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Daubed with Bitumen and Pitch: The clinging of the Old Will, the Old Church, and Hell

Isaac writes of the disturbances brought on by evil spirits who attach themselves to his unregenerate will. Within this chaos, he finds that the Lord keeps him in freedom to rebuke those spirits with the truth and act from love. This is only possible because the Lord is protecting the good within him, keeping it hidden from abuse on all sides. -Editor.

When the mother of Moses could no longer hide him, she did a remarkable and risky thing. She sent him to float on the slow-moving side-waters of the Nile among the tall grass in a tar-covered ark! In Exodus Chapter 2 we read:

And she took an ark of rush, and daubed it with bitumen and with pitch. And she put the child therein. And she laid him in the sedge at the bank of the river. Exodus 2:4

Moses, even as a baby, represents the Word. The Lord has amazing ways to keep His Word safe in us. When we are children in the gospel, Divine Law comes under all sorts of attack from evil spirits who want to lead us away to theft, pride, contempt, lust, adultery…you name it; they want to destroy our life. However, the Lord doesn’t let any evil spirit have direct access to our inmost life easily. In Arcana Coelestia, the Lord teaches us some very sweet truth concerning our inmost safety through the process of spiritual maturity, even when the going gets choppy on the surface. Listen to this:

When a man is being reformed, he is kept by the Lord as to his internal in good and truth, but as to his external he is let into his evils and falsities, consequently among infernal spirits who are in these evils and falsities. These hover round him, and endeavor by every method to destroy him. But the good and truth which flow in through the internal render him so safe that the infernal spirits cannot do him the least harm; for that which acts inwardly prevails immeasurably over that which acts outwardly; because what is interior, in consequence of being purer, acts upon each and every individual particular of the exterior, and thus disposes the external to its will. Arcana Coelestia 6724

I don’t know about you, but there are times when, for my own delight and at the expense of others, I invite spirits into my spiritual space that are flat out rude, mean, devious, lusting, thieving, or cruel. When evil spirits have been invited by any deliberate rejection of love or charity, they immediately begin to wreak havoc with the lower mind, and the mind is in the whole body, so our body is also disturbed and abused. When I’m under assault by the spirits in my lower spiritual environment, if I don’t identify what's going on, step in quickly, and rebuke one of the ring-leaders in the name of the Lord, they have no trouble making a mess of my world. During the times when such spirits dominate a conversation, a car trip, or preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t feel good in any heavenly way, and it’s not that hard for me to figure out that if I keep them around they will indeed destroy my life. And yet it is pathetic how I have chosen, over and over again, to keep them on. My old will is still there and kicking. If I want to be reformed, I must repent. I am a sinner.

Evil spirits are constantly changing and regrouping, inventing new ways to approach, disturb, and abuse. Recently for me, I’ve noticed one that has been attacking my desire to live in the moment and be useful. All it takes is my friend to begin drying the dishes I am washing when I would normally let them air-dry, and the evil spirit leaps right in and says “Look at that worthless idiot! He can’t stop doing something unnecessary. Why doesn’t he just leave the dishes and leave you alone? Then you can get on to more important things!” (Notice how the spirit attacks someone else rather than me directly? I think it must be a sign that the Lord is moving me to reach out and include my neighbors in my life!) Evil spirits love to spark argument, and if I argue with them rather than directly rebuke them, they invariably take the upper hand. Could I cast out this spirit in the name of the Lord, once and for all? Yes. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. “Be gone, impatient and murderous spirit who says my friend is worthless for drying the dishes! Leave now in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and never come back! I invite spontaneous and playful action into my life. I see the use in small routines. I enjoy the company of my generous friend. I love his willing spirit. Lord, thank You for making it so. I pray to be present and productive with the life you are giving me that I may be a light-giver and not a joy-killer.”

Continuing in the Arcana Coelestia passage above, the Lord goes on to teach that in order for the good in us to be safe during our reformation, it must have some expression in our lower minds on which to rest, in which to be implanted and take root:

But in this case there must be good and truth in the external wherein the influx from the internal can be fixed; and in this way good can be among evils and falsities, and yet be in safety. Every one who is being reformed is let into this state [inwardly in good while let externally into evil] and in this way the evils and falsities in which he is, are removed, and goods and truths are inserted in their place. Arcana Coelestia 6724

We cannot be reformed all at once, so we will inevitably have evil and falsity in our external man along side the good and truth. Sometimes we will act from them and abuse others, but it is imperative to compel ourselves to reach out and do good, with the intention of doing it freely and from love, even if we don’t feel love and even if our efforts cause some disturbance because of the presence of evil spirits still clinging and abusing us. Yes, we must cease doing evil before we can do good, but this is a progressive process. We cannot cease all evil at once, but we can examine our thought patterns and the loves that drive them and notice an evil spirit that is dominating and deceiving and pray to the Lord that it be removed. Repentance feels painful, sad, empty, desperate, and finally a hopeless failure while we’re having an old love rooted out, but joy floods in when we are free from it.

Does your idea of what’s right ever get in the way of love? I frequently find myself in words and manners that are insensitive, judgmental, disrespectful, demanding, hard, and rough on the outside when what I really desire is to protect and share what is tender and living and eternal. Looking back, I have found myself wearing a youth that was hotly contrary to my family and friends concerning anything that I perceived to be against the Word as I knew it from my church upbringing. For example, the movie Prince of Egypt was released when I was in seventh grade, and on cue from mere hints gleaned from my father and other ministers I respected, I was adamant in my thorough rejection of any cartoon depiction of the Word. I initiated a heated argument with my younger sister on the subject, putting her as squarely down as I knew how for being open to the movie. After the argument, I was given to reflect on how something so precious to me as the Word led to this belligerent behavior. How was it that my desire to protect did not extend itself forth in a loving manner to my sister? I would try better next time. Again, around the same time, I was challenged by reading A Wizard of Earthsea in school, and then the first Harry Potter books came out and I almost flew off the handle when I saw my high school classmates (and again my sister) reading them with delighted interest. Didn’t the Lord speak clearly and without exception against magic and sorcery? Why were people taking such delight in this? The initial repugnance within me from what I saw to be contrary to the Lord’s way was surely innocent and a gift from Him, but the fiery judgment and self-righteous pride that ensued and the insecurity that accompanied them was an attack from hell.

Though hell sticks on determinedly, the Lord preserves the Word in all His sheep and leads us on a path of gradual repentance. For anyone who is willing to repent and receive Life, the “old church” of judgment and pride cannot last forever. Its power over those on earth has passed away and its clinging influence is passing for all whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that is, who live in charity. The Rider on the White Horse has gone forth, conquering and to conquer. May we follow Him and conquer in His name!

Next time you see your neighbor floating by, all covered over with bitumen and pitch, don’t be quick to judge. Moses came floating down the river, and the Lord Jesus came in an animal trough, born of an unwed mother. Look for the Word in every human being and stand up for it. It is surely there. When I actually was willing to look for the Word in the movie Prince of Egypt from the confidence of love for the Lord, I was deeply, deeply moved, especially by the aching humanity in the song “Deliver Us,” sung by the enslaved Hebrews, and by the humility and wonder in the song “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” in which the Priest of Midian, future father-in-law to Moses, challenges Moses to look at his life from “the pattern of the Grand Design.” Again, when I was willing to see the Word in Harry Potter free from the fear and suspicion of condemning thoughts, I saw the Lord’s power to touch, move, and inspire us, even when we are immersed in falsity and its mind-numbing arts. Reading the drama of Sirius Black facing the dementor’s kiss, I knew that the Lord is teaching his people through these books that no matter how black someone is, damnation is not a light thing; and it is only the unquenchable fire of evil love that invites it. My eyes teared with light and my heart swelled with love for the world of people who love Harry Potter and learn spiritual lessons with him. If our heart is willing, the Lord can use any language, even a false one, to reform us:

Evil is what stands opposed to heaven, not falsity due to ignorance. Indeed if this ignorance has some measure of innocence within it, that falsity is accepted by the Lord as if it were truth, for those subject to that kind of falsity accept the truth. Arcana Coelestia 6784:2

And again:

When a man is being regenerated, he is let into combats against falsities, and is then kept by the Lord in truth, but in that truth which he had persuaded himself to be truth, and from this truth he fights against falsity. He can fight also from truth not genuine, provided the truth is such that in some way it can be conjoined with good; and it is conjoined with good by means of innocence, for innocence is the means of conjunction. Hence it is that men can be regenerated within the church from any doctrine, but those preeminently who are in genuine truths. Arcana Coelestia 6765

While at first I hotly condemned the use of magic to teach religion, in the end I let go of my condemnation and the Lord renewed my passion to preach His Name openly, knit in greater love with humanity as a whole and increasing in knowledge and wisdom concerning my global family’s receptive states. I believe that human stories that are shared and received in increasingly close and vivid ways are testimony that the church on earth, and the gentiles too, are opening to mercy more powerfully and profoundly than ever before. The truths of faith will come with glory and fill the whole earth, as the Lord promises in Habakkuk 2:14, but first we must value mercy as king.

Nor do the truths emanating from the Lord save anyone if he believes that he is saved by virtue of the truths of faith present with him and not by mercy. Arcana Coelestia 7206:2


Further reading:

“Bitumen is a black, oily, viscous material that is a naturally-occurring organic byproduct of decomposed organic materials. Also known as asphalt or tar, bitumen was mixed with other materials throughout prehistory and throughout the world for use as a sealant, adhesive, building mortar, incense, and decorative application on pots, buildings, or human skin. The material was also useful in waterproofing canoes and other water transport, and in the mummification process toward the end of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. It is also flammable”

“The pitch drop experiment taking place at University of Queensland is a long-term experiment which measures the flow of a piece of pitch over many years. For the experiment, pitch was put in a glass funnel and allowed to slowly drip out. Since the pitch was allowed to start dripping in 1930, only eight drops have fallen. It was calculated in the 1980s that the pitch in the experiment has a viscosity approximately 230 billion (2.3x1011) times that of water”

“Be it known further that good can be mixed with evils and falsities, but that nevertheless they are not on this account conjoined, for each shuns the other, and by a law of order each separates itself from the other. For good is of heaven, and evil and falsity are of hell; therefore, as heaven and hell are separate, so also each and all things from them separate themselves” Arcana Coelestia 6724.

“Moreover there are some who are in doubt before they deny, and there are some who are in doubt before they affirm. They who are in doubt before they deny are they who incline to a life of evil; and when this life carries them away, then insofar as they think of the matters in question they deny them. But they who are in doubt before they affirm are they who incline to a life of good; and when they suffer themselves to be bent to this by the Lord, then insofar as they think about those things so far they affirm” Arcana Coelestia 2568:6.

“And the longer the combats of temptations last, the more manifest do the evils and falsities become, until at last they are held in abhorrence” Arcana Coelestia 1740.

“A further reason why the faith of the former Church and the faith of the New Church cannot possibly be together is that they are heterogeneous. For the faith of the former Church is derived from the idea of three Gods…From what has been said it follows that those who have confirmed themselves in the faith of the old Church cannot embrace the faith of the New Church without danger to their spiritual life, unless they have first rejected and thus rooted out one by one all the points of their former faith, together with its young or eggs, that is, its dogmas, the nature of which have already been shown in the foregoing pages” Brief Exposition 103.

“The reason why true factual knowledge prevails over the power of the teaching of falsity from evil is that the Divine is present in all truth that springs from good. But in falsity springing from evil the opposite is present, and what is the opposite of the Divine is totally unable to prevail. In the next life therefore a thousand under the influence of falsity springing from evil are totally unable to prevail against a single one governed by truth springing from good. At the presence of this single one the thousand flee; or if they do not flee they suffer pain and torment” Arcana Coelestia 6784:2.

"These things here advanced are indeed such as to fall into the comprehension of extremely few; because very few know what the truth and good of the natural are, and that they are distinct from the truth and good of the rational. Still less is it known that goods and truths not genuine, and which yet appear to be genuine, may serve for introducing genuine goods and truths, especially in the beginning of regeneration. Nevertheless as these are the things contained in the internal sense of these words, and in the internal sense also of those which follow respecting Laban's flock, from which Jacob procured a flock for himself, they are not to be passed over in silence. There may be some who will comprehend them. They who are in the desire of knowing such things, that is, who are in the affection of spiritual good and truth, are enlightened in regard to such matters" Arcana Coelestia 3974:3.

“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” I Corinthians 15:51-58.

“Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land” Exodus 23:30.

Isaac Synnestvedt

Isaac is a vessel bringing forth the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. His mission has most recently taken him to Louisville, Kentucky, where he is fighting the good fight with the Church of Truth. He is praying for a conjugial partner who loves the Lord all-out. Any leads?

Reader Comments (2)

Isaac,Thank you for this well written and timely article, coming just before Christmas, and serves as a reminder for us to be vigiliant against the infernal crew. I'll always remember the words of a wise man who made a simple, but profound observation that "patience is love", and we know that the infernal crew cannot prevail where love (patience) abounds.

December 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Maiorano

And thank you, Frank, for your timely reminder about patience! The Lord is very near to all who call upon Him.

Lawson, thanks for pointing out an error in my piece. I wrote: "the Lord Jesus came in an animal trough, born of an unwed mother," which is not true. I see how hell came in with confusion on this point to attack the very point the Lord is making through me. The true point is that evil and good have nothing in common, and that when we know that we can rebuke evil for what it is and receive good without defiling it, and furthermore, that in this state we can be sure from personal experience of the Lord's mercy, that just because it appears that someone else is in disorder does not mean they are. They may be being ordered within, and that ordering within must cause a measure of upheaval in their outward appearance of order, for that is what the hells attack into. So saying, it may have appeared to Joseph at first, or others by his testimony, that Mary had conceived illegitimately, but in fact, she was betrothed to him, looking toward God and progressing toward marriage in an orderly manner, and her conception was of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was born, she was married.

I will make a change of words. Glory to the Living God!

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsaac Synnestvedt
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