Spiritual Temptation is Good, Actually

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. -Exodus 16:2 

Dear members and friends,

Spiritual temptation is the foundational concept in Swedenborgianism because only by means of temptations does our spirit grow. An English dictionary defines the word temptation as “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.” This is probably the common understanding of the word temptation among the modern English users. However, the word temptation originated from the Latin word temptare, which means to handle, test, or try. To test or try does not necessarily mean doing something negative or wrong. At times, we prove the correctness or usefulness of certain things by testing or trying them. In other words, being tempted does not necessarily mean desiring to do something that is wrong or unwise. Rather, being tempted means that one is being tested, trying to be better, or proving one’s worthiness. In other words, true temptation happens not when we resist the desire to do something that is obviously wrong, but when we wrestle against the desire to sabotage or give up our own intention to do what is right. 

According to Swedenborg, “temptation itself is nothing other than a wrestling or conflict, for truth is attacked by the evil spirits and defended by the angels who are present with a person.” (Arcana Coelestia #4274) Swedenborg insists that the evil spirits do not attack our mind until we acknowledge the truth and desire to change our life according to it. In other words, if we are living without learning and acknowledging truth, and thus not desiring to live by truth, spiritual temptation would never happen to our mind. Spiritual temptation occurs only as a result of our intentional decision to change our life to live according to truth that we learned and acknowledged. Spiritual temptation could take a long period of time depending on what kind of bad habit (or evil according to Swedenborg) we are working on to reform. During this time of spiritual temptation, we may feel lost, dismayed, and depressed. However, according to Swedenborg, all these negative feelings are from the old self, which is being reformed. One big relief is that we are not the main force of power fighting against evil during spiritual temptation, but God is. Our main duty is to endure and persevere through the process until we reach the sunny side again.  

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee