Playing With Words: Innocence

Playing With Words



Joseph Anthony

What was your word,
Jesus? Love?  Affection? Forgiveness?

All your words were one
word: Wakeup!

–Antonio Machado



I have been
fascinated by the concept (for lack of a better word) of innocence for quite a
number of years now (this blog is called, “The Wonder Child Blog,” after
all).  Innocence means a lot of different
things to a lot of different people. 
Some people believe once you “lose” it you can never get it back
again.  Some believe we weren’t born
innocent; that there was only one–well two, if you count his mother–innocent
beings to ever walk the planet.  Still others
believe innocence is a magical thing that we can grow back into no matter how
old we become or what happens to us.

What follows
are a few reflections on innocence.  Before
I share them however, it’s best to begin at the beginning: with a little
etymology. I will also use a few ideas about innocence from the 17th
century mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg.  No
other philosopher or mystic had more to say on the subject of innocence as he
did.  For Swedenborg, the entire cosmos
hinges on innocence, but more on that in a minute.

The word, innocent, comes from the Latin and means
“not guilty, not harmful, and blameless (Online Etymology Dictionary).” Around
1200 it became associated with sin and evil, as in not-sinful and not evil
(ibid). And in the 1400’s it began to mean “pure.”  Most interesting to me is that innocence is
related to the word “noxious,” as in, “not-noxious
(nocere) (ibid).”  And of course, noxious, means “hurtful or poisonous.”
Lastly, the “nocere,” Latin roots are related to the Proto-Indo-European
“nek-ro,” which means, “death,” (necro
is a Greek word for “dead body”) (ibid). 

Many people
would say we are born innocent only to be corrupted by the world later on.  Interestingly, Swedenborg said that the
innocence of infancy is only the beginning; that it’s wonderful in itself; that
it’s a picture of spiritual innocence, but that it’s actually not complete
innocence (Arcana Celestia).  According
to Swedenborg, innocence involves “the willingness to be led,” and being in a
state of love and wisdom (ibid).  It is
something we grow into.  This is why
certain older folks are so delightfully child-like in their old age—they have
fused the wisdom of their experiences with love, they are consciously innocent,
one could say. 

takes this all even further, and says that the Divine, the Creator of All, is innocence (ibid).   It follows we couldn’t live without this innocence.  We receive innocence as infants; it is
planted within us; and this innocence remains within us forever, and, according
to Swedenborg, over time, becomes our “living soul (ibid).”  Without innocence we couldn’t grow spiritually
or discover heaven.  Heaven is, after all,
the Divine itself, and thus we could say heaven is innocence itself.

Keeping in
mind Swedenborg’s ideas, let’s go back to our etymology for a moment.  Some of us have things happen to us that are
traumatic, abusive, tragic, devastating. 
Some of these experiences seemingly destroy our sense of wonder, love,
self-love, self-worth, our ability to trust, our ability to experience joy or
pleasure, happiness or peace; some of us seemingly lose our sense of inner
freedom and confidence; we perpetuate the abuse by living in addictions and
shame-based behaviors that swirl  around
destructive and sick relationships for years. 
All of this would seem to suggest that innocence can be destroyed,
harmed, or even killed. 

I don’t
believe this is so.  Such tragic
experiences can cloud our “sense” of innocence; but the Divine innocence within
us can never be harmed, killed, or taken away—it’s Divine.  We may feel we are light-years away from our
innocence, but it is there.  Jesus said
in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these
little ones should perish.”  In other words,
our innocence never dies.  We may die
physically, emotionally, even mentally, but never spiritually—our innocence
never dies.  We may descend into personal
hells and deprivations and be unconscious spiritually, but our core, the very
center of our being—no matter how clouded, covered, or hidden, is always
shining, always whole, always radiantly innocent. 

So what do
we do if we feel our sense of innocence is lost? What do we do if we feel we are
in a state of unconsciousness spirituality; if we’re living a life of learned
helplessness, lost in addictions and fear, rage, and sickness?

We need to
wake up.  Something must rouse us awake:
a tragedy, an illness, a mentor, a moment of complete hopelessness and darkness;
something must rouse us into consciousness, into a moment of clarity, a moment
of realization. We might also wake up in a moment of profound bliss and
creativity—this does happen although it isn’t talked about as much.  But just as we wake up from a deep sleep by a
sudden and loud noise, or a dream that’s too intense, we wake from our sickness
by something “loud” happening to or around us, by our lives becoming so corrupt
we must wake up or die.  Leaving aside
for the moment how we wake up, or that the painful events are often caused by
our own destructive behaviors when we’re in such states, the main thing is we
need to wake up.  And just as we wake
from our physical sleep by outside forces we need outside forces to help us
wake spiritually—mentors and friends who know and truly care for us; who can
see the way ahead when we cannot yet do so for ourselves.

This need
for awakening magnifies the reality that innocence is ultimately
indestructible.  For without the spark of
innocence within us, we could not recognize the moment of clarity or the deeds
or words from our mentor that rouse us from our stupor.  We wake up because innocence recognizes
innocence, and a fire is born.

And just as
infants wake up and begin stretching, we need to begin stretching upon
experiencing our spiritual awakening.  We
need to exercise our mental discipline, our wills, our ability to follow
directions and be led by others.  As this
happens, our desire to engage in destructive behaviors falls away little by
little (or all at once); we begin to see that there are things we’ve done in this
world that we need to try to fix, mend, seek forgiveness for.  And the more we live in, and from, a state of
forgiveness, for ourselves and for the world, our innocence grows and our sense
of guiltiness lessons and the more we are able to be led by love—love from
within and love from without. The more we become right with ourselves and
continue making things right in the world, the more innocence, from wisdom and
love, blossoms.  The seeds are always
there within us, just as the Divine is always there present in every living
thing, and the Divine, as we’ve said, is
innocence.  So then, the answer as to how
to be reborn into conscious innocence is what it is for just about everything
else: Wake up.



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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

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