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"The entire Word, from beginning to end"—"the same Word that was manifested through Moses and the prophets and through the evangelist's"—"this same Word which is with men in the world, is also with the angels in the heavens; yet in the world with men it is natural, but in the heavens it is spiritual." When an angel reads his Word, written in a spiritual language, he "knows no otherwise than that it1 is like the Word which he read in the natural world." The angels "read it equally as do men on earth; their doctrinal things are from it and their preachings are from it. The Word is the same; its natural sense, however, is not in heaven, but a spiritual sense."1

"The angels confess that they have all their wisdom through the Word." "All the wisdom of the angels is given by means of the Word, since in its internal and inmost sense it is the Divine wisdom, which is communicated to the angels through the Word when this is read by men, and when thought is exercised from it.. ."2

Since the Word exists in written form in heaven, it is to be expected that the angels also gather for common religious worship. But because the spiritual state of an angelic community does not change by the calendar, the priests there proclaim a sabbath whenever they sense the needs of their congregation. Swedenborg describes such an occasion.3 The temple in this particular heaven was semicircular in shape and held about three thousand people. The back seats were higher than those in front, and the pulpit was near the center, with a door to the left. Every one who entered knew his own place from an innate perception. If he sat elsewhere, he could neither hear nor understand, and the priest, because order would be disturbed, would become confused.

The sermon was followed by a votive prayer. The service seemed to last about two hours. It is of interest to note that the subject of the discourse preached on this occasion was the holiness of the Sacred Scripture and the conjunction of the Lord with both worlds, the spiritual and the natural, by means of this "Holy Book" in which the Divine wisdom "lies concealed beneath the sense of the letter." And the priest later referred to Paul's declaration that in Jesus Christ "dwelleth all the fulness of Deity bodily" — showing that the Epistles also are known in some heavens.4

We are further informed that "the Word is in every heaven and with almost every angel, in its own sense," and that it is read by them every day.5 But this statement needs some explanation. For other teachings show that it refers specifically to the heavens of this earth, where the Word was couched in writing and later printed. On our globe successive churches received the Word in differing forms. It is therefore said that those angels read the Word in heaven "who have delighted in it here." Certain heavens are separate "because they possess another Word."6 The Ancient Word — now mostly lost and unknown on earth — is still preserved in heaven and read among those angels who had it on earth. We are assured that "the Ancient Word is still with them." Parts of this ancient Scripture were known to Moses and others of the Hebrews. Moses — we are told in the Spiritual Diary — "knows about the following Word which exists at this day, but he does not read it."7

How far the angels of the Ancient Church learn of the Old Testament and of the New, or of the Writings of the second advent of the Lord, can only vaguely be inferred from the modes of instruction by which the doctrine of heaven was conveyed to certain gentile spirits, who received the Word and read it, and afterwards were given copies of some of the Writings for them to draw from according to need under the guidance of tutelary angels, who had promised them "a Bible, but a new Bible, from the Lord."8

Referring to the heavens from our earth, the doctrine states:

"Whereas the Divine truth, when it passed from the Lord through the three heavens even to men in the world, was written in each heaven and made the Word, therefore the Word is the union of the heavens with each other, and the union of the heavens with the church in the world—for the Word is the same everywhere and only differs in perfection of glory and wisdom according to the degrees in which the heavens are."9

The Word, in heaven as on earth, appears as a written or printed volume. "A copy of it, written by angels inspired by the Lord, is kept with every larger society of heaven in its sacred repository, lest it should be changed as to any point." The script or type differs in the various heavens. It bears some resemblance to old Hebrew, Arabic, or Roman lettering; but with points or marks over the characters to exalt the sense for the wiser angels.10

In angelic writing, every consonant has a meaning and every vowel expresses a distinct affection. The vowels which the celestial especially use are the open sounds of ah, oh, and oo, for these carry more affection.11

The Word — or the written revelation which was known to them in the world — is differently written and accommodated for the angels of each heaven, although couched in the same universal spiritual language. It is true that this language is implanted the same in all spirits. But the understanding of the angels of the three heavens differs, and the perception of the different forms of writing is exclusive to each heaven; although the angels are not conscious of the difference unless their states are changed. Besides, the Word is read by spirits in different ways. The celestial look for the uses in the Word, the spiritual see the doctrinal aspects, while the natural are delighted only with its holy external. And there are, "at the threshold of heaven," those who, like some textual critics, attend only to the words.12

The fact that the entire Word of Divine revelation exists in objective spiritual forms in the other life, is illustrated by the teaching that after death man's interior memory preserves a record of all his mental experiences on earth, even to the slightest details. "Many things which in man take the form of ideas are there presented as objects of sight." Thus angels can see, in the Word which they loved, every single thing, even "as to all the words, so that nothing at all has perished, and this although they had only read it hastily in the life of the body."13

But now they see it spiritually. They see nothing of the natural sense. What they perceive is the spiritual sense "in such series, in such connectedness, and thus in such wisdom as cannot be expressed in human words, or described."14 There are three discrete degrees of meaning within the angelic Word. There is no ratio or comparison between the Word in the celestial heaven and the Word in the spiritual heaven, nor between the Word in the spiritual and in the natural heaven. But by "real correspondences continuous through the three heavens from the Lord" they make one Word.15

Among the more external spirits of the first heaven, the Word is present not as the spiritual sense but as an "external sense" which, however, is more spiritual than our literal sense.16 It is seen as a spiritual-moral or internal-historical sense, in which no names of persons or places are found, but wherein the internal and moral aspects of the churches and nations treated of in the letter are described. It is the truth Divine in the "fifth degree" which is perceived in the ultimate heaven and also — in glimpses — by enlightened men.17

When conversing with Swedenborg, spirits and angels could sometimes refer to chapters from the Sacred Scripture and cite passages which were in his memory.18 Novitiate spirits apparently also have an idea of biblical personalities—from the memories of the men with whom they are associated. For example: some newcomers wish to pay homage to, or curry favor with, certain patriarchs and apostles, and frequently they seek Mary or Peter.19 It is said that since "the sense of the letter of the Word is most holy and even more powerful than its spiritual sense," spirits who quote any passage according to the sense of the letter immediately evoke some heavenly society to conjunction with them — while "the spiritual sense without its companion, the natural sense, does not communicate with heaven." For in the literal sense the Divine truth is in its ultimate order, in which the spiritual and the celestial Words are both contained.20

Even though the letter itself in the original languages is not known by angels, a sense of the letter seems to exist in the spiritual world. The Word in heaven "is, as to the literal sense, similar to our Word, while at the same time it corresponds to it, so that they are one."21 They correspond as ideas correspond to words. Instead of names of men and places are the "things" or the spiritual states and qualities which they signify, or the character of the person or church named in the Letter. Within this "external sense" which good spirits perceive, there are interior senses perceived by the higher angels. Thus by the names "Abraham" and "David" are perceived phases of man's regeneration, or of the process of the Lord's redemptive work, or of the glorification of His Human.22

An idea of the differences of subject-matter seen in the heavenly Word in its three senses, may be gathered from the teachings in the True Christian Religion about the ten commandments.23 For in the first heaven the spiritual-moral sense, which is the interior natural, is seen. In the second heaven the precept is applied especially to the spiritual relationship to the neighbor or the church. And the celestial sense has to do with the more direct relationship of man with the Lord.

The Writings also describe how these senses are unfolded before the angels of the three heavens but of the natural ideas of a man who is devoutly reading the Word. They liken this unfolding to the physiological process whereby the food, in the form of chyle, becomes the source from which the blood-vessels extract their blood, the nerve fibres their juice, and the cortical substances of the brain their "animal spirit." The angels, similarly, extract the interior contents of the Word from the man, without any knowledge of the natural sense and without knowing what the man is thinking; even as man's food is digested without his being aware of it.24

Strange to say, the internal sense unfolds before the mind of the angels even though the earthly reader or hearer is not attending to the meaning. For a man usually adds false and disturbing ideas of his own — especially if he is not in the faith of charity. On this account the angels usually understand the spiritual sense more clearly and fully when the letter of the Word is read by little children or by simple minds, than when it is read by adults.25 This should not discourage New Church adults from a thoughtful reading of Holy Scripture with an endeavor to understand its spiritual meaning. For "it would be better if the man also were in light" and could serve as a plane for a still more profound angelic wisdom, by thinking from the Heavenly Doctrine.26

Spirits and angels communicate with each other by the spiritual language of ideas.27 This is both spoken and written. When a man dies, his corporeal memory, which contains words and other material ideas, becomes quiescent, and his speech proceeds from his interior memory which comprises all the man's rational experiences and thus the ideas and ends from which our words originate. Merely natural ideas such as words "are not reproduced in the other life, but only the spiritual things which are adjoined to the natural by correspondences." "Only those things that man has imbibed by means of material things and made rational, come into use."28

Thus the angelic language has nothing in common with man's speech, and angels are unable to utter a single word of human language.29 From this it seems to follow that the "letter" of Holy Scripture—in Hebrew, in Greek, or in various translations, is not extant as such in the spiritual world. Good spirits and angels would know nothing at all of what is in the "letter," not even the nearest meaning of a single word, still less of the names of countries, cities, rivers or persons mentioned therein. And the same would be the case whether they were reading their own heavenly version of the Word, or whether they were attending some simple-hearted man who was reading it — a man who loved the Word and lived in charity.30

But a different situation would arise when spirits or angels speak openly with a man. For then they no longer speak in their own spiritual language but in the man's vernacular, as if they were born into it and had no other language.31 Turning themselves to the man, they conjoin themselves to his thought and memory, adopting all his knowledge so that the man's thought and words seem to be their own, and using them with a skill surpassing man's own.32

"Yet the state of mankind is now such that there can no longer be such a conjunction with angels, but only with spirits who are not in heaven." Such intercourse is therefore rarely granted to men on this earth at this day.33 For evil spirits would seek to speak to the man and then would know that they are with him; in which case they could harm him, body and soul.34

A special protection was extended over Swedenborg, to enable him to be alternately in a state like that of spirits and angels and to talk with them in their spiritual language, knowing nothing of his own; and at other times in a natural state in which spirits or angels could converse with him in his own earthly languages. Therefore he records:

"When angels turn themselves to a man they know no otherwise than that the man's language is their own, and that they have no other language; and this for the reason that they are then in the man's language and not in their own — of which they have no recollection. But as soon as they turn themselves away from the man they are in their own angelic and spiritual language, and know nothing about man's language. A like thing happened to me when I have been in company with angels and in a state like theirs. Then I too spoke with them in their tongue, and knew nothing of my own, which I had forgotten. But as soon as I was no longer in company with them, I was in my own language."35

Similarly, spiritual writing proved to be meaningless to spirits when present in Swedenborg's natural state. When this was read to Swedenborg they could understand nothing, since the writing consisted only of alphabetical letters with curved strokes above them, but with no hint of the spiritual meaning.36 On the other hand, spirits and angels, when present with Swedenborg in his "natural" state, could share his knowledge of the letter of Scripture and could discuss the relation of its statements to the spiritual sense within.

Always, the Word which exists in heaven presents the internal meaning which is behind the words of the inspired natural text. Certain summaries of that internal sense which Swedenborg was led to draw up were compared with the Word in heaven and were found to be in conformity with it.37 What the Writings give in abstract doctrinal wording is a summary presentation to men of the angelic Word. Therefore Swedenborg, in the Arcana Coelestia and elsewhere, after giving an exposition of the spiritual contents of some chapter of the Scripture was authorized to make such statements as the following: "This then is the internal sense of the Word, its veriest life, which does not at all appear from the sense of the letter."38

To read falsities into the Word closes heaven to man. But to interpret the spiritual sense from genuine truths of revealed doctrine, opens heaven so that man may "think together with the angels and thus conjoin them to himself in his intellectual mind" — provided of course that man is at the same time in good.39

The Heavenly Doctrine, revealed through the Lord's servant, Emanuel Swedenborg "for the New Church," is in essence the same as the spiritual sense of the Word. This revelation contains explanations of the internal sense which constitute—not a new natural sense, but "a natural sense from the spiritual, which is called the internal sense and also the spiritual-natural sense."40

When Swedenborg was in an "interior natural" state, he frequently conversed with angels from the higher heavens and could then understand the arcana about which they spoke. And he was given to see that these heavenly truths could be described in words of natural language even to rational comprehension, and that "there are no Divine arcana which cannot be perceived and expressed also naturally, although more generally and imperfectly . . . "41

Various volumes of the Writings published in this world are also mentioned as having been read and discussed among angels and spirits.42 In the New Heaven these Writings would presumably exist written or printed in the universal language of ideas, which employs letters or characters as ideographs which vary in the various degrees of heaven and are read with different degrees of understanding. As a revelation of the Inner Word, accommodated to the rational degree of the human mind, it is no doubt read and studied by angels and spirits — especially by "those who had delighted in it here." But Swedenborg was also told from heaven "that the truths now published in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord and concerning The Word, and in The Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem, are orally dictated by angelic spirits to the inhabitants" of a region of Africa. The reference here would seem to be to the Africa in the world of spirits.43In its forms, the Word differs in the various heavens. But whatever the external appearance, or the forms through which it is revealed, the indwelling Divine truth is a One and infinitely the Same—conjoining all these forms into the image of God-Man—into a revelation of Jesus Christ in His Divine Human. Viewed as to their essence and contents, and taken together, the progressive Divine revelations to the different churches and the different forms which these take in the heavens, are the one Body of Divine truth from primes to ultimates. Into this Divine Body the heavens are inbuilt. For "the Word in its whole complex is as one Man as to all and singular things, within and without; and . . . that Man is as the Human of the Lord was in the world; wherefore the Lord is called the Word (John 1) ."44

The unity and completeness of the Divine Doctrine is described in the Apocalypse as the city New Jerusalem, descending from God, lucid and four-square — the symbol and epitome of the Heavenly Doctrine, where the water of life is offered to angels and to men.

The heavens of other earths do not have a written Word. But, as was the case with the most ancient people of our globe, most other planetary races have "immediate revelation from the Lord by consorting with spirits and angels, and also by visions and dreams." Such open revelations are usually confined within families, and must be constantly renewed. This may be conditioned to their state of perception. In many cases the truths they learn are inscribed on their hearts.45

The men of other earths, when their spiritual senses are opened, may also be given visions of the Lord, who is then presented in "an angelic Human." And after death they can be instructed by spirits from our earth about His advent in the flesh and His glorification.46

Yet it is taught that "the whole of intelligence and wisdom of the angels is from the Lord, by means of the Word which is with man and spirit."47 Even when a spirit or angel is not himself reading his spiritual Word, or — as is the case with spirits from another earth — if he has no written revelation; yet his mental life of thought and affection can be stimulated and enriched unawares, so far as he has consociation with men who are reading the Word as revealed on our earth. For this reason the angels lament and compare their life to one of relative drowsiness when the church on earth is filled with falsities and consummated by evils.48 Yet it is also indicated that if the human race failed or could no longer offer the angels an ultimate plane for their wisdom, the memories of spirits can be opened to supply it.49 On the other hand, angels come into the greatest clarity when consociated with men who have the heavenly doctrine as a basis of their thought. In this manner also "can the truths of faith be communicated to the angels of other earths."50

The written Word, in its manifold forms and degrees in heaven and on earth, is therefore in a special sense the unifying factor which conjoins the universal kingdom of the Lord. And the heavens where the Word is, in any of its forms, serve as the mediate source or dissemination point of spiritual light, and correspond to the heart and the lungs — the vital organs — in the Grand Man of Heaven.51


1 Lord 2, SD 5603f, De Ver. 31, HH 259, AE 831e

2 SS 73, SD 5187; expl. SD 5607 seq., De Ver. 30

3 CL 23, 24

4 CL 24, Col. 2:9

5 SS 70, AE 1024, SD 5603

6 TCR 279e

7 SD min. 4736, SS 103, TCR 279, SD 6107, 5605

8 SD 4775, 5517, 5946f, LJ post. 116, 123

9 AE 1073f, HH 259, AR 959

10 TCR 241, SS 72, cp De Ver. 62, 33

11 De Ver. 14, 33, 62, Wis. vii. 5:3

12 De Ver. 7, 12, CL 327, SD 5606, 1950ff

13 SD 5602, 5606, SD min. 4736, HH 466, 462-464

14 AE 17

15 De Ver. 4, 5, AC 4442e

16 SD 5561

17 AC 4279, 8443

18 Cp TCR 625, 136f

19 CL 6

20 AE 816:2, 3, 356e, De Ver. 35, 47f, 54f, 57, TCR 235

21 AC 2470, TCR 241:2

22 AC 64, SS 71, De Ver. 34, 32, LJ 57

23 TCR 291-327

24 SS 66, 67, TCR 236, SD 5607

26 AC 3480e, 1871, 1776, SD 895, 4246

25 SD 5609, 5610, 4247

27 AC 2472

23 AC 2471f, HH 464

29 HH 237

30 AC 64, 1767

31 HH 255

32 HH 246

33 HH 249, 253

34 HH 249 ref's; AC 10751, AE 1182:4

35 HH 255; cf CL 326:4, 329

36 CL 326:5

37 SS 97e

38 AC 64, 1783:2, 1965, 6597, HD 7, Inv. 44

39 De Ver. 20f, AC 3316:3, 2094:3, HH 114

40 AE 1061, HD 7

41 De Ver. 6, AR 961:1

42 Eccl. Hist., AR 716, 875:15, TCR 461e, SD 5946, 5908, 6098

43 CLJ 76, LJ post. 124, 116, cp CLJ 73, 75, SD 4774e, 5515ff, 5946, TCR 840

44 SD 5131

45 AC 597:2, 2896, 5121:2, EU 120f

46 AC 9359, EU 121

47 SD 5193, 5187, 5607, De Ver. 27

48 Coro. 19

49 SD 2755

50 SD 5609f, 4663:11, AC 9357

51 AE 351:2, SS 105ff, cp AC 9670, CLJ 30, 14, SD 5947


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10. Word in Heaven

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