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Swedenborg's Affections

by Donald L. Rose

"The societies of heaven are not thoughts but affections, consequently to be led by means of these societies is to be led by means of affections, that is, to be led by means of affections is to be led by means of societies; and for this reason in what now follows the term affections will be used in place of societies." (AE 1175: 3)

The title of this address is "Swedenborg's Affections" or "Swedenborg's Feelings," but our subject is not the man, Emanuel Swedenborg. Our subject is the books of the Writings, and the affections of Swedenborg only as they are related to those books.

Taking a single book of the Writings, one might ask: "Why did Swedenborg write this one?" The general doctrine is that Swedenborg wrote by command, but a particular question like this might be answered in terms of Swedenborg's affections. Such an answer, if considered carefully, does not contradict the general doctrine. It infills our understanding of it. Take, for example, the book Earths in the Universe. On the basis of the opening paragraph one might say that Swedenborg was granted to learn of those from other earths for the simple reason that there was in him an ardent desire to know these things. "Quia desiderium mihi fuit. . . ." "Because I had a desire to know . . . ." Swedenborg was allowed to see and hear these things, and he was "permitted" to describe what he saw and heard.

Why did Swedenborg have the experiences that are recorded in the many Memorable Relations? Why, for example, was Swedenborg conducted to the heaven of those from the golden age? It is said that he felt a desire to go there, and prayed to the Lord, whereupon an angel guide was sent to him. * A person might say that the things recorded in the Writings are simply the results of Swedenborg's inclinations. A person might even say that Swedenborg wrote certain things just because he "felt like it." The book Brief Exposition is a striking example. The first paragraph has Swedenborg coming to a determination to present the doctrine, and thinking it advisable to produce this work before the True Christian Religion. Yet, if we say that this book was written merely because of Swedenborg's feelings, we could hardly account for the fact that its publication brought about beautiful changes to the heavens. This, indeed, was the very book upon which Swedenborg wrote the famous inscription. It was written by command. **

* CL 75.  ** Ecclesiastical History.

Obviously here we cannot regard the affections of Swedenborg in a superficial way. Especially must we bear in mind the emphatic and striking teaching that every affection contains vastly more than we observe. "There are myriads of myriads of particulars in every little affection." * An affection appears to man as only one thing and as relatively simple, and yet it contains within it innumerable things. ** There is, then, far more than meets the eye when we read in True Christian Religion: "On one occasion I had a strong desire to see . . . I was therefore conducted. . . ." *** Likewise, in Conjugial Love: "Once when meditating on conjugial love, my mind was seized with a desire to know. . . ." **** Similarly, in Apocalypse Revealed: "Because I was enkindled with the desire of hearing what they were saying. . . ." *****

* AC 2367, ** AC 3078, 545, 3189, 2543. *** TCR 185: 2. **** CL 75. ***** AR 961

If we are studying affections or feelings, we must also consider the teaching concerning their source. And this is one of the most remarkable declarations of the Writings. No affection or feeling is possible apart from the presence of angels and spirits. * All affections come from societies in the other world, ** so much so that the terms "affection" and "society" are interchangeable. *** Thus, this paper on affections in the Writings also has to do with the participation of societies of angels in the giving of the Writings. The heavens did take part in the granting of a new revelation.

* AC 2886, 4797, 4067 et alia. ** See HH 203. *** AE 1176: 3.

Swedenborg's inspiration required the presence of angelic societies. On one occasion it was said to him: "Rest a while; angel companions will be given you from the society next above them. Through these light will be given you by the Lord, and you will see marvels." * Elsewhere we read: "Presently, at the Lord's command, three angels descended from heaven and were associated with me, in order that I might speak from interior perception. . . . Then from an inspiration that came upon me I spoke . . . ." ** Inspiration, we are taught, is insertion into angelic societies. ***

* CL 231e. ** TCR 135: 3, 4. *** TCR 140.

Did the angels know that they were participating in the granting of Divine truth to mankind? It would appear that they did. A most beautiful illustration of this is the case of the married pair from the highest heaven, the wife being so beautiful that Swedenborg was dazzled and could only say that he saw conjugial love. The husband and wife were fully aware that they were, as it were, on display so that Swedenborg could write down what he saw in books that would be published and preserved for mankind. The relation begins with a voice like a trumpet in which the highest angels say that they know that conjugial love is not known on earth as to its origin and essence, but yet that it is important that it be known. "It has therefore pleased the Lord to open the heavens to you . . . . By permission given us we will therefore send down to you a married pair that you may see them." And as that pair descended they said: "Receive . . . what you are about to hear rationally, and so explain it to the understanding." * It was after this experience that an angel said to Swedenborg, "Write" (Scribe)." **

* CL 42. ** CL 43.

One notices the feelings of the angels themselves, as, for example, when it is said that "a zeal from the love of truth came over them, and from this they spoke as follows. . . ." * Was not this zeal due to the presence of more interior societies? "No one, whoever he may be, whether man, spirit or angel, can will or think from himself but from others. Nor can these others will or think from themselves but all again from others, and so on; and thus each one from the First of life, which is the Lord." ** When a bird is seen in heaven, it is a representation of the presence of an angelic affection. *** What of those occasions, then, when Swedenborg is describing the deepest things concerning conjugial love and an indication is given by a dove? By its moaning or the stirring of its wings, the dove indicates if more is to be revealed. **** Did the dove not represent the affections of higher societies of angels who were concerned with the granting of the revelation?

* CL 132: 6. ** AC 2886. *** See DLW 344; AE 1212. **** CL 155:4, 208: 4, 5.

One of the functions of the Memorable Relations is to enable us to see how the Lord granted the new revelation. To illustrate this I would like to present excerpts from a series of ten consecutive numbers in Conjugial Love. Let these serve as an example of the employment of societies or affections in the granting of the revelation. In pondering them we may consider that remarkable heading in the Divine Providence: "By means of His Divine Providence the Lord collects the affections of the whole human race into one form, which is the human form." * We may consider that thoughts and affections are dependent on innumerable societies "disposed and set in order by the Lord." ** In the Memorable Relations it is sometimes almost as if we can see the gathering and disposing of affections taking place.

* DP 201. ** AC 4067: 2.

The ten consecutive numbers are nos. 261 to 270. Sometimes only parts of sentences will be quoted, and a great deal will be omitted, the purpose being to note the phrases pertinent to the theme.

"Once, after meditating on heaven and hell, I began to desire a universal knowledge of the state of each. . . . While in this desire, I looked toward. . . ." [Swedenborg was met by angels who said]: "`If we look towards the east to the Lord we shall be enlightened and shall know.' . . . When they had said this, I wished them peace, and leaving them returned home. On reaching home, it was said to me from heaven, 'Examine those three universals both those above and those below, and afterwards we shall see them in your hand.'" (261)

"While meditating on this, it was said to me by the Lord through an angel, 'You shall now see the nature of that infernal love, and seeing, you will be confirmed. Then suddenly. . . ." (263)

"After witnessing these sad and frightful scenes, I looked around and saw two angels standing not far from me and talking together." "I respectfully asked, 'Why are you here below?' They replied, We have been sent here from, heaven by command of the Lord, to speak with you.' ... Saying this, the two angels departed, and at a distance they appeared to be carried like Elijah in a chariot of fire and taken up into their heaven." (266)

"Some time later I entered a grove and while walking there in meditation ... I saw at some distance from me two angels conversing together and every now and then looking at me. Therefore I went nearer to them, and as I was approaching, they spoke to me and said, 'We perceive within us that you are meditating on the subject of which we are speaking, or that we are speaking of the subject on which you are meditating; this comes from a reciprocal communication of affections.'" (267) (Note here that this communication has been brought about in a wonderful way, and note that the next quotation may be considered the key passage in this study.)

"After this, the two angels and also I myself were seized with the desire to see those and we perceived that this desire was inspired in us to the end that they might be made known." (268)

"While in deep thought concerning this, lo, I saw two swans . . . directing my attention to them I saw. . . . As I was looking at this, an angel stood by my side and said, 'Do you understand these sights?' I replied 'Partly.' He then said . . . . On hearing this, being kindled with a desire to see the palace I asked whether . . . it was granted to any one to enter in and view it." "After saying this he wished to recount still further particulars concerning conjugial love on the basis of its effigies in that palace, but he said: 'Enough for the present. Inquire first whether these things are above common understanding. If they are, why more? but if not more will be disclosed.'" (270) (Note that the angel is aware that the purpose of this whole conversation is that the things may be revealed.)

What of the actual writing of these things? It seems that it is actually said only once that the things written in a Memorable Relation "were recalled to memory by an angel and so described." * And yet there are other times when we can easily envisage the angelic presence, as when Swedenborg's heart exulted, and he went home in joy to write what had been seen and heard. **

* CL 73e. ** CL 81e.

Swedenborg's Preparation

Why did Swedenborg as a young man study the sciences? The answer is that he was so disposed, or, less elegantly, "because he felt like it." What other answer could be given? And yet, in later life he wrote in a letter: "I was introduced by the Lord first into the natural sciences, and thus prepared. . . ." * And once he wrote: "I could at last plainly see that the tenor of the Divine Providence has ruled the acts of my life from my very youth, and has so governed them that I might finally come to the present end . . . . " ** Swedenborg was led by means of his feelings or affections into the sciences, for the Lord leads man "by means of affections and not by means of thoughts." ***

* Docu. II: 257. ** WE 2532. *** AE 1175: 3.

This brings us to a problem. If Swedenborg was being led by the Lord before the Writings were given, then was not everything he wrote Divinely inspired? Could Swedenborg ever be mistaken? Of course he could! He was not the only man led by the Lord. Every child is led by the Lord into knowledges, and this because of the presence of certain societies. "The Lord leads everyone by means of his affections and thus bends him by a tacit providence." * We are led unconsciously; are we therefore infallible? No. Some of our affections come from evil spirits. And did Swedenborg have evil spirits with him? Yes. Could they bring him into errors? Yes.

* AC 4364: 2.

Note the following from Divine Providence. "I was told from heaven that, like others, I believed that I thought and that I willed from myself, yet in fact nothing was from myself, but if good it was from the Lord, and if evil it was from hell." * Would evil spirits be able to infuse falsities into Swedenborg's mind? We read of evil spirits "who entered into my affections, not wishing to enter my thoughts - these they avoided; and they varied my affections one after another for the purpose of bending them insensibly into their opposites, which are lusts of evil; and as they did not touch my thoughts they would have bent and inverted the affections without my knowledge if the Lord had not prevented it." **

* DP 290. ** DP 310: 4.

A man could be so influenced and never know it. "One spirit can infuse his thoughts and affections into another spirit, and the latter be unaware that it is not a part of his own thought and affection. . . . I have seen this a thousand times. . . . But as soon as they knew that another had introduced these thoughts and affections they were indignant and turned themselves away. . . ." * And what of Swedenborg when he was writing the Writings? The passage continues: "To this I will add my own daily experience. Evil spirits have often infused into my thoughts evils and falsities which appeared to be in me and from me, that is, as if I myself thought them; but as I knew them to be evils and falsities I tried to discover who had infused them, and they who did so were detected and driven away." **

* DP 312: 3. ** DP 313e.

It was eventually granted to Swedenborg to perceive and feel the effect of spirits, "and thereafter as soon as any evil glided into my will or any falsity into my thought, I inquired into its source, and this was disclosed to me, and I was permitted to speak with those from whom it came, to reprove them, and to compel them to withdraw, and thus to take back their evil and their falsity and to keep them to themselves, and no longer infuse any such thing into my thought. This I have done a thousand times; and I have now continued in this state for several years, and continue in it still." * This was written in 1763. It is one of the indications of the difference in Swedenborg's state when he wrote the Writings from his state when he wrote books previous to this.

* DP 290.

Could Swedenborg make errors before he wrote the Writings? Yes, and in a way the influence of evil spirits in earlier writing prepared him for the unique state he enjoyed when writing the Writings. Take, for example, the monumental work the "Adversaria" or Word Explained. Notice two things about this work. 1) Swedenborg was tempted in the course of writing it. 2) The work goes virtually through the whole of the Word.

To go through the whole Word in this case, was, as it were, to pass through all the societies of heaven. Part of the preparation in the years just before the Writings were written was to read the Word through several times. Each verse may be said to communicate with some society of heaven "and thus the whole Word with the universal heaven." * Swedenborg's temptations while writing the Word Explained were directly related to the very things he was treating of in the Word. But he resisted the spirits. "It was indeed left to me to resist, and to turn in another direction, away from their leading, but this was because the means were given me by the Messiah." ** To resist in this way brings about introduction into specific societies of angels, and establishes an association with these societies which endures. ***

* See SS 113. ** WE 1149. *** See AC 6611.

While Swedenborg was assaulted by evil spirits "badly written and erroneous things" could creep in. * Occasionally in the Word Explained "truths have been mixed with things not true." ** Some of the things were doubtful and in need of emendation. *** Sometimes Swedenborg wrote under the control of spirits, and this was no delight to him, because he did not know whether what he was writing was true. He once said that he could not write with affection. He could not write with the happy feeling of serving the Lord. **** He was terribly distressed sometimes during his months of labor on this work and at one point said: "Up to now the labor has been in vain." *****

* SD 2372. ** WE 4477. *** WE 475, 1530. **** WE 4477. ***** WE 2755-2758.

The labor was not in vain. He was brought into permanent associations with angelic societies, so that when he came to write the Arcana Coelestia and evil spirits injected falsities "then angels from the Lord kept me in the truths which had been implanted and thus withheld me from evils and falsities." * Swedenborg could descend into the hells in safety, ** and was immune to the falsities which spirits endeavored to introduce. "I have sometimes been surrounded by thousands to whom it was permitted to spit forth their venom, and infest me by all possible methods, yet without their being able to hurt a single hair of my head, so secure was I under the Lord's protection." ***

* AC 5893. ** AC 699. *** AC 59: 2.

Swedenborg had been repeatedly allowed to feel the difference when light was given, taken away, diminished and moderated as he wrote. * He actually came to a state of certain knowledge of the source of what came to him, so much so, he testifies, "that I could not be mistaken." ** He could confidently declare that only what had come from the Lord Himself had been written. *** In the event of any conversation, representation or vision, he was kept interiorly by the Lord in a state of reflection upon it. "Thus have I been instructed, consequently by no spirit, nor by any angel, but by the Lord alone, from whom is all truth." **** Even when he seemed to learn from spirits, it was still from the Lord, for the spirits were constrained to speak. *****

* See AC 6608. ** AC 6600. *** AE 1183: 2. **** SD 1647, ***** SD 4034. See TCR 487; AR 962.

It may appear that the things that take place in Memorable Relations are haphazard conversations and occurrence. The truth is that there was a leading in every step and every detail. "It was of the Divine auspices of the Lord that I came to these houses, and that they then deliberated concerning these things; and that it took place as it is described." Societies of angels could participate in bringing this to pass, because it is of the nature of angels to insinuate affections and to lead "not whither they will, but whither it pleases the Lord." * While spirits dared not to instruct Swedenborg, the angels did not wish to do so. ** They participated with delight when it was the will of the Lord, and to be commanded was virtually the same thing as to be allowed. ***

* AR 484. ** AC 2890.
*** While Swedenborg was permitted to describe what he saw, he also testifies:
 "I must from command, relate what has been seen" (BE 120).

When Swedenborg was asked why he wrote "servant of the Lord Jesus Christ" on True Christian Religion, he replied that he had received not only permission, but also an express command. * One may say that Swedenborg wrote because he wanted to, because it is true that he wanted nothing more. But he wrote "by command of the Lord." ** We are aware of his affections as we read the Writings, but we are aware of the source of those affections. He could write with affection, because he knew he wrote the truth. Once he declared with emphasis and with perfect conviction, "I know for certain that what I write is the living truth of God." ***

* Docu. II: 483. ** Lord. Preface. *** Docu. II: 404, 405.



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Swedenborg's Affections, by Donald L. Rose, 1965

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