By the Rev. Lee Woofenden
February 16, 2003
Daniel 6 Daniel in the
It pleased Darius to
set over the kingdom one hundred twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole
kingdom, and over them three administrators, including Daniel; to these the
satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Soon Daniel
distinguished himself above all the other administrators and satraps because an
excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole
kingdom. So the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for
complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no
grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no
negligence or corruption could be found in him. The men said, "We will not find
any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection
with the law of his God."
So the administrators
and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, "O King Darius, live
forever! All the administrators of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps,
the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an
ordinance and enforce an decree, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human,
for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions.
Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the document, so that it cannot be
changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be
revoked." Therefore King Darius signed the document and decree.
Although Daniel knew
that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had
windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees
three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done
previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy
before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the decree, "O
king! Did you not sign an decree that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or
human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of
The king answered,
"The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which
cannot be revoked."
Then they responded
to the king, "Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O
king, or to the decree you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times
When the king heard
the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and
until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the
conspirators came to the king and said to him, "Know, O king, that it is a law
of the Medes and Persians that no decree or ordinance that the king establishes
can be changed."
Then the king gave
the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king
said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!" A stone
was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his
own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed
concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting;
no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Then, at break of
day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den
where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the
living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from
Daniel then said to
the king, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions'
mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found innocent before him;
and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong." Then the king was
exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel
was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he
had trusted in his God. The king gave a command, and those who had accused
Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions--they, their children, and
their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered
them and broke all their bones in pieces.
Then King Darius
wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world:
"May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree that in all my royal dominion
people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions."
So Daniel prospered
during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Matthew 10:16 Wise as snakes, innocent as doves
I am sending you out
like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as wise as snakes and as innocent as
Arcana Coelestia #5608.9 Innocence of ignorance and of wisdom
The innocence of
little children is all on the outside, and not on the inside. Since it is not on
the inside, it cannot be united with any wisdom. But the innocence in angels,
especially angels of the third heaven, is on the inside, so it is together with
wisdom. We have been created so that when we grow old and become like little
children, the innocence of wisdom unites itself to the innocence of ignorance
that we had when we were little children. In this state we pass over into the
next life as true little children.
Daniel said to the
king, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths so
that they would not hurt me, because I was found innocent before him; and also
before you, O king, I have done no wrong." (Daniel 6:21, 22)
Not many people these
days want to be thought of as innocent--unless, of course, they happen to be a
defendant in a court case. Come to think of it, innocence other than the legal
kind has rarely been considered a highly desirable character trait. Innocence
brings to our mind naiveté, childishness, weakness. And in this world of money,
power, and business, we generally prefer to project an air of sophistication,
maturity, and power. If someone were to say to us, "You're so innocent," it
would probably not be meant as a compliment. And the last thing we want to be
called is "childish."
Yet Jesus said,
"Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it" (Mark 10:15). And Swedenborg, echoing this teaching of
Jesus in more abstract language, says in several places, "No one can enter
heaven without some measure of innocence" (Arcana Coelestia #2780, 3519,
3994.2). Elsewhere he reports that the higher the heaven, the greater the
innocence of the angels who live there. Yet contrary to the world's viewpoint,
he says that along with the increase of innocence in the higher heavens, there
is also an increase in power. This is not the weak innocence that the world
holds in contempt, but a powerful innocence.
How could innocence
be powerful? And why should it be so desirable, so essential, that we
cannot get into heaven without it?
To get at the answers
to these questions, it might help to explore more fully the meaning of
innocence. My dictionary gives no less than six definitions of innocence. Two of
them relate to the naïve kind of innocence that our society finds so
undesirable. They can be summarized by the words "inexperienced" and
"unaware"--or to use a somewhat less positive word, "ignorant." Another
definition deals with the legal meaning of innocence: being not guilty of a
crime or of unethical behavior. Related to this is the sense of innocence as
being not dangerous or harmful. There is also the sense of being simple, honest,
and without guile. And closest to a more spiritual definition of innocence is
the first definition in my dictionary: "Uncorrupted by evil, malice, or
wrongdoing; sinless; untainted; pure."
Most of these
definitions stay fairly close to the derivation of the word "innocent" from two
Latin words that mean "not to harm." And if we consider innocence of character
as the source of innocence in our actions, then all of these definitions have to
do with not doing any harm. If we are uncorrupted by evil and malice, we will
not do harm. And if we are inexperienced and unaware, we generally don't have
the capacity to do harm--or at least, not to do intentional harm.
Most of these
definitions also verge toward what Swedenborg would call "the innocence of
ignorance." This is the innocence of young children who can't be charged with
wrong because they don't know any better. Even being "uncorrupted by evil" can
imply that we simply haven't dealt with evil so far, and therefore have
not been corrupted by it.
This kind of
innocence could be called "negative innocence," in the sense that we are
innocent because something is lacking. And the something that is lacking is the
knowledge or experience of what evil is. This is the innocence of Adam and Eve
in the Garden of Eden. Until they had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil, they had neither a concept of evil nor any experience of evil.
kind of innocence tends to be quite fragile. The innocence of young children
requires the protection of parents and other responsible adults to protect it.
Without that protection, if children are exposed to human evil, they can sustain
profound damage whose scars may persist throughout their entire lifetimes. Naïve
adults are also subject to deception and abuse, and can often be led astray by
cunning people with ulterior motives. Whole populations that are mired in
ignorance or misinformation can be carried along by unscrupulous and
self-serving leaders, who paint a false picture for the people, and induce them
to support and to do things they would reject if they knew their true character.
A parallel to the
innocence of infancy is the innocence of isolated, primitive tribes of people
before they have come into contact with more civilized cultures. Even if they
have continued in their tribal ways and their harmony with nature for thousands
of years, these cultures tend to disintegrate fairly rapidly when faced with
modern civilization. In North America, the Native Americans were decimated by
alcoholism, disease, war, and oppression, so that within two centuries of the
arrival of Europeans in the New World, their cultures were a shadow of their
former proud selves. Similar fates have overtaken many ancient cultures in South
America and Africa. Like the innocence of infants and young children, these
fragile cultures in the early stages of human development depend on the
protection of a large buffer zone of wilderness isolating them from corrupting
This is why
Swedenborg, in our reading from Arcana Coelestia, says that the innocence
of little children is all on the outside. There is a shell--almost a halo--of
innocence surrounding infants and young children. And yet, it is a shell that is
easily pierced, and a halo that can be quickly snuffed out. It is an innocence
based on inexperience and lack of knowledge. It is the innocence of not knowing
any better, and of not having the capability to do any harm.
and small children do not have the strength to inflict any real harm on those
who care for them, or even on their older siblings. Even though they may flail
their fists around and sometimes connect, no one gets hurt. This is a physical
image of their spiritual state: their minds and their wills are still
undeveloped, and do not yet have the knowledge or the force to do any harm.
Parallel to this, primitive societies are generally unable to do great damage to
the ecosystem because they lack the scientific knowledge and the technology that
is required to inflict major ecological damage.
Back to the
individual, as babies and small children grow into older children, teenagers,
and adults, this all changes. Spiritually, we grow in knowledge and in the power
of our will. Physically, we grow in height and strength. When we reach the
traditional age when our schooling begins, we are beginning to have the ability
to inflict real pain.
By the time we reach
our pre-teen and teenage years, that ability has become an established fact. At
the same time, we are continually gaining in our knowledge and awareness of what
is right and wrong, so that when we do hurt someone else--either physically or
emotionally--we are often quite well aware of the fact that we are doing so. As
this change takes place in us, our early innocence of ignorance wanes. Those
cute things we did as babies stop being so cute, and instead of having a
childlike innocence, we can become just plain childish. The early but external
innocence of our infancy is gone.
Yet even in the
innocence of ignorance--the innocence of not knowing any better--there is a
certain spiritual power. Even the most hardened person will occasionally
feel some tenderness in the presence of a baby. I am reminded of a story about
an Eastern master training a strong and proud young warrior, who believed he was
more than a match for any possible opponent. When his master informed him that
there was someone far more powerful than he in the room, he bristled, raised
himself up to his full height, and demanded to be brought to this worthy
opponent so that he might show his prowess in combat. When brought to the
opponent, this muscle-bound warrior was soon crouching on the floor, reduced to
cooing and making silly faces. You see, his opponent was a little baby, whose
aura of innocence completely overcame the young, headstrong warrior.
Swedenborg also tells
us that because of their innocence, all babies and children who die are brought
to heaven, raised there, and become angels. Since they have done no wrong from
moral choice or evil intent, but rather any wrong they have done was done in
ignorance of its true nature, and in mere reaction to their inborn natures and
their social environment, no evil has become permanently attached to their
souls. Therefore the evil spirits who would attack them and drag them down to
hell can have no power over them, and any evil acquired in the world is shed
relatively easily, just like the clothing that children outgrow so quickly.
Moving a little
beyond the pure innocence of ignorance, there is also a certain power in the
(still negative) innocence of having done no wrong. Yes, courts can be corrupt,
or simply mistaken, and innocent people do sometimes get wrongly convicted and
punished for crimes they did not commit. Still, an innocent person going into a
courtroom as a defendant has a much greater chance of being acquitted than a
guilty person. And outside the courtroom, in human relations generally, if we
are innocent of any wrong, and keep our hands clean, then like Daniel, though
the attacks may come and we may have to spend our night of darkness in the den
with the fearsome lions, the night will finally be over--whether it takes days,
weeks, or years--and we will emerge shaken, but unscathed.
However, there is
another, higher meaning of innocence that may be implied, but is not spelled out
in the common dictionary definitions. There is a positive kind of
innocence that is not merely a lack of knowledge and experience, nor even a lack
of wrongdoing. The innocence of young children comes not only from their lack of
knowledge and experience, but also from their realization, consciously or
unconsciously, that they need to follow the guidance of their parents, teachers,
and other caretakers who are older and wiser than they are. Young children will,
without any sense of embarrassment, come and ask to have their shoes tied, or
for something to eat, or to be comforted when hurt. In our early stages, we have
not yet built up the pride and pretensions of ego that prevent us as adults from
asking directions or allowing ourselves to be led and guided by another person.
In children, this
type of positive innocence, which is the willingness to be led by another
person, is still largely based on ignorance and inexperience. Still, it is an
early manifestation of a far more powerful innocence that can develop in us only
over a lifetime of experience in the struggles of this world and the struggles
of our soul. You see, as we move on in this life, the pride and self-assuredness
of our adolescent and early adult years takes a severe beating. We encounter
experiences in life in which even if we use our greatest mental powers and focus
all our energies on accomplishing some goal or overcoming some bad habit or
addiction, we fail. And through those failures, we learn a crucial lesson: that
we are not self-sufficient; that we do not have the intelligence
nor the strength of will to go it alone. We discover that we need to rely on a
wisdom and a power greater than our own.
It is only through
the experience of painful defeats in this world that we finally come to this
realization. It is only when we have tried our best from our own strength, and
have been defeated, that we begin to recognize our own human weakness and
ignorance. For most of us, it is only after we have passed through the greater
part of our working life that we truly "get it," and realize that we cannot rely
on ourselves; that we must, instead, put our trust and reliance in the Lord's
greater power and wisdom.
This, my friends, is
the innocence of wisdom. It is the innocence of having seen all the evil that
the world has to offer, of having suffered at its hands, and coming out from
that crucible a transformed person, ready at last to trust and follow the Lord
in everything we do. It is the innocence of Daniel that saves us from the jaws
of the devouring lions of evil ways and false ideas, not by our own power, but
by trusting in the infinite power of the Lord. It is the powerful innocence of
being in the flow of God's providence and God's love. Amen.