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Some Similarities and Dissimilarities
between the Spiritual and Natural Worlds

by L.M. Houghton

The intense preoccupation with natural phenomena which marks the present age contrasts strangely with the complete indifference shown towards spiritual things. At no previous time in history have so much effort and treasure been expended in discovering the laws of the natural universe - a task which has barely yet begun. Yet the darkest ignorance prevails in the theater of spiritual truth. This must give reason for deep concern to those who are privileged to know a little of that truth, for how can a world whose ideas about life are so totally unbalanced function either efficiently or happily as a human integration of souls? "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" This question, asked by the Lord, sums up the situation completely, and it is one which has become both urgent and desperate by virtue of the ever-increasing power over natural forces which man is gaining from his investigations. Such power over both nature and man imposes a heavy responsibility on the moral and spiritual levels , and one cannot help wondering whether the spiritual resources for the wielding of such power exist at present.

The purpose of this paper, however, is not to pursue an involved philosophical argument, but to comment briefly and, the writer hopes, usefully upon the many links which exist between the spiritual and natural universes. The term, link, is really a misnomer because, in fact, the two universes are completely one and indivisible. The one requires the other to complete itself. The natural exists from the spiritual, and the spiritual subsists upon the natural as its theater of uses, and both derive their life from the Creator Himself. Yet to say, link, is not entirely inaccurate either, because to our perception that is how it appears. We see a contact here and there, if we have eyes that see. A lovely flower must remind us sometimes that there must be more to it than the materials of which it is made. Einstein stated categorically that a universe without Mind was to him a contradiction in terms. But to those in the New Church these speculations are no longer speculations; they are facts. The wonderful revelation provided through Swedenborg from the Lord has marked a supreme turning point in the history of mankind, whether man knows it or not; and in this revelation is contained the answer to all these probings - or as much of it as can reasonably be communicated to human minds still in the flesh. We shall now look at some of the links between the spiritual and natural universes which the Writings of the New Church reveal to us.

The first one must surely be the enormous size of both universes. How can one possibly assess the unmeasureable? Every year some new astronomical fact increases our awe at the unthinkable gulfs of space which separate planet from planet, galaxy from galaxy, nebula from nebula. One example will suffice. Our own galaxy, comprising all the stars and planets in this particular corner of space, resembles a convex lens, and it would take a beam of light approximately 100,000 years to cross from one side of the disc to the other. To cross the disc from top to bottom would take about 20,000 years. Yet between different galaxies extend distances which dwarf these distances as miles dwarf inches. Such measurements cease to be matters for mental grasp except in an abstract sense. From this we may form some general concept of the infinity of God which is displayed in His amazing universes. For if the natural universe is of immense proportions, so is the spiritual; and we are told that no matter how many spirits become angels through the eons to come, there will always be more than enough room for them. But space itself, while it may seem to be the same in both worlds, differs radically in nature. The Writings state: "All things in heaven appear in place and in space exactly as they do in the world, and yet angels have no notion or idea of place and space." [HH 191]

Swedenborg continues to observe that this must seem a paradox, and explains that this is due to the totally different nature of the spiritual world. To understand this it is necessary to return to the process of creation and the manner in which it was carried out. We learn from such works as the Principia and the Infinite and the Final Cause of Creation that the mode of creation was by successive spheres, resembling spiritual atmospheres in certain respects, and each more coarse than the preceding one. They were contiguous, yet different in quality, and each contained within it the Creator's life-force by influx from Him through the spheres above it. This series of created envelopes proceeded down to the material level, and at that point a further finiting of the Divine energy took place with the introduction of a discrete degree between the final sphere and the one above it. This discrete degree was like a solid wall interposed between the lowest spiritual degree and the natural degree. Thus an appearance of separation between the two universes arose, such as we see now, with no obvious point of contact, materially considered. Yet this separation is illusory, because, as shown already, the spiritual and natural universes are intimately connected by influx from the Lord through the operation of the law of correspondences. We read:

"God is love itself and wisdom itself; the affections of His love are infinite, and also the perceptions of His wisdom, of which all things on earth, in general and in particular, are correspondences. This is the origin of all birds, beasts, trees, shrubs, corn, grain, herbs and grass. For God is in space everywhere, apart from space, and consequently everywhere in the universe, from first to last; and since He is omnipresent, such correspondences of the affections of His love and wisdom exist throughout the whole natural world; and in our world, which is called the spiritual world, similar correspondences exist with all those who receive affections and perceptions from God. The only difference is that in our world such things are created in a moment by God, according to the affections of the angels; whereas in your world they were similarly created in the beginning, but as it was provided that they should be renewed perpetually by propagation of one from another, creation has thus been continued. The reason creation takes place in a moment in our world, and becomes in yours permanent by propagation, is that the atmospheres and soils of our world are spiritual, and those of your world natural." [TCR 78]

This explanation was given by angels, and in another number we are told the important and revealing fact that "this spiritual universe cannot exist without a natural universe in which it may work out its effects and uses." [TCR 76]

The key to the essential differences between the two universes lies in the atmospheres by means of which both were created. It is not our province here to discuss creation itself, which would in any case absorb too much time, but to consider the ways it operates upon the spiritual and natural levels. It can be established that matter itself is constantly under the most intimate control of the spirit, in general terms. We have, for example, many instances in the Lord's lifetime, as when He produced food enough to feed several thousand people out of a mere handful of loaves and fishes. This incredible feat was performed through perfectly orderly channels.

We began by considering space, a subject much to the front in public interest these days, and it is at once obvious that our view of it differs greatly from the attitude of the angels. To us it has a kind of fixed immensity, with measurable dimensions, at any rate within the range of our greatest telescopes. But in heaven the view of it is entirely different. There is space in heaven indeed, but its limits are established, not by the interaction of magnetic attraction and of centrifugal force upon celestial bodies, but by the inner states of the angels themselves. To those in the lower heavens, the angelic societies of the higher heavens appear as stars and constellations in the sky. This appearance is as real to them as though it were seen in this world; yet the barriers to communication are less formidable, and space can be annihilated by a change of state which enables two angels in completely different parts of the spiritual world to meet almost immediately, for whatever purpose, and then return again.

During Swedenborg's spiritual ministry he frequently referred to being let into this or that state for the purpose of communication with angels, spirits or devils. This is well illustrated in the following:

"All changes of place in the spiritual world are effected by changes of the state of the interiors, so that change of place is nothing else than change of state. In this way also I have been led by the Lord into the heavens, and likewise to earths in the universe; this being effected as to my spirit, my body remaining in the same place. All the angels move in this manner, and hence they have no distances; and since they have no distances they have no spaces, but instead of them states and their changes.

"As changes of place are made in this way it is evident that approximations are similarities of the state of the interiors and that removals are dissimilarities. Hence it is that they are near to each other who are in similar states, and distant who are in dissimilar states; and that spaces in heaven are merely external states corresponding to internal. From this cause alone the heavens are distinct from one another, and also the societies of each heaven, and the individuals of each society. This also is why the hells are entirely separated from the heavens for they are in a contrary state." [HH 192]

This illustrates a close connection between the bodies of spirits and the ambient spiritual atmospheres, for we read that angels fly through the air as well as walk on the ground, according to their preference. [See TCR 692] No doubt there are times when spirits, like us, prefer to walk to enjoy some delightful view or change of scene; on other occasions, when considerable distances have to be covered, they would use the aerial method, or even instantaneous contact by aspect, depending on the circumstances and how great a change of state has to be effected [See TCR 731] The manner of operation as it affects both worlds is well illustrated by a meeting Swedenborg had with some young men in the spiritual world during which he was alternately in the natural and the spiritual worlds as his own state of mind varied in thought between one and the other. [See TCR 280]

The law of state operates upon us even in this world. It works in our minds through thought and affection acting together. Thought alone does not change our state, but affection does. Thus an intense desire to see some friend makes us immediately present with him in spirit, though we may not see him with the eyes of the body. In the spiritual world we would actually see and speak with him. In a similar way, angels of the celestial heaven may pass right down to the intermediate world of spirits for the Lord's purposes, bypassing all the barriers of state that would normally prevent such a descent.[See CL 78] For it is forbidden for the angels of one heaven to enter another or in any way to interfere with the influx into, an inferior society. The higher angels may not even look into a lower heaven, because the influx is thereby disturbed. Yet it is permitted to look down into the hells, or the world of spirits, for the purposes of examination. What is disorderly in one set of circumstances becomes orderly in another. But the interesting thing about the law of state is the perfection with which the substantial bodies of spirits react to the surrounding atmospheres in which they dwell.

As we have noted previously, the spiritual atmosphere has a very different quality from the physical envelope which surrounds our planet. Since the stuff of creation is from these wonderful atmospheres, derived from the sun of each universe, which act as vessels for the Creator's Divine love and wisdom, it is proper that we examine briefly the nature of both types of atmosphere. In the physical world Swedenborg refers us to three atmospheres derived from the physical sun: the aura; the ether, which contains magnetic forces; and the atmosphere around the planets. The first two forces are abstruse and govern natural influxes through electro-magnetism. We shall deal with the atmosphere proper which surrounds our planet and which roughly corresponds with the atmosphere in which the spirits themselves live and move.

Scientists assure us that the air is molecular in structure, and that the substances of which it is composed can be broken down and separated. The atmosphere, quite apart from providing us with the life-giving air we breathe, also acts as a vital filter against the immense energy being poured out by the sun of our solar system through the aura and the ether. This energy, received by the planet in all its fury, would destroy all life as surely as any atomic device used in war. But the upper layers of pure.' hydrogen and helium filter out the harmful gamma and beta rays, and allow only that energy which is necessary for life to flourish to get through to the planet itself.

In the spiritual world the atmosphere does exactly the same sort of. thing, although the actual operation is somewhat different. The Divine energy pouring out from the spiritual sun - which is the first mode of finition, made by the Lord when creating the universe - is such that it must be accommodated to the angels according to their states; and without the interposition of the spiritual atmosphere, life would not be possible in the spiritual world. However, the similarity ends here; for the spiritual world is arranged in tiers, so to speak, with five main atmospheric condensations containing the three heavens, the world of spirits, and the hells, whereas we may say that in the physical universe creation is on one plane, with scattered atmospheric condensations around the planets within the general aura of their attendant sun.

The spiritual world is dynamic, whereas the natural world is static and inelastic. Here man is chained by the mechanical operation of natural laws, to which his body is bound and by which his very will is restricted. But in the spiritual world a very different picture emerges. It is a realm as subject to laws as is ours, yet one in which instantaneous creation is possible. There is no longer the mechanical barrier between the will and the execution of the will which obtains on the natural plane. This is due to the extreme plasticity of the spiritual atmosphere itself. It, too, is a created substantial thing, designed to convey the Divine heat and light to angel and spirit from the spiritual sun in which the Lord Himself dwells. We do not know the composition of the spiritual atmosphere, but obviously it has its own proper structure, just as the natural envelope has its particular structure. It is extremely sensitive to the operation of the human will. A thing is desired ardently enough, and for the right reasons, and at once that thing is created -  made of the very substances of the atmosphere, yet solid and real. One may truly say that the spiritual Atmosphere is a live-rail conductor carrying life and power directly from the Lord down to the spirits themselves and to man in the natural world; for as to his interiors, the man who is still in the flesh is spiritual and is subject to spiritual law.

We have just mentioned heat and light, and these are also similar in outward appearance but entirely different in inner content. Natural heat and light are dead because they proceed from a dead sun; spiritual heat and light are living because they proceed from a living sun and are therefore a projection of the Divine itself. This is the essential reason for the difference of behavior in both worlds. The light of heaven is such that it not only enables the angels and spirits to see but also actually enlightens their minds. That is, it has a double effect, which no natural light can have. This is a marvelous thing, and the wonder of it increases the more one thinks about it. Furthermore, heavenly light is capable of very great color ranges, and even the states of the angels themselves can alter the color of the atmosphere, producing the most beautiful coruscations of colors such as the natural mind can hardly conceive. Heavenly heat like wise has a double action and warms not only the bodies of the angels but their heart also, giving them a distinct influx of charity which they are thereby enabled to pass on to others, thus increasing the blessedness of all around them.

Color in the spiritual world far surpasses anything in the natural world by virtue of its living quality, and Swedenborg has mentioned that there are colors which do not exist in this world at all, and that there is a close connection between color and the states of the spirits themselves. We read:

"All visible colors in the other life represent what is celestial and spiritual; the colors originating in a flame-like brightness representing the things of love and the affection of goodness, and those originating in a white brightness the things of faith and the affection of truth. All colors in the other life are from these origins, and therefore they are of such a refulgent brightness that no colors in this world can be compared with them. There are also colors which were never seen here on earth." [AC 1624]

A further quotation regarding the atmospheres we have just been discussing may be of interest:

"As to what respects the atmospheres in which the blessed live, which partake of the light, as being derived from it, they are innumerable and of such beauty and pleasantness as to surpass all power of description. There are adamantine atmospheres which sparkle from every minutest point, as minute spherules of diamonds. There are other atmospheres resembling the glittering of all precious stones; others like the glittering of pearls that are transparent from their centers, and radiated with the most brilliant colors; others that flame as from gold and from silver. . . . Indeed there are also atmospheres consisting as it were of sporting infants, in forms most minute and indiscernible, but still perceptible to an inmost idea; by which forms it is suggested to infants that all things around them are alive." [AC 1621]

Once again it is borne in on us that life is the very quality of the spiritual world. Life breathes in the atmospheres, in the very heat and light which invest them. It breathes in the laws according to which all things operate, and this is the next subject to be examined.

We are well aware of the random manner in which people are thrown together in this world. All sorts are mixed up in one city, one street. Good and bad often work shoulder to shoulder, with no regard to inner quality or state. In the spiritual world order defines all things according to state. "Like attracts like" is the rule there, and so in the heavens and their societies one finds souls which are bound together by common affections and interests. A wonderful harmony pervades everything, as befits the place where the Lord Himself dwells with man. Everything is in its correct place, and it is impossible for the angels of one heaven to converse with those of a lower or higher heaven except by Divine permission, and therefore for the sake of some particular use. Throughout the spiritual realm we find this wonderful order prevailing. Every spirit, whether good or evil, finds himself in the place that is best for him, and around him is the atmosphere extending continuously to the spiritual sun, yet separated according to the finitions, set by God at creation. Unlike the discrete degree between the natural and the spiritual world these finitions between atmospheres can be overcome. A celestial or a spiritual angel, when his task requires it, can descend into the hells, passing on the way through the successive atmospheric layers, each like a world in itself and containing spirits adapted to it, or, to put it more correctly, adapted to the spirits dwelling in it. Again, Swedenborg mentions seeing satans being escorted up to heaven for instruction, and they, too, had to pass through atmospheres which would have been utterly impassable to them in normal circumstances.

Again, state governs all things in the spiritual world. Yet in our world all seems haphazard and in many ways contrary to heavenly order. The reason is not far to seek. The natural world is the seminary of heaven; in it souls are learning the alphabet of spiritual life; and for this purpose it is necessary to allow a free interchange of influences, in which unlike elements are constantly in association. By such means the groundwork of a permanent state of mind is laid, that is, through the making available of as great a variety of experience as possible. But it would be a grave mistake to conclude that disorder prevails in the natural world, even if appearances sometimes support such a notion; for law rules everywhere, both in nature and in the world of man. God inflows through the elements of nature into His natural kingdom, operating the laws of magnetism and of chemical and physical action; and with men He operates through His appointed means from the spiritual world through His Word, through attendant good spirits and other agencies, and directly through His own Divine Providence, the laws of which operate secretly through all the day to day experiences which are man's lot.

In this respect we may see the perfection of spiritual government, as contrasted with that upon earth. Here it is often the strongest who wins influence and not the most able. We see the undignified spectacle of politicians hurling insults at one another during the normal course of their business. We also see different types of government in operation; some democratic in the accepted sense of the word, others completely authoritarian, and both operating with some measure of efficiency. Of the two types, the latter is more closely identified with the spiritual world. Unhappily, most authoritarian governments on earth function with self-interest as the prime motive and therefore approximate more to the hells than to heaven. But in heaven government is authoritarian, that is, it is imposed by the Lord and is not left to the citizens of each heavenly society to select. Human error is thus excluded, and perfect order prevails, because each member of the society is doing the work for which he is best suited. Politics, as understood here in the natural world, simply do not exist in the heavens: there are no grounds for dispute in the selection of a government, for the supreme Governor in every society is the Lord Himself, and all in the society desire only to serve Him.

Thus, while discord flourishes in the natural world, or at least upon our planet - for there are many planets which have reached a heavenly state of life - there is no discord in heaven. Differences of opinion certainly exist there, as they must in any free association of human beings; but such differences are invariably referred to wiser counsellors and their arbitration is accepted graciously and without rancour. In the hells a somewhat different situation prevails, and the difference is interesting. As in the heavens, the governments there are authoritarian, but they more closely resemble the worst types of government upon earth. Instead of the prince there is the governor, or emperor, as many style themselves, and this individual is, once again, the best suited in that society of hell to govern. His motives, however, are solely those of self-interest; he exceeds in cunning all his rivals for power, of whom there are usually quite a few; and he maintains his position by instilling fear, or by holding out hopes of greater rewards, as occasion demands. Yet he is not a law unto himself, even if he often believes that he is, and punishment swiftly follows any infraction of the Divine laws. The governor is always well instructed in these laws, and he himself administers them, even though he is a devil, because his own self-interest demands it. However, throughout the heavens the organization of this function corresponds to the Grand Man in the same way that the organs of the human body correspond to its total use. This necessarily involves the problem of communication.

We are all aware of the confusion which exists in, this world whenever we wish to go abroad to a country whose language we do not speak. Fortunately this fragmentation of tongues does not obtain in the spiritual world, and all realms may speak with those in the same realm without difficulty. Thus all throughout the first heaven speak the same tongue, proper to that heaven, and so with the higher heavens and likewise the hells. Each realm enjoys a universal language proper to it which those of a higher or lower degree cannot understand; and this distinction of speech between the spiritual heavens and the hells, and between realms, is dictated by the three degrees of the human mind. The internal, that is, the spiritual mind, is divided into the three degrees of celestial, spiritual and natural, to which the three heavens correspond; and the speech of the celestial degree far exceeds in perfection that of the spiritual degree, this in its turn far excels that of the natural degree, and this likewise very greatly exceeds in clarity and beauty the speech of men upon earth. For as Swedenborg says:

"Spirits in the other life discourse together ... just as men do on earth ... and this they do with their own speech, by which they express more in a minute than men can do in an hour. For their speech . . . is the universal essence of all languages, proceeding by ideas, the primitives of words. . . . On some occasions also they apply visible representations to exhibit their meaning to the sight, and thus to the life. As for example, if the discourse be about shame, as to whether it can exist without reverence, it is discussed in a moment by states of the affection of shame, and also of reverence, varied in order, and so by perceiving their agreements and disagreements; which are at the same time exhibited to view by representatives adjoined to the discourse, they instantly perceive the conclusion. . . . The case is the same in all other instances." [AC 1641]

One can only marvel at the essential simplicity and perfection of such a means of communication, which enables the essential ideas to be shown clearly. Many other differences between natural and spiritual speech are described, but enough has been said to illustrate the point.

Our study would not be complete, however, without a brief look at the houses and cities of both worlds. Here the Writings again draw attention to the dead quality of buildings on our earth. The materials are incapable of projecting that feeling of life which the substantial materials of the spiritual world possess. But the essential difference lies in the fact that heavenly dwellings correspond exactly to the character of those whose homes they are and are very lovely to look at. We read:

"It has also been given me at times to see the decorations of particular parts, such as steps and gates, and they seemed to move as if they were alive, and to vary themselves continually with new beauty and symmetry. I was also informed that the variations may thus succeed perpetually, even to eternity, with continually new harmony; and it was further told me that these are among the least of the astonishing things in the other life." [AC 1627]

The houses themselves are then described, as follows:

"All the angels have their respective habitations, which are magnificent. . . . They are so distinct and conspicuous that nothing could be more so. . . . The architecture is such as to be the source of the architectonic art with an indefinite variety. What is of stone and mortar and wood is to them dead; but what is from the Lord and from essential life and light is, they say, alive, and the more so as they enjoy it with all fullness of sense. . . . The habitations of good spirits and of angelic spirits [the first and second heavens] generally have porticos and long corridors attached to them, sometimes double, to walk in." [Ibid]

We are left in no doubt that all in heaven enjoy lovely homes, no matter whether they were great or humble in this world, and that their homes come to them as gifts from the Lord. Some regions of the heavens are filled with magnificent palaces, surrounded by expanses of mountains, lakes and woods, and others have different types of architecture, again in superb scenery. Here we may see a slight similarity with this world, which also has its lovely countryside and landscapes, varying according to the part of the country in which one is.

Besides the individual houses, there are cities in which angels live together in close communities, just as they did in the natural world, but we should look in vain for many of the more common natural signs. We would find no busses or trains, no billboards, no cranes or trucks or other signs of the construction art. For these things are handled in a very different way in the spiritual world. Buildings are certainly created in. the spiritual world when the need for them arises, and they come as gifts from the Lord. There are many students of architecture, as there are of the other arts, in the spiritual world; and when we read the description of a temple seen in heaven by Swedenborg, we are astonished at the richness of its materials. Its foundations and walls were of precious stones, and its windows of crystal. This was not merely figurative writing but sober description of reality; and this richness goes right through every department of the spiritual world in its heavenly regions. Words are really very inadequate to convey the reality. Yet although it is true that the Lord supplies as a direct gift everything that is necessary to the welfare of spirits, it is also possible to infer that the angels can themselves manipulate spiritual substance to form things for their pleasure and instruction. For instance, Swedenborg tells us how he watched some angelic spirits painstakingly fashion a candlestick in honor of the Lord; and he describes how they were instructed by this work concerning the Lord's influx into their efforts and thoughts. [AC 552]

This experience at once brings to mind the arts. They, too, flourish in the spiritual world as in this, but in more perfect form. Dramatic art is used not only for entertainment but also for instruction. However, vice itself is never displayed in the theater in heaven; but if it is necessary to display a virtue, or to illustrate a more correct virtue, this is done by contrasting a greater good with a lesser one - so conveying the same lesson as on earth, but in ways that do not shock or offend the angels. This is not to say that angels are ignorant of the vices of man, for many of them enter the hells at certain times on the Lord's work; but nothing is permitted in heaven that would be contrary to the peace and harmony that prevail there.

Again, writing obtains in the spiritual world as in this one, and it varies with the particular planes of the heavens. The writing in the first heaven closely resembles that in the natural world, although its quality is utterly different. For writing in heaven flows naturally from the thought. Vowels express affections, and consonants related ideas of thought. In the higher heavens writing assumes a more complex form, using numbers or inflected curves similar to those found in Hebrew to express interior ideas and states of thought and mind.

Museums, colleges for teaching the many new souls arriving in the world of spirits, and schools for children, all find their place in that world, together with all the many other institutions whereby any society of men and women must govern its affairs in an orderly and efficient manner; though it need hardly be stressed that in all regions except the hells the dominant motive is love of service to one's fellow man. The commercial stimuli which seem to govern in this world simply do not exist in heaven, but there is instead a far greater stimulus, namely, that of excelling in one's work; for from this unselfish motive one's own blessedness is increased, that is to say, one's own state is immediately affected.

From this follows perhaps one of the greatest differences between the two worlds, the total absence of monetary organization in heaven. It is not needed, for all that is necessary is supplied by the Lord, whether it be clothes, houses, or some other article. As soon as it is desired from the right motive, it appears, and it is as real and solid as anything could be in this world. In the hells, however, money is coveted and therefore exists but its nature is more illusory, as in a state of hallucination.

There are many other aspects of spiritual life that we have not touched upon, but the writer was less concerned with furnishing a list of differences than with attempting, from a few subjects, to see exactly where and in what the similarities and differences lie. But one subject which has not been directly discussed remains, and this the most important of all, namely, man himself, and we shall therefore touch very briefly upon his states in the natural and the spiritual world. As we have already noted, the natural world is the seminary of heaven and a theater of uses for the spiritual world. The natural world was not an after-thought of the Divine mind but an essential part of the creation process. The human mind is such that it has to be built up from vacuity into a heavenly form receptive of the Divine love and wisdom. This process is carried out on the natural plane because on that plane it is possible, among other things, for mistakes to be rectified. During this part of the regenerative process the internal mind is built up side by side with the external, each learning how best to improve its capability and capacity for service to the Lord.

We are informed that while the material body is destructible - a fact on which we are left in no doubt on this planet - the spiritual or substantial body is indestructible. The term, perfect, is, of course, relative, depending upon the state of the spirit; but it may be viewed from the point of view of a perfect correspondence between the mind itself and the substantial or spiritual body. In the term, correspondence, lies the very heart of the matter. It is not possible, in the short space left, to do more than sketch its nature, but something must be said. Without the operation of the law of correspondence creation itself could not exist, at least not in its present form. The law itself rather resembles an unbroken chain of end, cause and effect, stretching down from the Divine principle itself right through every descending level of life, or rather, its forms. For of one thing we should be quite certain: the only life dwells in the Godhead, and nowhere else. Essentially, creation may be likened to a vast receptacle that is inert in itself, like a clay pot, but is capable of receiving life and acting from that life as of itself. This, of course, a clay pot cannot do; but mankind can and does act in this way.

Proceeding further, the regular and orderly projections of the Divine by itself down through the layers of the creative effort take on different forms on the lower levels than on the higher, but in perfect correspondence with them. In this marvelous way the whole creation is one and is connected - a wonderful unity functioning with perfection and beauty under the control and influx of the Creator Himself. Thus the Creator's Divine love and wisdom, beginning as pure affection, clothes itself progressively through creation with correspondent forms suited to each particular level; and, as if this superb richness of effect were not enough, man himself, in the spiritual angelic form, carries out the same process, his angelic affections clothing themselves upon the lower levels of existence as paradises, groves, sheep, and other beautiful expressions of the spirit. Further, on the natural plane itself we may truly regard all that we see as a correspondent form derived from the treasure house of the spiritual universe. The projection itself is quite unconscious and is simply the result of the operation of law; just as the rotation of the planets, the fall of an apple, are the expression of law.

At the summit of the creative effort is man himself, set like a jewel in this magnificent setting; and his life finds its greatest expression in the institution of marriage, itself a correspondence of the Divine love and wisdom and of the conjunction of God with man. "Male and female created He them," and throughout the spiritual and natural worlds we find this constant division of the male and female with its attendant marriage of good and truth. Indeed, in every object that exists at all there is this marriage of good and truth, or the perversion that is its opposite as we see it in the hells and in the harmful things which exist from the hells in the natural world.

If one were to ask, in what lies the essential difference between the spiritual and the natural world, a true answer would be that the natural world is temporal while the spiritual world is eternal. Scientists assure us that eventually this world will die of old age together with an old and exhausted sun, both spinning uselessly and endlessly through space, their purpose accomplished. Other worlds and suns will be born, and new cycles of life will begin continually and fulfill their destiny. Youth and age seems to be the theme in this world; but in the spiritual world, as we well know, there is a continual youth, a constant spring of life, with every day a joy and every soul tending towards its most perfect age - that of sheer youth. This is made most clear in the Heavenly Doctrine, and it must be a constant delight to the angels to find themselves in such a state of life. Yet it is not an idle life, spent in an endless elysium of pleasure, but is purposeful and busy in the best sense of the term. Every action is planned and directed toward the fulfillment of use. For this reason the Creator carried out the work of creation; beginning with the first finition of His love and wisdom in the spiritual sun, and proceeding, as has been said, by successive further finitions of His substance into the various atmospheres, until the natural plane also was created as the final containant of all that preceded it. We read:

"The Divine wisdom, appearing in the heavens as light, in its essence is not light; it clothes itself with light, so as to appear before the sight of angels. In its essence that wisdom is Divine truth, and the light is the outward appearance of it and the correspondent of it. With the light of wisdom it is the same as with the heat of love. . . . As the light corresponds to wisdom, and as the Lord is the Divine wisdom, therefore also in the Word in many places He is called light." [Wis. I:3]

"That the Divine love, which is life itself and which is the Lord, is in the form of the forms of all uses, which form is man, can be nowhere better seen than in the creation of the universe.... For by creation there is nothing on the earth that is not made for use. The whole mineral kingdom is full of uses. . . . The whole vegetable kingdom is full of uses. . . . The whole animal kingdom also is full of uses. . . . In a word, every point in the created universe and in created beings is a use; in fact, it is in a successively expanding series of uses from the use in first things to the use in ultimates, thus from one use to another in unbroken succession - clear proof that the Creator and Former, who is the Lord, is the infinite enfolding of all uses; in His essence love, and in His form Man, in whom that enfolding is." [Love VIII]

Use governs all things, and we are told that in the spiritual world, as in this, those who refuse to perform any uses are reduced to begging for the necessaries of life, because they cannot earn these requirements by their own right. Every art-form, every piece of decoration, every flower has its use in the spiritual world, and we can only marvel at the precision without uniformity which exists to give infinite variety and pleasure to the angels. Like us they read, write, work and play. They attend conventions and lectures, are taught and entertained. But through all their activities there runs a deep sense of responsibility to their duty and a perfect understanding of the Lord's will for them. This understanding of the Lord's purpose may not be the result of a flashing insight direct from the Lord, although it could be so, but is rather more likely to be the result of steady attention to duty under the guidance of those angels who are placed in authority over them.

They, like us, have and read the Word of God, but unlike so many in this world they truly understand it and perceive its proper sense and teaching for them. In short, this marvelous perception of truth from a true inner affection for good is one of the wonders of life in the heavens, and one can only regret that because of our hereditary perversion in the natural degree we are not able to experience at this stage a similar enlightenment. However, I do not need to emphasize to the present company the great privileges which we enjoy as common members of the New Church and inheritors of the blessings foretold in the book of Revelation and embodied in the Heavenly Doctrine itself. To us, then, it is given to understand in some dim measure the marvels and wonders which await us in the next phase of our lives. We can only marvel at the working of the Divine mind, as far as we can understand it, and rejoice at the sheer pleasure of being permitted to serve some use in its service. Our redemption was not accomplished cheaply, and we owe the Redeemer every effort of which we are capable. It seems only fitting, then, to leave the final word to Swedenborg, who must surely epitomize all that we should aspire to be as useful servants of the Lord. "In the degree that a man is in the love of use, he is in the Lord; and in that degree also he loves Him and loves the neighbor, and in that degree he is a man [Love XIII].

-by L.H. Houghton, New Church Life 1967;87:295-303,344-350

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