evil spirits (see Jesus the Shaman - Descent into the Underworld).  Except with Jesus, it was done on a universal scale, and He continues to do it for any person who undergoes temptation and resists it.


So I have given a brief account of the temptations Jesus endured from Swedenborg's visions - this was explained to Swedenborg by internal insights given to him in vision while reading scripture.  Anne Catherine Emmerich is about as opposite to Swedenborg as one can get in style - the visions were showing the life of Jesus, detail by detail, as in a movie. Several volumes were written from what she dictated, but I want to concentrate on the temptation Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion, as explained in The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus prayed blood began to come out of his pores.  He prays and he is under distress.  That is all the gospels say, and one might say it was because he feared the crucifixion.  But Emmerich was shown that it was much more than that: Jesus was suffering from what one may call a psychic mental attack from evil spirits.  Swedenborg said the most severe temptations are the one's that are internal, more so than those from external suffering or pain, but in this day and age few experience this.  That is all Swedenborg says, but Emmerich goes through it all in agonizing detail, where it even effected her at times and she lost all strength.

It begins with a a set of constricting visions, which begin to close in on Jesus:
"When Jesus left his disciples, I saw a number of frightful figures surrounding him in an ever-narrowing circle.
His sorrow and anguish of soul continued to increase, and he was trembling all over when he entered the grotto to pray, like a wayworn traveller hurriedly seeking shelter from a sudden storm, but the awful visions pursued him even there, and became more and more clear and distinct."
And then, the onslaught of the attack begins. Emmerich describes it as a flood, and even Swedenborg describes this kind of attack of evil spirits as a flood, and this terminology is used in scripture as well:
"He fell on his face, overwhelmed with unspeakable sorrow, and all the sins of the world displayed themselves before him, under countless forms and in all their real deformity. He took them all upon himself, and in his prayer offered his own adorable Person to the justice of his Heavenly Father, in payment for so awful a debt. But Satan, who was enthroned amid all these horrors, and even filled with diabolical joy at the sight of them, let loose his fury against Jesus, and displayed before the eyes of his soul increasing awful visions, at the same time addressing his adorable humanity in words such as these: 'Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?'
And now a long ray of light, like a luminous path. in the air, descended from Heaven; it was a procession of angels who came up to Jesus and strengthened and reinvigorated him. The remainder of the grotto was filled with frightful visions of our crimes; Jesus took them all upon himself, but that adorable Heart, which was so filled with the most perfect love for God and man, was flooded with anguish, and overwhelmed beneath the weight of so many abominable crimes. When this huge mass of iniquities, like the waves of a fathomless ocean, had passed over his soul, Satan brought forward innumerable temptations, as he had formerly done in the desert, even daring to adduce various accusations against him. 'And takest thou all these things upon thyself,' he exclaimed, 'thou who art not unspotted thyself?' Then he laid to the charge of our Lord, with infernal impudence, a host of imaginary crimes. He reproached him with the faults of his disciples, the scandals which they had caused, and the disturbances which he had occasioned in the world by giving up ancient customs. No Pharisee, however wily and severe, could have surpassed Satan on this occasion; he reproached Jesus with having been the cause of the massacre of the Innocents, as well as of the sufferings of his parents in Egypt, with not having saved John the Baptist from death, with having brought disunion into families, protected men of despicable character, refused to cure various sick persons, injured the inhabitants of Gergesa by permitting men possessed by the devil to overturn their vats, and demons to make swine cast themselves into the sea; with having deserted his family, and squandered the property of others; in one word Satan, in the hopes of causing Jesus to waver, suggested to him every thought by which he would have tempted at the hour of death an ordinary mortal who might have performed all these actions without a superhuman intention; for it was hidden from him that Jesus was the Son of God, and he tempted him only as the most just of men. Our Divine Saviour permitted his humanity thus to preponderate over his divinity, for he was pleased to endure even those temptations with which holy souls are assailed at the hour of death concerning the merit of their good works. That he might drink the chalice of suffering even to the dregs, he permitted the evil spirit to tempt his sacred humanity, as he would have tempted a man who should wish to attribute to his good works some special value in themselves, over and above what they might have by their union with the merits of our Saviour."
Similar to Swedenborg, Emmerich describes the universal love that Jesus had for humanity, and also similar to Swedenborg, describes how Jesus at times switches between his human state, under which he could be tempted, and His Divine state from which He strengthened himself.  These changes of state are described in more detail in Heavenly Arcana, and Emmerich describes them in general terms. When Swedenborg stated Jesus suffereed a thousand-fold, Emmerich states he is then shown visions of all the sins of humanity:
"At first Jesus looked calm, as he kneeled down and prayed, but after a time his soul became terrified at the sight of the innumerable crimes of men, and of their ingratitude towards God, and his anguish was so great that he trembled and shuddered as he exclaimed: 'Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me! Father, all things are possible to thee, remove this chalice from me!' But the next moment he added: 'Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.' His will and that of his Father were one, but now that his love had ordained that he should be left to all the weakness of his human nature, he trembled at the prospect of death.
I saw the cavern in which he was kneeling filled with frightful figures; I saw all the sins, wickedness, vices, and ingratitude of mankind torturing and crushing him to the earth; the horror of death and terror which he felt as man at the sight of the expiatory sufferings about to come upon him, surrounded and assailed his Divine Person under the forms of hideous spectres. He fell from side to side, clasping his hands; his body was covered with a cold sweat, and he trembled and shuddered. He then arose, but his knees were shaking and apparently scarcely able to support him; his countenance was pale, and quite altered in appearance, his lips white, and his hair standing on end."
Jesus not only foresees the sins of mankind, and is assaulted with false accusations from evil spirits, but was shown the corruption of the Christian church:
"He saw the tepidity, malice, and corruption of an infinite number of Christians, the lies and deceptions of proud teachers, all the sacrileges of wicked priests, the fatal consequences of each sin, and the abomination of desolation in the kingdom of God, in the sanctuary of those ungrateful human beings whom he was about to redeem with his blood at the cost of unspeakable sufferings."
The above is accurate - the "abomination of desolation" in Daniel signifies the corruption of the Christian church.  Emmerich goes on, and states if she spoke for a full year she could not describe in detail all that she saw, and I am skipping over large portions. She was so overwhelmed, Jesus then appeared to her:
"So great was my horror and terror, that my Heavenly Spouse appeared to me, and mercifully placed his hand upon my heart, saying: 'No one has yet seen all these things, and thy heart would burst with sorrow if I did not give thee strength.'"
Now, although in the Catholic church they will probably not admit that Jesus inherited evil in his human form from Mary, Emmerich sees something rather interesting: although Mary was in a different location from the Garden of Gethsemane, she experiences something similar:
"During this agony of Jesus, I saw the Blessed Virgin also overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish of soul, in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark. She was with Magdalen and Mary in the garden belonging to the house, and almost prostrate from grief, with her whole body bowed down as she knelt. She fainted several times, for she beheld in spirit different portions of the agony of Jesus. She had sent some messengers to make inquiries concerning him, but her deep anxiety would not suffer her to await their return, and she went with Magdalen and Salome as far as the Valley of Josaphat. She walked along with her head veiled, and her arms frequently stretched forth towards Mount Olivet; for she beheld in spirit Jesus bathed in a bloody sweat, and her gestures were as though she wished with her extended hands to wipe the face of her Son. I saw these interior movements of her soul towards Jesus, who thought of her, and turned his eyes in her direction, as if to seek her assistance. I beheld the spiritual communication which they had with each other, under the form of rays passing to and fro between them."
The connection here, which Emmerich could not discern, is that Jesus could only be tempted through the human body He inherited from his mother.  This is the connection: the attack of evil spirits was so severe, even Mary felt it. But she could offer no help in this matter.


At many points in time, we are all tempted in many ways, and perhaps understanding what Jesus went through, one can understand there is no sin Jesus cannot handle if we just simply repent and ask.  But, for our part we must resist temptation, and desist from the wrongs we have been committing. It is natural to experience this - for once one knows the truth, the evil spirits with each person will seek to attack the truth. This is what temptation is: spiritual warfare.  It is the way one is reborn from a natural person to a spiritual being.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments, questions, corrections and opinions welcome...