206. Who have a stronger belief that their eyes are open, and that as God they know what is good and evil, than those who love themselves, and at the same time excel in worldly learning? And yet who are more blind? Only question them, and it will be seen that they do not even know, much less believe in, the existence of spirit; with the nature of spiritual and celestial life they are utterly unacquainted; they do not acknowledge an eternal life; for they believe themselves to be like the brutes which perish; neither do they acknowledge the Lord, but worship only themselves and nature. Those among them who wish to be guarded in their expressions, say that a certain Supreme Existence [Ens] of the nature of which they are ignorant, rules all things. These are the principles in which they confirm themselves in many ways by things of sense and of memory-knowledge, and if they dared, they would do the same before all the universe. Although such persons desire to be regarded as gods, or as the wisest of men, if they were asked whether they know what it is not to have anything of their own, they would answer that it is to have no existence, and that if they were deprived of everything that is their own, they would be nothing. If they are asked what it is to live from the Lord, they think it a phantasy. If asked whether they know what conscience is, they would say it is a mere creature of the imagination, which may be of service in keeping the vulgar under restraint. If asked whether they know what perception is, they would merely laugh at it and call it enthusiastic rubbish. Such is their wisdom, such "open eyes" have they, and such "gods" are they. Principles like these, which they think clearer than the day, they make their starting-point, and so continue on, and in this way reason about the mysteries of faith; and what can be the result but an abyss of darkness? These above all others are the "serpents" who seduce the world. But this posterity of the Most Ancient Church was not as yet of such a character. That which became such is treated of from verse 14 to verse 19 of this chapter.