The Spiritual World, June 19th, 1770
by Ormond DeCharms Odhner
The 19th of June is celebrated as the birthday of the New Church because the Writings teach that the church on earth descends from the church in heaven, and because they teach also that in the year 1770 the Lord called together in the spiritual world the twelve disciples who had followed Him on earth, instructed them in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, and sent them out to preach that doctrine throughout the spiritual world. This He did on the 19th day of June.
At the end of the True Christian Religion, the last theological work published by Swedenborg, we read: "After this work was finished, the; Lord called together His twelve disciples, who followed Him in the world, and the next day He sent them all out into the whole spiritual world, to preach the Gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose reign will be for ages of ages, according to the prediction in Daniel and in Revelation; . . . and that they are blessed who come to the marriage supper of the Lamb. This was done on the 19th day of June; in the year 1770" (TCR 791).
Apparently this took place after the completion of the first draft of the True Christian Religion, for references to it are found in two other places in the published work. Thus, at number 4, we read: "It is a noteworthy fact that some months ago the Lord called together His twelve disciples, now angels, and sent them forth throughout the spiritual world with the command to preach the Gospel there anew, since the church that was established by the Lord through them has at this day become so far consummated that scarcely a remnant of it survives." 277 And at number 108, we read: "To show that the Divine Trinity is united in the Lord is the chief object of this work some months ago the twelve disciples were called together by the Lord, and were sent forth through the whole spiritual world, as they formerly were through the natural world, with the command to preach this Gospel; and to each apostle was assigned a particular province; and this command they are executing with great zeal and industry."
The apostles, then, were sent out by the Lord to promulgate the true theology and religion of the New Church throughout the spiritual world, on June 19th, 1770; and since the church on earth is said to descend from the church in heaven, we celebrate the 19th of June as the natal day of our Church.
We believe, however, that if we would really comprehend the meaning of these events there is one particular Divine truth we must ever hold in mind in considering them. This is the teaching that the spiritual world rests upon the natural, that the heavens rest upon men, that the church in heaven rests upon the church on earth, as does the mind upon the body, thought in speech, and will in act.
Hence, if the church on earth be pure, heaven is in a state of integrity, the angels are wise and happy, and the hells are in order. But if the church on earth be perverted, hell breaks loose, swarms through the world of spirits, and attacks the foundations of the heavens, the angels lose their wisdom and happiness, and influx from the Lord through the heavens to men begins to fail. Again it is as with mind and body. If the body be healthy, the mind may exist in a state of perfection; if, however, the body be diseased and long remain diseased, first, the mind cannot carry out its thoughts and desires; and second, it begins to become unsound as poisons infest the system. With this in mind, that the state of the heavens depends upon the state of the church on earth, let us investigate the conditions in the spiritual world which led up to the events of the 19th day of June, 1770.
When men first began to enter the spiritual world, there was no distinction into heaven, the world of spirits, and hell. There was simply one state into which everyone went, there to receive the blessings of God's love. As the Most Ancient Church increased, this state became the more happy and blessed. But when that church began to fall, evil spirits began to enter this after-death state and pervert it. Eventually, at the end of that church, this state became more hell than heaven. Evil men gained control of the good, and at last influx from the Lord through that state to men was shut off.
The Lord then brought upon this after-death state a spiritual judgment, represented in the Word by the Flood. He separated the evil from the good and confined them into a hell. 278 The good were formed by the Lord into a heaven. And a great gulf, the world of spirits, was fixed between the two.
After the Flood a similar thing occurred. As the Ancient Church deteriorated, and more evil men than good entered the world of spirits, the evil again seized control of that world, lording it over the good. When this new evil condition reached its height-when, once again, influx from God to man was shut off-the Lord came into the world, broke the power of the evil over the good, separated the evil into a new hell and formed the good into a new heaven. And once again, a great gulf, the world of spirits, was fixed between the two heavens on the one side and the two hells on the other.
Into this world of spirits went all those from earth who died after the Lord's advent. At first the majority of them were good, and that world was as a heaven. But gradually the Christian Church deteriorated, more evil men than good went into that world, the evil again seized control over the good, and by the year 1757 influx from God through the heavens to men was again shut off.
Now in order for any man to go to heaven, he must first have learned pure and genuine truths from the Word itself, and have made them his own through spiritual temptations At first Christians could do this, and so could be regenerated either here on earth or immediately after death. But when the church divided the Trinity into three persons, and when from a love of dominion it further perverted the Word, its members could not be regenerated because they could not find truths sufficiently pure to uphold them in spiritual temptations.
The Writings therefore teach that since the year 325 no one in the Christian Church has undergone any spiritual temptations Millions of them, of course, were saved; but they did not enter heaven until after the Last Judgment of 1757, when pure truths from the Word were again taught them. Until that time, evil men who feigned a Christian life ruled over the great masses of spirits in the world of spirits, enslaving them and teaching them falsity instead of truth, even as they had done on earth. Those who had been regenerated before the decline of the Christian Church were hidden away by the Lord; those who were externally as well as internally evil were also separated from the rest. But the great mass of spirits were ruled by hypocritical priests and leaders, who kept them from going to heaven and thus also kept themselves out of hell.
It may be wondered why the Lord permitted this terrible condition to continue so long. Let us, therefore, see why. First, as the church on earth is corrupted, heaven begins to lose its integrity But the effect is first felt in the world of spirits. 279 Hypocrites entering there from the world establish themselves in power over the undiscerning, simple good; they set up for themselves imaginary heavens, and prevent the processes of judgment from being carried out. And they were permitted to do this until influx through heaven to man was almost choked off.
It is our firm belief, however, that it is the laity of the church rather than the clergy who are primarily responsible for this clogged-up condition of the world of spirits. Priests interiorly evil but externally good will quickly be judged to hell after death, under normal circumstances. But when the laity also sins, in a certain particular way, all is over. Hypocritical priests will ever be judged to hell, until the day when the laity, like ignorant sheep, sit and smugly nod their heads in agreement with whatever the pope or cardinal or priest has to say; until the day when the laity becomes enamored of the personality of a priest rather than his use; until the day when the laity, through its own fault ignorant of the teachings of the Word, cares not much what the priest teaches, as long as it can bask in the reflected glory of his brilliant oratory, suave manners and witty repartee.
Just this sin was committed by the Christian laity in its early days. Just this clogged up the world of spirits and gave hypocritical priests control of the simple good. For this vain adulation of personality, this friendship of love, continues after death. The simple good refuse to let their demi-god priest be judged to hell. And lest their sensibilities be eternally injured, the Lord lets these priests and leaders remain to rule over the simple good for ages of ages, until their evils become apparent.
A striking example of this is directly associated with the 19th of June. Arius, an early Alexandrian priest, apparently just for the sake of an argument, one day denied the Divinity of Christ in a conversation with his bishop. Arius could have been squelched with ease. But Arius had a most pleasing personality; Arius was a most popular priest. History records that "seven hundred virgins," many of them rich spinsters, hung on his every word. What started out as a foolish argument suddenly split the Alexandrian Church, for those seven hundred virgins would not let their darling Arius be downed in anything. The controversy spread all over the Catholic Church, splitting it in two. Doctrinal logic seemed to favor Arius, but his position would have destroyed Catholic power, for if Christ were not Divine, then He could not have given Peter, and his successors, the keys to the kingdom. Constantine, the Roman Emperor who had just joined Christianity and was now supported by it, saw this huge block of his supporters about to crumble. To bring the Church back together, he immediately summoned the Nicean Council-that Council which brought an end to true Christianity by dividing the Trinity into three Persons, in order to refute the teachings of Arius. 280 And the first session of the nefarious Council opened in the year 325 on the 19th day of June.
Thus, when the Christian clergy turned from truth to falsity, and when the Christian laity committed the sin of becoming so enamoured of the personalities of their priests that they would not let them be judged to hell after death, then, once again, the world of spirits became filled with evil men feigning innocence And the Lord permitted this condition to continue so long because He would not injure the sensibilities of the simple good, who, sheep-like, followed their hypocritical leaders. And, again, He permitted it, for a heaven is an immense place: myriads of uses are performed in each heaven, and because there were so few good spirits to perform them, the Lord let evil men who pretended to be good continue in power in the world of spirits, until at last there were enough good spirits from Christianity to perform them.
When, however, evil had openly reached its height in the world of spirits, and when also there were finally enough good spirits to perform all the uses of a new heaven, the Lord brought an end to this state of affairs. Judgment was rendered. The evil were sent into hell, the good were formed into a new heaven. And this was effected through the revelation to men on earth of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem.
In the year 1756 the last volume of the Arcana Coelestia had been published in London. Genuine truth had again been revealed to men. At least one man had accepted it, and probably others had rejected it. A true church on earth had begun. And what happened in the spiritual world as a result of this is amazing, almost beyond belief. Once again the church in heaven had a suitable foundation on earth. Judgment between good and evil could again take place in the ultimate world, and hence also judgment could again take place in the world of spirits. Spirits again could be given discernment between truth and falsity. The simple good in that world could at last gain truths sufficient to sustain them in overthrowing their hypocritical leaders. Judgment began. The world of spirits was literally turned upside down.
Yet this did not happen all in a day. Coincident with the publication of the volumes of the Arcana, premonitory shudders of judgment had shaken the world of spirits. Storm clouds gathered over the imaginary heavens. Angels appeared and exhorted the simple good to leave their hypocritical priests Minor earth tremors leveled a few cities to the very ground.
Then, in the late fall of 1756, the real judgment, in all its ferocity, began on the Catholics. 281 Earthquakes, fires, tidal waves and hurricanes smashed the great cities, the magnificent palaces and churches, the Papists had built. Mountains sank in at the top, turned into whirlpools, dragged screaming multitudes down into hell. Typhoons from the East snatched up whole cities and all their inhabitants, and cast them into fetid seas. And by January 6th, 1757, the imaginary heavens of the Catholics were no more.
On this earth Swedenborg was drawing out books of doctrine from the Arcana. Heaven and Hell was ready for the press. The Last Judgment on the Reformed churches began, a judgment of equal terror, and by the middle of April, 1757, the Protestant imaginary heavens had sunk into hell. The world of spirits was cleared of those hypocrites who had been permitted to hold power because they feigned a Christian life. The evil were sent into hell. Those fully regenerate spirits whom the Lord had hidden away at last were set free.
But still a new heaven could not be formed. The simple good who had so long been ruled by hypocrites, and other spirits also who had not yet undergone spiritual temptations, all needed instruction in the genuine truths of the Word that they might withstand the assaults the hells were about to make upon them. And in the years between 1757 and 1770 they underwent these assaults, these spiritual temptations, as new truths were given them, coincident with Swedenborg's publication of the books containing the formally organized doctrines of the New Church-books such as the Divine Providence and Conjugial Love.
But here it should also be noted that men on earth were beginning to accept the doctrines of the New Church. Drs. Beyer and Rosen were being persecuted, in Gottenburg, for their belief in the so-called "Swedenborgian heresies."
We come now to the year 1770, when, it would seem, our spirit friends had at last conquered in their spiritual temptations; they had reached that state of peace which always follows temptation, and were ready to receive that fuller instruction in the truths of the Word which every man receives following victory in spiritual temptation-that fuller instruction which would enable them to live to eternity as angels in heaven.
And so, in the year 1770, on the 18th day of June, the Lord called together the twelve disciples and instructed them in the doctrines of the New Church-in the particular truths of the internal sense of those two statements of truth that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns to eternity, and that those are blessed who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The next day, June 19th, He sent forth these apostles of His new revelation throughout the universal spiritual world, to preach these doctrines-these doctrines that the Lord is the one only God of heaven and earth, and that those are saved who shun evils as sins against Him-exactly the same doctrines which are contained everywhere in the Writings. 282 Each apostle was assigned a particular province of that world to evangelize, and this task, it is written, they are now performing with zeal and energy.
It may seem strange that it was necessary to preach these two fundamental truths in the spiritual world. Surely, no one could have gone into heaven unless he already believed that the Lord is the only God and that evils are to be shunned as sins against Him. But that is just the point! Hardly anyone had gone into heaven since the Lord's advent. They were detained in the world of spirits, midway between heaven and hell. They had not yet been formed into a heaven.
When the Christian Church was still pure, and good men were entering the world of spirits from it, this was as a heaven. But when that church declined, and more evil than good entered that world, it at length became as a hell; for those Christians entering it no longer worshiped the Lord as the one only God of heaven and earth, no longer shunned evils as sins against him. And as conditions in that world further deteriorated, blocking influx from heaven to men, no one on earth could undergo spiritual temptations. Thus, since everyone who goes to heaven must undergo spiritual temptations, no one did go to heaven.
No one was fully regenerated. The few good people in that world, the fully regenerate, were hidden away by the Lord. The others, the vast majority-even though they were fundamentally good and desired heaven, and eventually entered heaven-these Christian millions had no truths from the Word sufficiently pure to make possible their full regeneration. They did not understand clearly how the Lord is the one only God; they did not know what really is meant by shunning evils as sins against Him. And their hypocritical leaders saw to it that they remained in ignorance, for only this state of ignorance enabled them to retain their power. Nowhere in the world of spirits was there one to teach the genuine truths of the Word, according to which alone can there be entrance into heaven; and as a result, Christians and gentiles both remained for ages under the rule of the hypocrites, even as for longer ages Christians and gentiles on earth have remained in churches unable to teach them true theology.
It was, then, after the Last Judgment was over, and after the spirit
multitude had been strengthened in genuine truths and had made them their own
through spiritual temptations, at last reaching a state of peace sufficiently
pure to enable them to be fully instructed, that the twelve disciples were sent
out by the Lord to teach in fulness the same truths revealed to men in the
Apparently they remained together after death, for we are told that they all decided to separate Paul from their numbers, because Paul cantankerously insisted that he, not Peter, should have the keys to the gates of heaven. (Peter, said Paul, was an ignorant person without a whit of spiritual understanding.) They continued to misunderstand the Lord's teaching, still wishing to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Because of this, they were often remitted into their earthly state, that of uneducated fishermen, and in it they were frequently incited by trouble-making evil spirits to proclaim their deep belief that no one could enter heaven unless he, like the disciples, had died a martyr's death. Again, throughout all the centuries before 1770, they remained disappointed that the Lord had not made His second coming in their generation, as they thought He had promised. They were pestered to boredom by Christian spirits who wished to see these twelve founders of the Church-pestered so much that at last other spirits were employed to impersonate them. And yet, though many desired to see them, the twelve did not live in any exalted positions; myriads of others were more respected and honored than they.
Why, then, did the Lord choose these twelve rather simple men to evangelize the universal spiritual world to His second advent? Although they were simple and not yet fully regenerate, they had been very helpful to Swedenborg when he was writing the Heavenly Doctrine. He met them often, and they affirmed that the Lord he wrote of was the same Lord and Savior they had seen, followed, and believed here on earth. Again, they affirmed that the truths Swedenborg was writing were one with the genuine doctrine the Lord Himself taught on earth. But undoubtedly the main reason they were chosen as the spiritual evangelists of the new revelation was that they on earth had seen and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ-because they on earth had accepted His teachings, albeit in the simple way alone possible to them, and hence their faith was founded in the very ultimates of their brains.
Many have theorized over the reasons that they, individually, have been brought into the Lord's New Church, why they have been so chosen out of many. To avoid falling into conceit, it has been commonly concluded that we are in the New Church because, intrinsically, we are worse than others, and could not be saved without the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine. 284 There may be some truth in this, although it does seem strange that the Lord would choose the worst people on earth to found the church among men. There may, however, be some truth in it; but it must be tempered with the understanding that no one from any of all the earths in the universe can now be saved without the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine. If they do not accept them on earth, they must accept them after death, before they can enter heaven.
This suggests that there may be another reason why the Lord has brought us into the New Church. The apostles were chosen to evangelize the spiritual world on that June 19th, 1770, because they on earth had accepted the Lord. A faith accepted on earth has more firmness, more strength, than a faith accepted after death, though both lead to salvation. This is indicated by the teaching that those who die as infants enter heaven equally as those who die as adults, but must always depend on those who die as adults for certain basic sense-impressions which they lack. And it is confirmed by the teaching that that which a man really believes on earth actually changes the form of his brain and thus of the limbus, which for evermore contains his spirit. And it is easy to imagine that such a change was wrought in the disciples when, on earth, they at length realized that they were seeing the one and only God.
If, then, the disciples were chosen because they had accepted the Lord on earth; and if a faith acquired on earth is firmer than a faith acquired after death, it may follow that the Lord has chosen us to receive His new revelation on earth because we are of a genius peculiarly adapted to spreading this doctrine to others after death. Is not such strength and firmness necessary that one may be a good teacher? Why else would a geography teacher wish to see with his own eyes the lands concerning which he teaches!
The New Church, we are taught, will increase on earth according to its increase in the world of spirits. (Note that it is said "in the world of spirits," not "in heaven.") In that world today there are still millions waiting to be given the Heavenly Doctrine, waiting for teachers to teach them these truths, that they may enter the New Heaven.
Is it not possible that the Lord has chosen us for this use? We may not go about as active preachers and teachers, but each of us in his own individual way can help others to come into possession of these truths through which alone they can enter the New Heaven that is founded on the belief that the Lord is the one only God of heaven and earth, and that those go to heaven who shun evils as sins against Him.
But if this is the use for which the Lord has chosen us, and it seems more than likely, then our duty is clear. That one may be an apostle, he must first be a disciple. That one may be a teacher, he must first be a student. 285 To lead others to the truths of the New Church we must first know what those truths are. We must know the particular tenets of faith involved in those two teachings of the twelve apostles on that 19th day of June in 1770, that the Lord God Jesus Christ doth reign, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages, and that those are blessed who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.