Friday, November 28, 2014

Quotes on Childhood, Innocence, and Pre-Existence

I think that most of us have felt a certain nostalgic longing for the joys of childhood. The inevitable loss of childhood innocence is what I consider to be the tragedies of life; despite the freedom of adulthood and all the joys it brings, something is definitely lost when we grow old. However, as a result of my voracious reading, I have discovered several thinkers who, in one way or another, espouse a return to the state of childhood. This is not infantile retrogression, by any means. On the contrary, it is a reconnection with the joyful fire at the depths of our memory. By reconnecting with our childhood, they say, we reconnect with the heart of being.

I won't explain the nuances of this idea myself. Instead, I'll just present quotes from the visionary Emanuel Swedenborg and the phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard (examples of these thinkers), figuring that they could explain it better than I could. Also, be on the lookout for connections between the thinkers--they are there, and they reveal profound truths about the what lies at the depths of our memories (or rather, what lies before our birth).

"And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; and all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth" -D&C 93:21-23

"In our dreams toward childhood, in the poems we would all want to write in order to make our original memories live again, to give us back the universe of happiness, childhood appears, in the style of the psychology of the depths, like a real archetype, the archetype of simple happiness. It is surely an image within us, a center for images which attract happy images and repulse the experiences of unhappiness. But this image, in its principle, is not completely ours; it has deeper roots than our simple memories. Our childhood bears witness to the childhood of man, of the being touched by the glory of living. From then on, personal memories, clear and often retold, will never completely explain why reveries which carry us back toward our childhood have such an attraction, such a soul quality. The reason for this quality which resists the experiences of life is that childhood remains within us a principle of deep life, of life always in harmony with the possibilities of new beginnings. Everything that begins in us with the distinctness of a beginning is a madness of life." -Gaston BachelardThe Poetics of Reverie

"To meditate on the child we were, beyond all family history, after going beyond the zone of regrets, after dispersing all the mirages of nostalgia, we reach an anonymous childhood, a pure threshold of life, original life, original human life. And this life is within us--let us underline that once again--remains within us. A dream brings us back to it. The memory does nothing more than open the door to the dream. The archetype is there, immutable, immobile, beneath memory, immobile beneath the dreams. And when one has made the archetypal power of childhood come back to life through dreams, all of the paternal, maternal forces take on their action again. The father is there, also immobile. The mother is there, also immobile. Both escape time. Both live with us in another time. And everything changes; the fire of long ago is different from today's fire. Everything which welcomes has the virtue of an origin. And the archetypes will always remain origins of powerful images." -Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie

"Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God." -D&C 93:38

"When we are being regenerated, we are brought first into the innocence of infancy, which is realizing that we know nothing of truth and are capable of nothing of good on our own, but that we long for what is true and good simply because it is true and good. These gifts are  granted by the Lord as we advance in age. We are led first into knowledge about them, then from knowledge to intelligence, and finally from intelligence to wisdom, always hand in hand with innocence, which is, as already noted, the recognition that we know nothing of truth and are capable of nothing of good on our own, but only from the Lord." -Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, 279

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." -Mosiah 3:19

"People who are in the inmost or third heaven, though, are in innocence of the third or inmost level; so they are the very innocent of heaven, since they above all others want to be led by the Lord the way infants are led by their father. This is why they accept divine truth directly into their intent and do it, making it a matter of life, whether they receive it directly from the Lord or mediately through the Word or sermons. This is why they have so much more wisdom than the angels of the lower heavens. Because this is the nature of these angels, they are the closest to the Lord, who is the source of their innocence, and they are also distanced from their self-centeredness so much that they seem to live in the Lord. In outward form they look simple--even like infants or little children in the eyes of the angels of the lower heavens. They look like people who do not know very much, even though they are the wisest of angels. They are in fact aware that they have no trace of wisdom on their own and that to be wise is to admit this and to admit that what they know is nothing compared to what they do not know. Knowing, recognizing, and perceiving this is what they call the first step toward wisdom. These angels are also naked, because nakedness corresponds to innocence." -Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, 280

"I have also been told that true marriage love derives its origin from innocence because it comes from the union of the good and the true that engages the two minds, the minds of husband and wife. When this union descends, it takes on the appearance of marriage love because the spouses, like their minds, love each other. This is the source of the childlike and innocent play in marriage love." -Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, 281

"Thus, taken in the perspective of its archetypal qualities, put back into the cosmos of great archetypes which are at the base of the human soul, meditated childhood is more than the sum of our memories. To understand our attachment to the world, it is necessary to add a childhood, our childhood to each archetype. We cannot love water, fire, the tree without putting a love into them, a friendship which goes back to our childhood. We love them with childhood. When we love all these beauties of the world now in the song of the poets, we love them in a new found childhood, in a childhood reanimated with that childhood which is latent in each of us." -Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie

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