Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


The Greatest Human

by Rev. Victor J. Gladish

The Greatest Human, that is, the Greatest Human of heaven and earth, is a term found only in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. (AC 3741, 4524; TCR 119) It appears that the Apostle Paul may have had some concept of what is involved in this doctrine from his words in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (12: 20, 21, 26, 10: 17).

A summary idea of the teaching concerning the Greatest Human is as follows: The heavens are organized into societies, and these into groups, each of which performs a use to which corresponds the function performed by some member, organ or membrane of the human body. Every part of the body, even every cell, has its heavenly counterpart in the field of use. Thus, as to their uses, the heavens are organized in the form of a man - this is the Greatest Human. Note that the heavens from this earth constitute a Greatest Human, but the universal Greatest Human is made up from all the heavens from all the inhabited earths. In fact, we are told, " . . . the heaven of the Lord is immeasurable, so immeasurable as to exceed all belief; the inhabitants of this earth being very few in comparison, and almost as a pool compared to the ocean." (AC 3631)

It is from the Lord's Divine Human that heaven as a whole and in part resembles a human being, or relates to human beings. (HH 78) For the Divine of the Lord makes heaven, the angels constituting it, and heaven consists of innumerable societies, where each society is a heaven in a smaller form, and each angel in the least form. Therefore heaven must be in the human form. (HH 59-77) The essence of the human form is united love and wisdom, because love in itself and wisdom in itself, or wisdom going forth from love, is the essence of the Lord God.

Bear in mind that the Lord is the Only Human, and it is as people receive Him that they are human, and that one is more human than another; for the heavenly that makes a person human is love to the Lord and the neighbor. (AC 1414) Angels are in the Lord, and the Lord in them, according to His words in the Gospel of John; "Abide in Me, and I in you." "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love." (15: 4, 10)

Three general views of this Aggregate Human, or Greatest Human, may be drawn from the Writings: 1) heaven as a Greatest Human, with the world of spirits as the alimentary system and hell as the wastes excreted from the body; 2) heaven as a Greatest Human, and hell as a great monster; 3) heaven, hell and the world of spirits as one person; heaven being the person, the world of spirits being the alimentary system, as to the purification and elevation effected by the Lord in that world, and the hells those things which are in the body but not of the body, such wastes as are separated from the life-giving fluids of the body. The hells serve the uses of the Greatest Human by this very separation.

It should be borne in mind that the Lord is in heaven and the church as the soul is in the body, ruling, intimately connected by correspondence but discretely distinguished. Heaven and the church are the mind and body of the Greatest Human, the Lord is the Soul and Life. Angels and spirits and the spiritual minds of men on earth are the mind of the Greatest Human, and the lower mind and body of men on earth constitute the body and senses of that Person. (LJ 9)

Before going on to particulars of the subject, note this definition directly from the New Word; "The heavenly kingdom is the resemblance of one man because all the things therein correspond to the Only Lord, that is, to His Divine Human. . . . From correspondence with Him, and from being an image and likeness of Him, heaven is called the Greatest Human." (AC 3741) And it is added in the succeeding chapter that, "the correspondence [of the Greatest Human] is that of the Lord's Divine with the celestial and spiritual things therein; and of the celestial and spiritual things therein with the natural things in the world; and chiefly with those in man." (AC 3883)

For the sake of the revelation it was permitted Swedenborg to experience the sensation of the influx of heaven into his lungs, gently leading his respiration from within; and then the influx into his heart, which then beat more softly than he had ever experienced before. (AC 3884) In the same section we are told that there are two kingdoms in the Greatest Human, the celestial and the spiritual. They who are in the celestial kingdom belong to the province of the heart, and those of the spiritual kingdom belong to the province of the lungs. Those of the province of the heart have been in love to the Lord, and thence in all wisdom, while those of the province of the lungs have been in charity to the neighbor. These latter make the delight of their life to consist in the fact that they can do good to others without recompense; to be allowed to benefit others is sufficient recompense. These two kingdoms permeate heaven, as the heart and lungs rule throughout the body. (AC 3887) As there are the kingdom of the heart and the kingdom of the lungs in the human body, so there are the kingdom of the will and the kingdom of the understanding in peoples’ minds, the will corresponding to the heart and the understanding to the lungs. The action and reaction of the heart and lungs in the body corresponds to the influx of the good of love into the truth of faith, and the influx of the truths of faith into the good of love in our minds.

We are told that all in a given society of heaven are in concordant respiration. A consequence of this is told in the following paragraph of the Arcana Coelestia:

"Because the well-disposed, on their entrance into the other life, are first remitted into the life which they had in the world, thus also into the loves and pleasures of that life, therefore they cannot as yet, before they are prepared, be in fellowship with angels, even as to respiration. For this reason, when they are being prepared, they are first inaugurated into angelic life by concordant respirations; and then they come at the same time into interior perceptions and into heavenly freedom." (3494a)

After the correspondence of the heart and lungs, that of the brain, the cerebrum and cerebellum and the nerve fibers connected with them, is set forth. It is called to attention that there are wonderful circumvolutions and foldings in the human brain, within which are situated cortical substances, or gray cells. From these run out nerve fibers, white in color. These fibers proceed throughout the body, and there perform functions in accordance with the orders and determinations of the brain.

"All these things," we are told, "are in exact accordance with the heavenly form; for such a form is impressed by the Lord on the heavens, and thence on the things that exist in man, and especially on his cerebrum and cerebellum.

"The heavenly form is amazing, and quite surpasses all human intelligence; for it is far above the ideas of the forms that a man can possibly conceive of from worldly things, even with the aid of analysis. All the heavenly societies are arranged in order in accordance with this form, and wonderful to say, there is a gyration according to these forms, of which angels and spirits are not sensible. This is like the daily movement of the earth around its axis, and its annual movement round the sun, which its inhabitants do not perceive." (AC 4040-4041)

Much is told about the correspondence of the brain and many parts to spiritual qualities, but time and space rule out a detailed description here. Of major importance, however, is an observation in regard to time and space, made in reference to the exterior and interior forms of the brain and their correspondence. It is written:

"When forms are mentioned, they carry with them the idea of space and time; and yet in the interiors, where heaven is, nothing is perceived by spaces and times, because these belong to nature, but by states and their variations and changes. But as the variations and changes cannot, as before said, be conceived by man without the aid of such things as are of form, and without such things as are of space and time, when yet these do not exist in the heavens, it may be seen how incomprehensible these things are, and also how unutterable." (AC 4043)

It is told in a following passage that the person who knows not what the spiritual is may suppose that such correspondences as have been set forth are impossible, saying to themselves, "How can the spiritual act on the material?" Then these words follow: "But if they will reflect upon the things taking place in themselves every moment, they may be able to gain some idea of these matters; namely, how the will can act on the muscles of the body, and effect real actions; also how thought can act upon the organs of speech...." (4044)

We will now pass to succeeding correspondences between the human body and the Greatest Human of heaven, but let it be prefaced by a sentence from a chapter on the general subject of correspondences: "But people are human from being able to think and will as a human, and thus to receive what is Divine, that is, what is of the Lord; and in the other life also his quality as a man is determined by what he has received from the Lord and made their own in the life of the body." (AC 4219)

After the correspondence of the heart and lungs and of the brain have been dealt with, the next phase is the correspondence of the senses in general. But here, as is usual, a beginning is made by tracing all back to the Lord. And here is found a teaching familiar to most New Church people; that is, "The things which come forth in the world and its nature are causes and effects from [the spiritual world] as beginnings; for universal nature is a theater representative of the Lord's kingdom." (AC 4318) Among the striking things held up to view in this introduction to the five senses is the following,

"That the life which is from the Lord alone appears with every one as if it were in himself, is from the Lord's love or mercy toward the universal human race, in that He wills to appropriate to each one what is His, [the Lord's] own, and to give to everyone eternal happiness. . . . Although these things appear paradoxical and incredible to people, they are nevertheless not to be denied, because experience in itself dictates them. If all things were denied the causes of which are not known, innumerable things that come forth in nature would be denied, the causes of which are know scarcely to a ten-thousandth part.... " (AC 4320-21)

But as to the correspondence of the external sensories, that is the sensory of sight, or the eye, the sensory of hearing, or the ear, the sensories of smell, taste and touch. First let us see a summary of the correspondence of the senses themselves rather than the organs. Speaking generally, the sense of sight corresponds to the affection of understanding and being wise; hearing to the affection of learning, and also to obedience; the sense of smell to the affection of perceiving; taste to the affection of knowing; and touch to the affection of good. (AC 4404) It may seem strange that the sense of touch is said to correspond to the affection of good; the relationship is expressed differently in various other passages of the Writings. It is frequently called to attention that all the senses are a species of touch, even though it is a touch of invisible objects on an organ not wholly visible. Often the doctrine speaks of touch as representative of communication, transfer and also reception. In the series of sections on the Greatest Human in the Arcana Coelestia there is not one on the skin as the organ of touch, as we shall see in a moment.

After the section on the correspondence of the Greatest Human with the senses in general, of which we have given some flavor, there are two on the eye and light; then one on odor and the nostrils; one on hearing and the ears; one on taste and the tongue, and in the same section the correspondence of the face; then one on the hands, arms, feet and loins, with a succeeding section which is a continuation concerning the loins and the members of generation. These last two are the nearest to a treatment of the skin as an organ of touch. It should be remembered that the skin has other uses besides that of touch; also that there are skins or membranes within the body which do not possess touch cells. Moreover, the next to last section in this series is on the correspondence of the skin, hair and bones, but it is treating these as the parts of the body with the least life. Following the section on the loins and the members of generation, there are two on the interior viscera of the body, in which the interior organs and parts not dealt with in sections on the heart and lungs, brains, and organs of generation are discussed, with some reference to the brains, heart and lungs, because of their intimate connection with the whole body. Then follows the section on the skin, hair and bones, already referred to. Finally a section on the correspondence of diseases with the spiritual world; not on correspondence with the Greatest Human of heaven, but with those who are in the hells.

This completes the series, as such, but there follow sections at the end of the successive chapters on the internal sense of Genesis and Exodus that describe the consociation of people with spirits and angels; then on influx and the interaction between the soul and the body; and then on the inhabitants of other earths, all of which cast light on the subject of the Greatest Human.

Before going on to significant points from the subjects and chapters which have been named, let us see a little more about the correspondence of the senses in general. It is known to most people that the cerebrum controls the voluntary or purposed functions of the body, and the cerebellum the involuntary or automatic functions. In general it is angels and spirits of the celestial kingdom who flow into the cerebellum, and those of the spiritual kingdom who flow into the cerebrum. In the "Golden Age" when people did not wish to hide their thoughts and affections from others, there were many nerve fibers from the cerebellum to the face, and states of mind automatically showed themselves in the face. But in this day of the supereminence of the spiritual kingdom and church the face is chiefly controlled by fibers from the cerebrum, though affections often show themselves in the face automatically, when one is not "on guard." The angels and spirits who correspond to the cerebellum know man's inmost thoughts and affections, but are not willing to express them, "like the cerebellum," it is said, "which perceives all that the cerebrum does, but does not publish it." (AC 4326) Those who correspond to the cerebrum are in the "general voluntary sense," and are most skillful in viewing man's general state and concluding concerning his interior thought and affections from that clear view. This office "falls to none but the wise." (AC 4329) In conclusion, note this statement: "The societies of spirits and angels to which the things of the external man correspond, are for the most part from this earth; but those to which the things of the internal man correspond are for the most part from elsewhere."

On the eye and light, we are told:

"The reason why the sense of sight corresponds to the affection of understanding and being wise, is that the sight of the body corresponds precisely to its spirit, thus to the understanding. For there are two lights, one which is of the world from the sun, the other which is of heaven from the Lord. In the light of the world there is no intelligence, but there is intelligence in the light of heaven. Hence in so far as those things with people which are of the light of the world are illumined by those which are of the light of heaven, thus in so far as these two classes of things correspond to each other, so far the person understands and is wise." (AC 4405)

In ordinary discourse we say that things are "seen" when they are understood; and "light and enlightenment" are used to describe understanding, as well as "shade and darkness" to describe the lack of it. "It is on account of the correspondence," it is said, "that these and like things have come into common speech among men; for man's spirit is in the light of heaven, and . . . many things that are interior have fallen this way into words." (4 AC 4406.) Among the significant things related on this subject is that the eye is the noblest organ of the face, and communicates more immediately with the understanding than do the other organs of sense. Another is told in the following quotation:

A person’s "natural affections portray themselves representatively in the face, but their more interior affections, which pertain to the thought, appear in the eyes, from a certain flame of life and a consequent vibration of light, which flashes out in accordance with the affection in which is the thought; and this a person knows and observes, without being taught by any science, for the reason that their spirit is in society with spirits and angels in the other life, who know this from a plain and clear perception." (AC 4407)

Included in this treatment are many experiences in the spiritual world confirming the correspondence of light to truth and of the eye to understanding.

The section on the correspondence of odor and of the nostrils is introduced by a demonstration that all sensations of angels and spirits are more exquisite than those of this earth, and that men might know that "all the power of sensation which appears in the body belongs properly to the spirit, and to the body merely by influx." Moreover that those who hesitate to ascribe such sensations to the other life might know that without sensation there is no lift. (AC 4622) Those in the Greatest Human who correspond to the sense of smell and the nostrils are in general perception. Hence it is that in common speech "to smell, to scent, to be quick-scented" are spoken of those who make a close conjecture, and also of those who perceive. We say, "He will nose it out," meaning he will find out the truth. Those in the province of the nostrils are in general perception, but those in the province of the eye have a more particular and discriminating perception. We are told that each spirit has a spiritual sphere, which is perceived as he approaches, sometimes as an odor. (AC 4626) Also, this: "To adduce all my experiences in connection with the spheres of perceptions being turned into odors, would be to fill a volume." (AC 4629)

At the outset of the section on the correspondence of the hearing and of the ears there is a striking statement: "The thought of a person who is speaking is nothing but the speech of their spirit, and the perception of the speech is nothing but the hearing of his spirit." (AC 4652) The appearance is otherwise, but this is the reality. Our text comments: "When man is speaking, his thought does not indeed appear to him as speech, because it conjoins itself with the speech of his body, and is in it; and when man hears, his perception appears merely like hearing in the ear." That one's perception of what is said is not merely the same as the words which the ear takes in, is evident from the fact that two people listening to the same speech can gain a very different idea (or perception) of what the person is saying, that is, what they mean.

The spirits who constitute the province of the ear are those who are in simple obedience, not reasoning, but rather accepting on authority. It is from the correspondence involved that we say "give ear" to someone, or "hearken" when we mean obey. In the province of the ear there are those who correspond ;to each part - the membranes, hammer, anvil, stirrup, cochlea and more interior parts. (AC 4653) A spirit who belonged to the interior of the ear spoke wisely with Swedenborg, and it was given to him to believe that it was Aristotle. (AC 4658)

The section on taste and the tongue and also on the face contains a number of remarkable things. At the outset we are told:

"The tongue affords entrance to the lungs, and also to the stomach, thus it represents, as it were the court, to spiritual and celestial things - to spiritual because it ministers to the lungs and thence to the speech, to celestial because it ministers to the stomach, which supplies food to the blood and heart." (AC 4791)

On this account those in the Greatest Human who correspond to the tongue are such as are in the affection of truth and afterwards in the affection of good from truth. However, in the general province there are those who correspond to the tongue itself, and others who correspond to the larynx and trachea, some to the throat, some to the gums, some to the lips. Since nourishment corresponds to spiritual food or nourishment, therefore taste corresponds to the perception and affection of this food. Spiritual food is knowledge, intelligence and wisdom; for from these spirits and angels live and are nourished. We are told that those who die as children grow to maturity from this food; "for little children who die appear in the other life no otherwise than as little children, and also are such as to understanding; but as they increase in intelligence and wisdom, they appear not as little children but as advancing in age, and at last as adults." (AC 4792)

Since the taste corresponds to the perception and affection of knowing, understanding and growing wise, and as the life of a person is in their affection, therefore no spirit or angel is permitted to flow into a person’s taste, for this would be to flow into the life which is proper to them. Thus we are told:

"A spirit, or person after death has all the senses that they had while they lived in the world, that is, sight, hearing, smell and touch; but not taste, but instead of it something analogous which is adjoined to the sense of smell. The reason that they have not taste is that they may not be able to enter into the taste of a person and thus possess their interiors; also that this sense may not turn the person away from the desire of knowing and being wise...." (AC 4794)

In a section of the Arcana on spiritual spheres it is said:

"I have spoken with spirits about the sense of taste, which they said they do not possess, but something from which they know what taste is, and which they likened to an odor. . . . It was brought to my recollection that taste and smell meet in a kind of third sense, as is evident also from animals, which examine their food by the smell...." (AC 1516)

The fact is that there is another passage which says that "spirits and angels have something analogous to taste," (AC 4622) and another that says they have the other senses, "but not taste." (AC 1880) On the other hand, there are several which state that after death people have every sense which they enjoyed in the world. (HH 170, 461) Perhaps the key is to be found in #323 of the posthumous work on the Last Judgment where it is said that "when what is spiritual touches or tastes what is spiritual, it is altogether like when what is material touches or tastes what is material." The following from the Apocalypse Explained also points the way: "Spirits and angels the same as people have taste, but the taste of spirits and angels flows forth from a spiritual source, but that of people from a natural source." (618)

In the Spiritual Diary we are told: "As all things which appear in the spiritual world correspond to the affections and thence to the thoughts of the understanding . . . therefore food is given only according to correspondences." (6008e) This leads Dr. Hugo Odhner to the following conclusion in regard to the different statements concerning taste with spirits and angels: "The discriminatory judgment which is based on externals as such and which is characteristic of men who choose and ‘cultivate' their tastes, is lacking to spirits since their food always corresponds exactly to their states." (Outline of "Human Organic" p. 16.)

As to what is said in this section on the correspondence of the face, I will give only this sample: "The face corresponds to all the interiors in general, both to a person’s affections and to his thoughts, or to what is of their will and to what is of their understanding." (AC 4796)

The section on the correspondence with the Greatest Human of the hands, arms, feet and loins reviews first principles on the whole subject. That is, that all heaven carries back to the Lord in His Divine Human, because the "Lord is the all in all of heaven, insomuch that heaven is, in the proper sense, the Divine good and Divine truth which are from the Lord." It is added: "Unless there were such a correspondence of human beings with heaven, and through heaven with the Lord, people would not subsist even a single moment." (AC 4931) Reference is made to the kingdom of the heart in the body and the corresponding celestial kingdom of the mind, and to the kingdom of the lungs in the body with the corresponding spiritual kingdom of the mind. We are told that while a person is an embryo "they are in the kingdom of the heart; but when they have come forth from the womb, they come into the kingdom of the lungs; and if, through the truths of faith, they suffer themselves to be brought into the good of love, they then return from the kingdom of the lungs into the kingdom of the heart in the Greatest Human. . . ." This is their spiritual rebirth.

They in the Greatest Human who correspond to the hands and arms, and also to the shoulders, are those who have power by the truth of faith from good. They have this power from the Lord, and the more they attribute all power to Him, and none to themselves - not with the lips, but with the heart - the more they are in power. (AC 4932) The reason the hands, arms and shoulders have the correspondence of power is because the forces and powers of the whole body are exerted by them. Many passages from Scripture are cited to show that "arms" and "hands" signify power. A few of the more obvious are these: "Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?" (Isaiah 50: 2) "Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arms." (Jeremiah 17: 5) "Be thou their arm every morning." (Isaiah 33: 2)

"They in the Greatest Human who correspond to the feet, the soles of the feet, and the heels, are they who are natural; therefore by 'feet' in the Word are signified natural things ... by ‘soles of the feet' lower natural things, and by ‘heels' the lowest natural things." (AC 4928) At one time Swedenborg was let down into "the lower earth," protected by an angelic column. The "lower earth is a place of vastation, surrounded by hells." It is said: "Here are most persons after death before they are taken up into heaven." (AC 4728) Those who remain there correspond to the feet and the soles of the feet. They are such as have been in natural, and not in spiritual delight. (AC 4940) Many who have come from Christendom, and who have led a good moral life, but have had little concern for spiritual things, are kept in the "lower earth" until they can put off natural things, and become imbued with spiritual and heavenly things, and are then elevated into heavenly societies.(AC 4944) Underneath the soles of the feet, in that region, are those who have been wholly given up to the loves of self and the world. (AC 4949-52)

Though the loins were mentioned in the title of the section we have been viewing, they were not dealt with. But the section at the end of the next chapter of the Arcana takes up the correspondence with the Greatest Human of the Loins and the members of generation. The "loins and the members adhering to them correspond to genuine conjugial love, and consequently to societies in which are those who are in this love. They who are in these societies are more celestial than others, and more than others live in the delight of peace." (AC 5050) We are told: "The Lord insinuates conjugial love through the inmost heaven, the angels of which are in peace beyond all others." Also it is said that angels of the inmost heaven love infants much more than do their fathers and mothers, and that they are present with infants in the womb, and have charge over those who are with child. This rather surprising statement is made: "But what and of what quality those heavenly societies are which belong to the several organs of generation, it has not been given me to know; for they are too interior to be comprehended by anyone who is in a lower sphere." (AC 5055) The rest of the section deals chiefly with spirits who were opposed to genuine conjugial love.

In the correspondence of the Greatest Human to the interior viscera one of the first subjects dealt with is the correspondence of the work of the stomach and other parts of the alimentary canal: this despite the fact that the alimentary canal corresponds to the world of spirits rather than to the Greatest Human of heaven. The key which explains is in the following quotation: "So long as spirits are in the state in which they are like food in the stomach, so long they are not in the Greatest Human, but are being introduced into it; but when they are representatively in the blood, they are then in the Greatest Human." (AC 5176) Thus we see why we are told:

"In the other life there are very many methods of agitation, and also very many methods of inaugurations into gyres. The purifying in the body of the blood . . . represents these agitations. . . ." Also this:

"It is known that the food in the stomach is agitated in many ways, in order that its inner elements may be extracted, and may serve for use, that is, may pass into chyle, and then into blood; and that it is further agitated in the intestines. Such agitations are represented by the first agitation of spirits, which all take place according to their life in the world...." (AC 5173, 5174)

More concerning the relationship between the alimentary system and the Greatest Human is shown in the following:

"For when a person dies and enters the other life, their life is circumstanced like food, which is softly taken hold of by the lips and is then passed through the mouth, fauces and esophagus, into the stomach, and this according to the nature that has been contracted in the life of the body by means of various activities. At first most spirits are treated gently, being in the company of angels and good spirits, which is represented by the food being first softly touched by the lips, and then tasted by the tongue to discover its quality. Food that is soft, and in which there is what is sweet, oily and spirituous, is at once absorbed by the veins, and carried into the circulation; but food that is hard, and in which there is what is bitter, offensive, and but little nutritious, is mastered with more difficulty, being let down through the esophagus into the stomach, where it is churned in various ways and windings; and food that is still harder, more offensive and innutritious, is thrust down into the intestines, and at last into the rectum, where first is hell; and finally is cast out and becomes excrement. It is similar with the life of people after death." (AC 5175)

It is related that spirits who have been very solicitous about the future appear in the region where the stomach is. It is added, "As solicitude about things to come is what produces anxieties in man, and as such spirits appear in the region of the stomach, therefore anxieties affect the stomach more than the other viscera." (AC 5177-8)

In the first reference to the stomach something was said about the inauguration of spirits into gyres. More is told in what follows: "There are gyres into which recent spirits have to be inaugurated in order that they may be able to be in the company of others, and both speak and think together with them. In the other life there must be a concord and unanimity of all, in order that they may be a one; just as is the case with each and all things in man, which though everywhere various, yet by being of one accord make a one."

It is added that in the Greatest Human it is a fundamental necessity that the thought and speech of one must be in accord with those of the others in each society. (AC 5182)

In succeeding passages are related contacts of Swedenborg with those of the provinces of the liver, the pancreas, the cystic ducts, the gall bladder etc. (AC 5188)

In the continuation concerning the interior viscera at the end of the next chapter the correspondence of the peritoneum, the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and also of the intestines is dealt with. These are organs and parts which aid in the separation of impurities and wastes from the nourishing fluids of the body - things which are in but not of the body. The offices of these organs are vital to the body of man, and those who belong to these provinces in the other life perform vital uses to the Greatest Human. At the conclusion we are reminded that the Lord's kingdom is a kingdom of uses, and that in the heavenly kingdom everyone is valued and honored according to their use, much more than is the case on earth. (AC 5396)

Introducing the correspondence with the Greatest Human of the skin, hair and bones, we are told that the things in people which have the most life correspond to those societies in the heavens which have the most life, and hence the most happiness. But the things in us which have less life correspond to such societies in the other life as are in less life. The things which have the least life in the body are the skin, including the skins or membranes covering organs and parts within the body, the bones and cartilages which support and hold together the parts of the body, and the hairs which grow out from the skin. The societies to which the skins correspond are in the entrance to heaven, "and to them is given a perception of the quality of spirits who throng to the first threshold, whom they either reject or admit...." (AC 5553.) However, there are very many societies that correspond to the external covering of the body, with differences like those between the skin of the face and that of the soles of the feet. In general they are such as took their spiritual concepts from others, and held tenaciously to opinions which they had received, not being affected much by reasoning. It is said: "Very many such are from this earth, because our planet is in externals, and also reacts against internals, as does the skin." (AC 5554)

More things are told about the different gradations of the skin, and the glands in the skin, and their correspondence, but we shall go on to the cartilages and bones. The societies of spirits to which the cartilages and bones correspond are very many, and they are such as have little spiritual life in them, just as there is little life in the bones as compared to the soft parts which they enclose - for example, the hard bones of the skull compared with the brains which they protect. (AC 5560) One of the interesting passages in this section is the following: "They who come out of vastations, and serve the uses of the bones, have not any determinate thought, but general, almost indeterminate. . . . Yet sometimes they are not intranquil, because cares do not penetrate, but are dispersed in their general obscurity." (AC 5562) Because the teeth are harder than other bones, the spirits who relate to them have scarcely any spiritual life.

Before leaving the correspondence of the skins, cartilages and bones there is something of note in the work on the Divine Providence that should be reflected on. It is said that those who could not be reached by the Gospel, but only by some religion, are also able to have a part in heaven, constituting those parts that are called skins, cartilages and bones, and that they like others can be in heavenly joy. "For it matters not," we read, "whether they are in joy like that of the angels of the highest heaven or in joy like that of the angels of the lowest heaven; for everyone who comes into heaven enters into the highest joy of his heart; he can bear no higher joy...." (254: 3)

Concerning hair we read:

"As there is a correspondence of the bones and the skins, so there is of the hairs; for these push forth from roots in the skins. Whatever has a correspondence with the Greatest Human is possessed by angels and spirits; for each one as an image represents the Greatest Human; therefore the angels have hair arranged becomingly and in order. Their hair represents their natural life and its correspondence with their spiritual life." (AC 5569)

In a passage not dealing with the Greatest Human we are told that the "teeth, bones and cartilage" in the Word signify the truths and goods of the lowest natural. (AC 6380)

Finally we come to the section on the correspondence of diseases with the spiritual world. It is introduced in these words:

"As the correspondence of diseases is to be treated of, be it known that all diseases in man have correspondence with the spiritual world; for whatever in universal nature has not correspondence with the spiritual world cannot exist, having no cause from which to exist, consequently from which to subsist. The things that are in nature are nothing but effects; their causes are in the spiritual world, and the causes of these causes, which are ends, are in the interior heaven." (AC 5711)

Diseases, however, do not correspond to the Greatest Human, but to those who are in what is opposite, that is to those who are in the hells. The reason that diseases have correspondence with the devils of hell is because they correspond to the cupidities and passions of the animus (or lower mind). It is said that these cupidities and passions are the origins of diseases; for their origins are, "in general, intemperance, luxury of various kinds, mere bodily pleasures, as also feelings of envy, hatred, revenge, lewdness and the like."

We are told that all the infernals induce diseases, while the Greatest Human, which is heaven, "holds all things together in connection and in safety." However the infernals are not permitted to inflow into the organs and parts of peoples’ bodies, but "into their cupidities and falsities." Nevertheless, these facts of influx do not hinder our being healed in a natural way; for we are told that "the Lord's Providence concurs with such means." (AC 5713)

Swedenborg was permitted to feel the influx from spirits who correspond to the impurities which are being cast off from the brain. They are now kept shut up in their hell, but he was told that they are such "as formerly had slain whole armies, as we read in the Word; for they rushed into the chambers of every one's brain, and inspired terror, together with such madness that they killed each other." (AC 5717)

This has been a general view of the Greatest Human and its correspondence, together with something of its opposite, as presented in the chapters of the Arcana Coelestia. There are passages elsewhere in the Writings which give additional teaching on the subject, and some of these we have interspersed. Let us add a striking statement from a chapter already referred to on Influx.

"The Lord, who alone is Human, and from whom angels, spirits and the inhabitants of earth are called human, does Himself, by His influx into heaven cause the universal heaven to represent and bear relation to human beings, and by influx through heaven, and from Himself immediately into the individuals there, cause each one to appear as a person, the angels in a more beautiful and resplendent form than can be described; and in like manner by His influx into the spirit of people."

Following which it is said that charity to the neighbor and love to the Lord are what make us human. (AC 6626)

It would not be satisfactory to conclude without drawing attention to a far-reaching inference to be drawn from the presentation made. Often the Heavenly Doctrine speaks of angels and spirits of the various provinces of the Greatest Human. Moreover, those associated with some province who talked with Swedenborg were often of evil life who in heart denied God. It seems to be a reasonable inference that those with whom Swedenborg spoke were in the world of spirits state, whether good spirits who would be elevated to heaven, angels come down into that state, or evil spirits on their way to hell. Thus the Greatest Human of heaven has its counterpart, in the great monster of hell - societies of hell in opposition to each society of heaven. In confirmation of this conclusion, reflect on the following from the work Divine Providence:

"Since therefore, every person lives after death, and is allotted a place according to their life, either in heaven or in hell, and since both heaven and hell must exist in a form that will act as a one, as said before, and since no one can be allotted in that form any place but his own, it follows that the human race throughout the whole world is under the Lord's auspices; and that each one, from infancy to the end of his life, is led by the Lord in the least singulars, and his place foreseen and at the same time provided. . . . That heaven is in the human form has been made known in the work on Heaven and Hell. . . . Hell also is said to be in the human form, but is a monstrous human form. . . ." (203, 204)

And in another passage: "It has been remarked in the preceding pages that the entire heaven is arranged in societies according to the affections of good, and the entire hell according to the lusts of evil opposite to the affections of good." (287b: 6) There are other passages to the same effect, notably numbers 68 and 69 of this work, from which I will quote only this sentence, "Left to himself people tend continually to the lowest hell, but they are continually withheld by the Lord; and they who cannot be withheld are prepared for a certain place there . . . and this place there is opposite to a certain place in heaven.... " The same teaching is given in Continuation Concerning the Last Judgment 21.

-New Church Life 1973;83:62-67, 118-123, 169-174


Swedenborg Biography
Heavenly Doctrines
The revelation process
Who is God?
The Word of God
Bible & the Writings
Time and Eternity
History of Religion
On Being Useful
Providence and  Evil
Getting Rid of Evil
The Death Process
Life after Death
Life on Other Planets
The Second Coming
Spiritual Marriage
Art & Literature


• Back • Home • Up • Next •

The Greatest Human

Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com