Self-witnessing and Awareness
Self-examination and Consciousness
Swedenborg wrote that "Whatever is thought of is seen by an interior sight, by some more clearly, by others more obscurely" (AC 2588). In other words, there are two levels of awareness or consciousness, one more interior than the other. The interior consciousness is 'above' the more external consciousness, and that which is above can see that which is below, but not the other way round. Thus, from our interior self-awareness we can see (become conscious of) our more exterior self-awareness.
Self-witnessing has various forms such as self-examination, self-observation, self-perception, self-assessment, and so on. All these forms of interior behavior can be practiced for spiritual growth and development. Self-witnessing is a process that leads to deeper self-awareness of our habits of thinking and feeling or striving. The purpose of self-awareness is to reveal to us those habits of character that we ought to modify or reform. Thus, self-modification techniques must be learned along with self-witnessing in order to be able to participate actively in God's efforts to regenerate us. See Regeneration
TCR 527. Yet there are some who cannot examine themselves, such as infants, boys and girls before they arrive at the age when they are capable of self-examination, also the simple minded, who are not capable of reflection; and again, all those who have no fear of God, and beside these some who are sick in mind and body; and above all those who are confirmed in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which imputes Christ's merit to man, and who have persuaded themselves, that by such examination and repentance something of man would enter, which would destroy faith, and thus would banish and reject salvation from its one only abiding-place. To all such a mere lip-confession is serviceable. That this is not repentance has been shown above in this chapter.
 But those who know what sin is, and still more those who know many things from the Word and teach them, and yet do not examine themselves, and consequently see no sin in themselves, may be likened to those who scrape up wealth and lay it up in chests and coffers, making no further use of it than to look at it and count it; also to those who gather into their treasuries jewels of gold and silver, or hide them in vaults, for the mere sake of being rich.
Such are like the trader who hid his talent in the earth, and like him who hid his pound in a napkin (Matt. 25:25; Luke 19:20).
They are also like the hard wayside and the stony places upon which the seed fell (Matt. 13:4, 5).
Also like fig trees full of leaves but bearing no fruit (Mark 11:13).
They are the hearts of adamant, which do not become hearts of flesh (Zech. 7:12).
They are like the partridges which gather and bring not forth; they get riches, but not with judgment; they leave them in the midst of their days, and at their end become fools (Jer. 17:11).
They are like the five virgins who had lamps but no oil (Matt. 25:1-12).
 Those who acquire from the Word much about charity and repentance, and who have abundant knowledge of its teachings, and yet do not live in accordance therewith, may be compared to gluttons, who stuff their food into their mouths in chunks, and swallow it without chewing, so that it remains undigested in the stomach, and when it passes out vitiates the chyle, and brings on lingering diseases, from which they finally die a miserable death. And as such are without spiritual heat, however much light they may possess, they may be called winters, frozen grounds, arctic climates, and even fields of snow and ice.
526. Can there be anything better known in the Christian world than that man ought to examine himself? For everywhere in empires and kingdoms, whether in those adhering to the Roman Catholic or to the Evangelical religion, before approaching the holy supper, men are taught and admonished to examine themselves, to recognize and acknowledge their sins, and to live a new and different life. In the English dominions this exhortation is accompanied with fearful threatenings, where, from the address preceding the communion, the following is read and proclaimed by the priest from the altar:
"The way and means" to become a worthy partaker of the holy supper, "is first to examine the deeds and conversations of your life by the rule of God's commandments, and whereinever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinful nature, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God but also against your neighbor, then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto him, being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other, and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God's hand; for otherwise the receiving of the holy communion does nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, a hinderer or slanderer of His Word, an adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent ye of your sin, or else come not to that holy table, lest after the taking of that holy sacrament, the devil enter into you as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquity, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul."
529. Cannot any man understand, from the reason given him, that the mere lip-confession of being a sinner is not repentance, or the recounting of various particulars in regard to it, as the hypocrite did who was mentioned above (n. 518)? For what is easier for a man when he is in trouble and agony, than to utter sighs and groans from his lungs and lips, and also to beat his breast and make himself guilty of all sins, and still not be conscious of any sin in himself? Do the diabolical horde who then occupy his loves, depart along with his sighs? Do they not rather hiss at those things, and remain in him as before, as in their own house? From this it is clear that such repentance is not what is meant in the Word; but repentance from evil works, as is said.
530. The question therefore is, How ought man to repent? And the reply is, Actually; that is to say, he must examine himself, recognize and acknowledge his sins, pray to the Lord, and begin a new life. That without examination repentance is not possible, has been shown in the preceding section. But of what use is examination except that one may recognize his sins? And why should he recognize his sins, except that he may acknowledge that they are in him? And of what use are these three things, except that man may confess his sins before the Lord, pray for help, and then begin a new life, which is the end sought? This is actual repentance.
That man ought so to proceed and do, everyone may know (after he has passed the first period of life, and more and more as he comes under his own control and into the exercise of his own reason) first, from his baptism, the washing of which means regeneration; for in baptism his sponsors have promised for him that he will reject the devil and all his works, and also from the holy supper, for all are forewarned that before they can worthily approach it, they must repent of their sins, turn to God, and enter upon a new life; and still further, from the Decalogue or Catechism which is in the hands of all Christians, where, in six of the commandments nothing is commanded but that they should not do what is evil.
And unless evils are removed by repentance, man cannot love his neighbor, still less God; yet on these two commandments hang the law and the prophets, that is, the Word, consequently salvation. If at recurring seasons there is actual repentance, as often, for instance, as a man prepares for the communion of the holy supper, and if he afterward abstains from one or another sin which he then discovers in himself, this is sufficient to initiate him into the actuality [of the repentance], and when he is in that he is on the way to heaven, for he then from being natural begins to be spiritual, and to be born anew from the Lord.
531. This may be illustrated by the following comparisons. Before repentance man is like a desert where there are terrible wild beasts, dragons, owls of various kinds, vipers and poisonous serpents, and in the thickets are the ochim and the tziim, and there satyrs dance. But when these have been cast out by the industry and labor of man, that desert may be ploughed and made ready for planting, and sown first with oats, beans, and flax, and afterward with barley and wheat. Man before repentance may also be compared to the wickedness that reigns so largely among men where the wicked are not corrected according to law and punished by stripes or death, in which case no city, nor any kingdom even, could continue. Man is like a miniature society; unless he deals with himself in a spiritual manner, as the wicked in society at large are dealt with in a natural manner, after death he will be corrected and punished until he ceases to do evil for fear of the penalty, although he can never be brought to do good from the love of good.
532. VII. TRUE REPENTANCE IS EXAMINING, NOT ONLY THE ACTIONS OF ONE'S LIFE, BUT ALSO THE INTENTIONS OF ONE'S WILL.
True repentance is examining, not only the actions of one's life, but also the intentions of one's will, for the reason that the acts are done by the understanding and will; for man speaks from his thought, and acts from his will; therefore speech is the thought speaking, and action is the will acting. And this being the source of words and deeds, it follows indubitably that it is will and thought that sin when the body sins.
Man can indeed repent of evils that he has done in body, and still think and will evil; but this is like cutting off the trunk of a bad tree, and leaving its root in the ground, from which the same bad tree grows up again, and spreads forth its branches. But it is different when the root also is torn up; and this is done in man when he examines the intentions of his will, and puts away his evils by repentance.
Man examines the intentions of his will when he examines his thoughts, for in these the intentions make themselves manifest; as, for example, when his thought, will, and intention incline to revenge, adultery, theft, false witness, and to lust therefore, also to blasphemy against God and the holy Word and the church, and so on; if he continues to direct his attention to this, and to inquire whether he would actually commit these evils if fear of the law and for his reputation did not hinder; and if after this scrutiny he determines that he will not will to do these things, because they are sins, he truly and interiorly repents; and still more when these evils are delightful to him, and he is free to do them, and yet resists and abstains. He who practices this repeatedly, perceives the delights of evil, when they return, as undelightful, and finally he condemns them to hell. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord:
Whoever wisheth to find his soul shall lose it; and whoever would lose his soul for My sake shall find it (Matt. 10:39).
He that puts away the evils of his will, by such repentance, is like one who in due time plucks up the tares sown in his field by the devil, so that the seed implanted by the Lord God the Savior finds a clear soil and grows to a harvest (Matt. 13:24-30).
533. There are two loves which have long been enrooted in the human race, the love of ruling over all, and the love of possessing the goods of all. The former love, if free rein is given to it, rushes on even so far as to wish to be the God of heaven; and the latter, if free rein is given to it, rushes on even so far as to wish to be the God of the world. To these two loves are subordinated all other evil loves, of which there are hosts; but to examine these two is exceedingly difficult, because they reside most deeply within and hide themselves; for they are like vipers concealed in a cloven rock, which retain their poison, so that when one lies down upon the rock they give their deadly stroke, and again withdraw to their hiding-place. They are also like the sirens of the ancients, who allured men by their song, and by that means slew them. These two loves also decorate themselves in splendid attire, as a devil by magical hallucinations does among his own, or among those whom he wishes to delude.
 But it must be clearly understood that these two loves may bear rule among the humble more than among the great, among the poor more than among the rich, among subjects more than among kings; for the latter classes are born to dominion and wealth, and these they at length come to regard in the same way as any other man, a governor, a director, a sea captain, or even a poor farmer, regards his servants and possessions. It is different, however, with kings who aspire to dominion over the kingdoms of others.
 The intentions of the will must be examined, because in the will the love resides, for the will is its receptacle, as shown above. From the will every love breathes out its delights into the perceptions and thoughts of the understanding, for these act from the will and not at all from themselves, because they wait on the will and consent to and confirm all that pertains to its love. The will therefore is the very house in which the man dwells, and the understanding is the hall through which he goes out and in. This is why it has been said that the will's intentions must be examined; and when these have been examined and removed, man is lifted out of the natural will in which both inherited and actual evils have their seat, into the spiritual will through which the Lord reforms and regenerates the natural, and by means of this again, what is sensual and voluntary in the body, thus the whole man.
534. Those who do not examine themselves, are comparatively like invalids whose blood is vitiated by the closing of the capillary vessels, which causes atrophy, numbness of the limbs, and painful chronic diseases arising from a thickening, tenacity, acridness, and acidity of the humors, and consequently of the blood.
But on the other hand, those who examine themselves even as to the intentions of the will, are like those who have been cured of these diseases, and restored to the life they enjoyed in youth.
Those who examine themselves properly, are like ships from Ophir laden with gold, silver, and valuables; but before they have examined themselves they are like ships loaded with filth, such as are used to carry off the mud and ordure of the streets.
Those who examine themselves interiorly become like mines, all the walls of which are resplendent with ores of precious metals; but before this, they are like marshes with foul exhalations, containing snakes and poisonous serpents with glittering skins and noxious insects with shining wings.
Those who do not examine themselves are like the dry bones in the valley; but after they have examined themselves, they are like these same bones when the Lord Jehovah had laid sinews upon them, caused flesh to come upon them, covered them with skin, and put breath in them, and they lived (Ezek. 37:1-14).
535. VIII. THOSE ALSO REPENT WHO ALTHOUGHT THEY DO NOT EXAMINE THEMSELVES, YET REFRAIN FROM EVILS BECAUSE THEY ARE SINS; AN THOS WHO FROM RELIGION DO THEWOKS OF CHARITY EXERICSE SUCH REPENTANCE.
Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself recognizing and acknowledging one's sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult for many reasons that will be given in the last section of this chapter, therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is, that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, "Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin." By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. It is strange that anyone can find fault with another for his evil intentions, and say, "Do not do that because it is a sin," and yet find it difficult to say this to himself; but this is because the latter touches the will, but the former only the thought nearest to hearing. Inquiry was made in the spiritual world as to who were capable of this [actual] repentance, and they were found to be as few as doves in a vast desert.
Some said that they could repent in the easier way; but were not able to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. All who do good from religion, avoid actual evils, but they very rarely reflect upon the interiors pertaining to the will, for they believe that they are not in evil because they are in good, and even that the good covers the evil. But, my friend, the first thing of charity is to shun evils. This is taught in the Word, the Decalogue, baptism, the holy supper and even by the reason; for how can anyone flee away from evils and banish them without some self-inspection? And how can good become good until it has been interiorly purified? I know that all pious men, and also all men of sound reason, will assent to this when they read it, and will see it as genuine truth; but still, that few will act accordingly.
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