Love and truth come from God alone, and we are but recipients of that love and truth which flows into our will and thoughts from the spiritual world. On the other hand, all evils and falsehoods originate from the selfish ego and the pride of our own intelligence. Love and truth cannot be rooted into our will and mind until evils and falsehoods are first removed, just as a flower cannot grow among thorns. So when one becomes aware of the spiritual truth of the Lord, and yet one formerly lived in evil and the justification of evil, this can lead to a very severe form of temptation, sadness, anger and depression. While most everyone would rather not experience these states, these states are necessary to drive out evils we formerly loved and falsehoods we formerly thought were true.
STATES OF TEMPTATION AND SADNESS ARE SPIRITUAL BATTLES
This is a spiritual battle: when one is being reformed and regenerated into a new spiritual being, a battle takes place in the spiritual world between angels and demons which we experience as temptation, depression and sometimes even anger. This is the origin of our free will: to Swedenborg it was revealed that at birth, two angels and two evil spirits are assigned to us, one each pertaining to our will, and another for our thoughts. Moreover, even while in the body we belong to a spiritual society, and this society may belong to heaven, to hell, or the spiritual world in between:
"There are at least two evil spirits and two angels with every man. Through the evil spirits a man has communication with hell; and through the angels, with heaven. Without communication with both a man cannot live a moment. Thus every man is in some society of the infernals, though he is unaware of it. But their torments are not communicated to him, because he is in a state of preparation for eternal life. The society in which a man has been is sometimes shown to him in the other life; for he returns to it, and so into the life that he had in the world; and from thence he either tends toward hell, or is raised up toward heaven. Thus a man who does not live in the good of charity, and does not suffer himself to be led by the Lord, is one of the infernals, and after death becomes also a devil." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 667)While angels infuse thoughts of love and truth with forgiveness and understanding, evil spirits love to accuse of us of our faults and bring us down:
"Temptations are nothing else than combats of evil spirits with the angels who are with a man. Evil spirits call up all the wrong doings of a man and even the thoughts which he has had from infancy, thus both his evils and falsities, and condemn him — than which nothing is more enjoyable to them. The very enjoyment of their life consists in this. But through angels the Lord guards the man, and restrains the evil spirits and genii from ranging beyond bounds, and inundating the man beyond what he is able to bear." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 741)Evil spirits will often infuse thoughts, real and unreal, to make it the subject of accusation:
"The diabolic spirits desire nothing more than to find some falsity; indeed it is common with them to induce a falsity from themselves, and then at the same time to make it the subject of accusation." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1917)
Even Jesus experienced this to a very severe degree, beyond what any human could handle as He fought against all of hell. Some details of this are described in The Last Temptations of Jesus: the accounts of Swedenborg and Emmerich. Catherine Anne Emmerich, a Catholic nun, was given several details, and one particularly severe devil tried to bring Jesus down by making him responsible for the death of innocent children by being born at Bethlehem, at which time His mind was flooded with awful visions.
The important thing here is to keep negative thoughts external. Recognize them as being infused by something external to you, and do not make it your own by accepting them.
TWO KINDS OF TEMPTATION: THOSE OF THE THOUGHT, AND THOSE OF THE WILL
There are two kinds of temptation: those of the thought, which are light; and those of the will, which are severe:
"There are two kinds of temptations, one as to things of the understanding, the other as to those of the will. When a man is tempted as to things of the understanding, evil spirits call up only his evil deeds that he has done... and accuse and condemn him; they do indeed also call up his good deeds... but pervert them in a thousand ways. ...But this temptation is light, and is perceived only by the recalling of such things to mind and a certain anxiety therefrom. But when a man is tempted as to things of the will, his thoughts and doings are not so much called up, but there are evil genii... who inflame him with their lusts and the filthy loves with which he is imbued, and thus fight through the man's own lusts — which they do so maliciously and secretly that it could not be believed to be from them. For in a moment they pour themselves into the life of his lusts, and almost instantly invert and change an affection for good and truth into an affection for evil and falsity, so that the man cannot know but it is done of his own self and comes forth of his own will. This temptation is most severe, and is perceived as an inward grief and tormenting fire." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 751.2-3)
THE STATE OF TEMPTATION INCLUDES SADNESS AND DESPAIR
For those who lived a former evil life, when they come into the knowledge of spiritual matters of good and truth and accept them, it is normal to then go through states of sadness and despair:
"Every temptation carries with it some sort of despair; otherwise it is not a temptation; and therefore consolation follows. He who is tempted is brought into anxieties, which induce a state of despair about the end. The very combat of temptation is nothing else. He who is sure of victory is not in anxiety, and thus is not in temptation." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1787)
"In temptations there are vastations and desolations, and there are states of despair, and thence of grief and of indignation, besides other interior painful emotions; and this with variety and alternation, according to the states of evil and falsity which are excited by evil genii and spirits, and against which there is combat." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1917)It is thus important to know that these states are normal, and necessary, for spiritual progression. One should not seek to escape from them, but to fight against them.
THE PURPOSE OF TEMPTATION IS TO SUBDUE THE LOWER SELF
The lower self thinks of nothing but the self, and lower corporeal pleasures, and things of the pride of the ego. To conquer this, to come under the dominion of good and truth, one must go through temptations:
"Temptations, therefore, have for their end that the externals of man may be subdued and thus be rendered obedient to his internals — as may be evident to every one from this, that so soon as man's loves are assaulted and broken — as during misfortunes, sickness, and grief of mind — his lusts begin to subside, and he at the same time begins to talk piously; but as soon as he returns to his former state, the external man prevails and scarcely thinks on such subjects. The like happens at the hour of death, when corporeal things begin to be extinguished; and hence every one may see what the internal man is, and what the external; and also what remains are, and how lusts and pleasures, which are of the external man, hinder the Lord's operation through the internal man. From this it is also plain to every one what temptations, or the internal pains called the stings of conscience, effect — namely, that the external man is made obedient to the internal. The obedience of the external man is nothing else than this, that the affections for what is good and true are not hindered, resisted, and suffocated by lusts and the falsities therefrom." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 857.2)
KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH FIGHTS AGAINST TEMPTATIONS
How to fight against temptations? Through knowledge of the truth, the truth that God is love and wants every person to inherit a life in heaven. Thus what Jesus said is very true:
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17)Jesus, who is Divine truth incarnate, had to first subdue and conquer the lower infirm human nature his body inherited from Mary:
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19)Divine truth is now available through the Holy Spirit flowing from Jesus. Knowledge of the truth is merely the first step, once one knows the truth, if one begins to recognize areas of one's life that is not in accordance with God's will, then temptation begins. It is a battle between truth and falsity:
"It is the truth that is first in combat, for combat is from truth; for from truth it is known what falsity is and what evil is; on which account such combats do not exist before the man has become imbued with the knowledges of truth and good both external and internal." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1685)Systems of thought such as atheism and naturalism are essentially used as excuses for one to live in denial of the truth, for such want an easy life where they do not want to acknowledge their own sins. Those who live in falsehood are in bondage to their evils, and this can only be broken through the acknowledgment of spiritual truth.
Another truth of temptations: during these times, it is the Lord alone who fights against the hells for each person, just as He fought against them alone during His life. When we go through temptations, we should always call upon the Lord to help and fight for us as we resist, so that He can act through us:
"It is the Lord alone also Who fights in men who are in the combats of temptations, and Who overcomes. Man from his own power can effect nothing at all against evil or infernal spirits; for they are so connected with the hells that if one were overcome, another would rush in, and so on forever. They are like the sea which presses upon every part of a dike; if the dike should be broken through by a cleft or a crack, the sea would not stop, but would burst through and overflow, till nothing would be left standing. So would it be unless the Lord alone sustained the combats of temptations in man."(Heavenly Arcana, n. 1692.2)
CONSOLATION AND COMFORT AFTER TEMPTATION
While temptations against sins and falsehoods are states of sadness and despair, in which one supposes the Lord to be absent, he is fact very present:
"So long as temptation continues, man supposes the Lord to be absent, because he is disturbed by evil genii, and to such a degree as sometimes to be reduced to such despair that he can scarcely believe there is any God. Yet the Lord is then more intimately present than he can ever believe. When however temptation ceases, then he receives consolation, and then first believes the Lord to be present" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 840)There is a very wise story which speaks of this truth, known as Footprints in the Sand:
"But no one can of himself be in this good, for it is the celestial itself which flows in from the Lord. This celestial flows in continually, but evils and falsities stand in the way of its being received. Therefore, that it may be received, it is necessary for man to remove evils, and as far as he is able falsities also, and so dispose himself to receive the influx. When man on the removal of evils receives the influx, he then receives a new will and a new intellectual; and from the new will he feels enjoyment in doing good to the neighbor from no selfish end, and from the new intellectual he perceives enjoyment in learning what is good and true for its own sake and for the sake of the life. Because this new intellectual and new voluntary exist by influx from the Lord, therefore he who is regenerated acknowledges and believes that the good and truth with which he is affected is not from himself but from the Lord, and also that whatever is from himself, or of his own, is nothing but evil." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5354.2)