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In previous chapters it was shown that the angelic heaven is distinguished into three degrees—called the celestial heaven, the spiritual heaven, and trie natural heaven; and also, at the same time, divided into two kingdoms—the celestial kingdom and the spiritual kingdom. The three heavens represent stages of regeneration or discrete degrees of perfection, each heaven marking the degree to which the rational mind of man has been opened. The kingdoms, on the other hand, represent the manner in which human minds receive the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord: those of the celestial kingdom receiving the truth directly into the will or into life, while those of the spiritual kingdom receive it first into the understanding. This means that those of the celestial kingdom are of a different genius than those of the spiritual kingdom, and are regenerated by a different mode. And this genius is something that no man can determine for himself, for it is largely dependent on his heredity.

A man's native genius quite naturally directs him into certain forms of usefulness or certain paths of development, and limits his usefulness in other respects. It is therefore taught that it is the Divine love, looking to uses, that is distinguished—in its reception—into two "kingdoms," and afterwards into lesser kingdoms of more specialized uses, called "provinces," and these again into "societies," and the societies into families and homes.1

The provinces of heaven are compared to, and indeed correspond to, the various members, organs, and viscera in the body of man, and the societies, to the tissues of which these organs and parts are made up. Since heaven is a kingdom of uses, we can find no more perfect picture of heaven than the marvelous economy of the human body, which itself is created in the image of God and displays His order.

The three heavens are also compared to three parts of the human body—like the head, the trunk, and the extremities. But in a more detailed way the heavens correspond to the three viscera— the cephalic viscera (the brain and nervous centers), the thoracic viscera (the heart and the lungs) and the abdominal viscera (including stomach, intestines, etc.); in which case the external framework of bones, muscles, and skin would correspond to the church on earth.2 These three viscera are distant, separate, and distinct, one above or below another, like the three heavens which are discrete as to degree and situation. And just as each of the three heavens is founded in a discretely different ruling love, so are the three groups of viscera distinguished by their relation to the fluids of the body; the abdomen preparing the chyle, the thorax preparing the blood, and the brain preparing the nervous force or fluid which the Writings refer to as the "animal spirit." But the inmost province of the body with the inmost vital fluid which from its birthplace in the cortical substances goes forth to operate its miracles in the organs of generation, would correspond to the "heaven of human internals" which is above the angelic heavens and is the Lord's abode with man.3

The two kingdoms make a far less obvious division when seen pictured in the correspondences of the human body. For the celestial kingdom is called the kingdom of the heart, and this includes not only the heart but also all the blood vessels which go forth to feed all parts and tissues of the body, from head to toe; and it includes also the cerebellum or hind brain from which all involuntary nerves and muscle fibres of the body are, in the last analysis, ruled.4 It is therefore almost impossible to find any bodily part which is not in an intimate contact with the blood stream and which is not affected by the pulse and to some extent enervated by the cerebellum.5 To speak spiritually, we might say that the celestial kingdom cuts across all the three heavens.

The same might be said of the "spiritual kingdom," which is called the kingdom of the lungs. In a sense, the lungs are only a portion of man's skin turned inwardly and specialized for the reception of certain aliments from the atmosphere. The motion of the lungs, which is under the partial control of the cerebrum or front brain, is carried along by all the membranes of the whole body, and even by the muscular sheaths and the bones. The oxygen and the aerial spheres drawn in by the lungs affect the blood and through it every cell of the body. The conscious part of man's life, which is felt in the cerebrum as sensations and thoughts and affections, is entirely dependent on the breathing of the lungs.6 And the Writings therefore say that the spiritual kingdom involves not only the lungs but the cerebrum and all the nerve fibres and muscle fibres over which we have voluntary control.7Although so intimately co-operant, the kingdom of the heart and the kingdom of the lungs are not confused; each remains distinct.

The two kingdoms of heaven and their subordinate provinces refer to uses. Here on earth, conscious uses cannot be undertaken unless men are joined together into societies or communities, in which they are neighbors one to another. The same is true of the angels. And since there can be no human happiness apart from mutual uses — ranging from acts of personal affection and helpfulness, social courtesy and civic cooperation, to the more abstract functions of instruction, government, and inspiration — therefore heaven also consists of innumerable societies, each of which represent some specific form of use, or its own kind of good. And those living in the center correspond to the heart and lungs of the society.8

All in heaven are affiliated or consociated with those who are in the same kind of good—who love the same specific types of use, have the same interior end and quality. Spiritual friendships and kinships are based in nothing else than a common love and faith.9Such also look somewhat alike in heaven, and even their breathing and pulse are similar. The Lord thus protects them and preserves their special character and holds them in the freedom of their own love. Strangers cannot long remain in a society which has a different love. And hypocrites would soon begin to suffer torture and be unable to breathe and so would cast themselves down and join their like, or be thrown out, like the man without a wedding-garment.10

Few angels ever go out from their society to another. (HH 49) Indeed it is said that in internal fact an angel never leaves his society, for his society represents his ruling love. Yet this does not mean that the angels are isolated or confined in their society. For all the societies have comunication with one another, though not by open intercourse. They communicate by an extension of the spheres of their life—and these spheres extend more widely into surrounding societies the more perfect and interior their affections are.11 In each society the best and wisest dwell in the center, yet it is these who also have the widest communication with other societies.12 Thus, the more interiorly an angel is devoted to his own use, the wider his influence and the greater is his intelligence and his sharing in the common sphere of heaven.

Something of this holds true among men. A person who has entered interiorly, with ardor and love, into a field of use or a profession, not only sees its details more clearly than others, but sees its just relation to other fields without prejudice, contorsion or presumption; and he also exerts a broader influence. Such a man has a clear sight of the genuine truths of his own field of employment, and this genuine truth accords with the genuine truth of every other use, and thus all uses shed a light on his own work and thought. It is the same in heaven. Those whose intelligence and wisdom are formed out of genuine truths can communicate with other societies freely, but those whose truths are obscured by what is spurious can only have a broken and partial communication.13

This communication is not obvious to the senses, nor always consciously realized. For in the other world affections, and sometimes thoughts, are communicated within each heaven, society, or province, as a common sphere or a common perception.14 But we are warned that the case is different in respect to intercourse between the three heavens. Such intercourse is not properly called "communication," but influx.15 There is influx from a higher heaven into a lower, never the reverse. Influx is a communication by correspondences.16

Influx is not a communication of ideas or thoughts. When there is an influx from a society of the celestial heaven into one of the middle heaven, there is no transfer of celestial ideas into the minds of the spiritual angels. But there is a secret and imperceptible influence, caused by the sphere of celestial love, through which something of corresponding love is aroused in the spiritual angels.17 Thus the influx of mutual love from the celestials would arouse a love toward the neighbor, or charity, in the spiritual, and make this genuine. Hence also it presents in the spiritual heaven such things as there correspond to celestial ideas. And truths are what limit the influx of good.18 Influx is received by every one according to his nature and state.19

The three heavens are so discretely different that they communicate only by influx, or by correspondences.20 They are distinguished and separated by being in discrete degrees of love and wisdom. "It is from this that angels of the lower heavens cannot ascend to the angels of the higher heavens, or if they are allowed to ascend they do not see the higher angels or anything that is about them." For an angel is simply his own love and his own wisdom. The love and wisdom of the higher angels is imperceptible to the lower.21 There is also "a most careful precaution against any angel of a higher heaven looking down into a society of a lower heaven and talking with any one there; for thus the angel would immediately be deprived of his intelligence and wisdom." As soon as an angel of the third heaven would thus descend to the second, "his third degree," in which his wisdom resides, would be closed; and since he has none in the second or first degree, he would thus lose all his illustration.22

This is of course quite understandable, from human experience. Many a learned man would seem foolish if he began to give advice to a skilled artisan. A clergyman had better abstain from competing in the investment market. By the same token, a janitor might find the lecture of a mathematician, physicist, or philosopher utterly meaningless and its wisdom incomprehensible.

But the matter is not so easily dismissed: For the Writings state that each spiritual society, "in its own place, forms three heavens, and three hells under them";23 and that just as the three heavens are relatively placed one above another, so "all societies of heaven whatsoever are in a like relation." Thus a society may appear as if distributed over a mountain, the summit being occupied by those from the inmost heaven, while some from the second heaven dwell on the hillsides and others, from the ultimate heaven, live in the valley.24 In other words, an angelic society may consist of three heavens; but these can have no communication except by influx according to correspondences. Yet the society as a whole represents a distinct use in which the various heavens partake. How this cooperation can be effective without any actual social contacts between the angels of the three heavens may be difficult for men to picture; although in many industries and institutions on earth the various levels of enterprise are carried on, each level being practically unaware of the others. Those whose interests and ideals are diverse generally do not mix socially, even if they are moved by a common charity and an interest in the welfare of the same use. On earth, however, such segregations may engender misunderstandings, envy and dissensions, since the thoughts of men can be known only through their bodily acts and words.

The precaution lest angels of different degrees seek to enter into open intercourse and speech and thus lose their illustration, does not mean that there cannot be a certain type of open contact by means of subject spirits, emissaries, or intermediate angels. Such emissary angels are often mentioned in Swedenborg's accounts from the other world. Sometimes an angel appeared to descend—as if flying or floating down—to a lower society in order to confirm the inferior angels in some conclusion, or to guide their decisions; or to perform some visitation or purgative judgment in the world of spirits.25 On numerous occasions some angel was sent down to accompany Swedenborg or other spirits in an ascent to heaven to observe and visit;26 which is possible after a preparation of their states, even as it is possible for a man to elevate his thoughts for a time into fields far above his own loves,—a thing which is most necessary since without it regeneration can never commence.

In order to act into the world of spirits, angelic societies send out one of their number as a "subject" or emissary.27 This subject-spirit can then act as a guardian angel for a person on earth, or can perform other offices among spirits. The subject spirit does not think or speak from himself, but the angels concentrate their thoughts into him and give him a power proportionate to the number of angels which inspire him. Yet he feels entirely as if he acted of his own freedom. His actions and thoughts are however accommodated to the spirits to whom he is sent. It was by means of subject spirits that societies in heaven could learn about Swedenborg and could communicate to him a knowledge about themselves.28

* * * * *

It has been shown that a society of the spiritual world may be viewed as consisting of three degrees of angels, a society of spirits in the world of spirits, and also of hells in three descending degrees.29 If we could see the souls or spirits of the men living in a large city and partaking in common uses, we would probably find just such a variety of spiritual states and attitudes; the difference being that in heaven and hell spirits do not live commingled as on earth, but separated according to states of mind and ruling motives, and according to relative wisdom.

The teachings seem to indicate that in the other life each heaven or each degree of an angelic society is a complete community of its own, with a visible government and a social life in which all have some share. The form and outward appearance of such communities differ widely. The Writings note that the angels may dwell together—as men do—in vast cities of hundreds of thousands, or in smaller communities. Some live apart, household by household; yet these also are ordered in social relations, the wiser in the center, the simple at the borders.30

The angelic communities described in the Writings differ in many respects, not only by the fact that some belonged to the celestial kingdom and others to the spiritual kingdom, but also because each community was seemingly formed from spirits living in the same age and often the same country. One heaven which Swedenborg visited belonged to the Golden Age, another, an Asiatic heaven, to the Silver Age, another to the Copper Age, where the Ancient Asiatic Word was still preserved. In each heaven the angels lived in much the same state of culture or external civilization as they had done on earth, although in far greater internal wisdom and happiness.31 We find several accounts of a heavenly community named for Athens, in which a number of ancient Greek philosophers were living in an environment reminiscent of classical times.32 It was a large city with libraries, museums and colleges. Swedenborg heard their wisdom, as they spoke on the subject of the spiritual world with some learned guests who had recently died. He also saw how the city was administered, inspected its ministries, courts of justice, businesses and employments, witnessed its spiritual sports and noted the embroidery worked by the women (who were called "virgins," perhaps because even the aged and long married in heaven appear in the beauty of youth). He was also shown wonderful productions "wrought by artisans in a spiritual manner."33

There appear to be communities in heaven from various nations. But the real distinction is that of uses. One society, which is described in some detail, was the "Eagle Society" to which ten guests, selected from among novitiate spirits, were invited.34 This society, to judge from its social customs, dress, and appearance, may have been from spirits who had died in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, and had come from a Protestant country. The special use to which the society was dedicated was apparently the education of youth; its coat-of-arms showed an eagle on the top of a tree brooding over her young. The houses were reared on a mountain which at a distance had appeared like an expanse in the clouds. On their arrival at the inner gate, the visitors and their angel-guide were welcomed by courtiers who showed them around the city, with its magnificent palace and marvelous gardens. Later they partook with the prince in a midday meal of delicate foods which were replenished without labor on the table, the while the prince explained that the real joys of heaven come from the love of use. The palace was constructed of porphyry and jasper, roofed with gold. Its furnishings and ornaments and utensils were of precious substances and of inconceivable beauty. Nothing— the angel told them—was fashioned by angel hands, but by the Maker of the universe, as a gift to the prince of the society. And the same could be said of the homes of the other angels.

Perhaps we ought to tarry here and ask ourselves what a home in heaven really is. It is love alone that rears a home—or makes a house into a home. Even as a home in this world reflects in its furnishings something of the love, the use, and the sentiments of its owner, so the inside of an angelic home corresponds in detail to the things of the angel's good.35 Everything in it is in the order of his will, his good, his most gratifying use. It is in his will that a man or spirit finds his inmost privacy. Heaven would not be heaven unless it meant a place of rest and peace and protected use where he can dwell stripped of the outward dignities and be oblivious at times of any accommodations to foreign states.

The houses in heaven seem much like those in the world, although each no doubt surpasses the dreams of earth, in grace and fitness. They have chambers and halls for every purpose, amply furnished. They have windows, doors with locks and keys, which are used as on earth. Yet each door betokens a communication between the compartments of the mind, each room a particular state. Nothing is futile. If states change and new spiritual needs arise, the house expandsl If anything is useless it disappears.36

Swedenborg was once invited into the home of a conjugial pair —one of many dwellings which nestled about a central palace, called a "palace of wisdom." The home was partitioned by a wall of translucent crystal; and as they conversed he noticed how the words of his host increased in wisdom when his wife addressed her partner from within the crystal wall.37

The marvel of the architecture is that every object is pervaded with a living quality—emanates a joy inimitable here on earth. All things are as if transparent from an inner essence and meaning. The very walls of the houses often seem animated with flowing representative forms or symbols that express the inferior things of love and wisdom to the minds of the angels.38

These things could not be, "except the Lord build the house"— build it from a substance which itself is a form of life, a finite medium pregnant with the Lord's infinitude of potential uses. The Lord is the Architect of human life, and each spiritual house is a gift from Him.39 Yet the spiritual raw-material is as it were gathered, unconsciously, by the man himself. Nor are we left entirely uninformed about the process of the building. Despite man's life-long labors of reformation and regeneration, the house in heaven is a creation by the Lord, a work of a moment, a work apart from any concept of time. When a new-comer arrives to the society of his own ruling love, he finds the house waiting for him, and recognizes it as his immediately.40

Houses, gardens—all the visible and tangible things of heaven —are in the Writings sometimes called "creations," and sometimes "appearances," or "representatives." They are indeed appearances, for they are the states or finite forms of the angel's life, appearing to his own senses and to the senses of others who are in a state to appreciate them. From long habit we earthlings have taken it for granted that such objects testify only of the physical world around us and can have no other origin. But they are spiritual realities translated into corresponding forms of mental space and thus presented in the only terms that are perceptible to the spiritual senses of human minds here and hereafter.41

These things which angels sense around them are not merely subjective or "ideal"—or mere ideas in their minds—any more than they are insubstantial mirages in their atmosphere I Indeed it is written, "spiritual objects . . . are felt as if in the mind, although they are not there."42 "Exterior spiritual things are so created as to clothe or invest interior spiritual things; and when these are clothed and invested, there come forth (existunf) forms like those in the natural world, into which the interior spiritual things therefore finally close and in which they finally stand forth."43

Such representative spiritual creations derive their origin from the Divine which proceeds as heat and light from the Sun of heaven. Their appearing in forms like those in our world "is according to the order of creation, which is, that when the things pertaining to the wisdom of the angels and to their love descend into the lower sphere in which the angels are as to their bodies and their bodily sensations, they are manifested in such forms and types. These are correspondences."44 Without such spiritual ultimates there could be no sensory life for spirits and angels, no external environment, no contacts, no spiritual societies. It is explained that in heaven the objects perceived by the spiritual senses are "angelic societies."45 But it is also said that they are "truths."46 For in what they see the angels recognize the true representations of spiritual states of reception of the Lord's love and wisdom.

* * * * *

It is because the external environment of an angel is created in correspondence with his permanent affections and convictions, that no strangers can long remain in an angelic society. If they do, the society would itself alter or be removed. Thus a spiritual law makes it virtually impossible for a spirit—except when he is in externals, as newcomers are—to abide in the home of another. Married partners in the other life cannot dwell together in the same house unless they are similitudes—i.e., interiorly united. "If they are external inclinations"—joined only by superficial likeness of taste or station—"and not at the same time internal, the very house or place separates, rejects, and drives them away."47 For in the spiritual world there are no spaces but appearances of space, and these are according to their states of life or love.

Spirits and angels who are of the same opinion can appear together in one house and even in the same room; and when they converse each one feels as if the thought of his friends were his own ideas originating with himself. Indeed, if the guests disagree, they disappear from sight.48 But in conversations out of doors the thoughts of others are perceived as not coming from one's self; and there spirits may meet even if their opinions differ.49

These occurrences may seem strange and fantastic to us; and even spirits, when they first enter the spiritual world, may find them amazing. But to spirits they soon become so familiar that they forget that their life was ever different. Spirits and angels do not reflect upon their houses or think of external objects except as the normal representative forms in which their conscious experiences come. In heaven, the things that serve for use in the homes, are constant.50 In the world of spirits, and among mixed groups of spirits such as Swedenborg often encountered, many changes occur, sudden and sometimes revolutionary, as during the events of the Last Judgment; and these are described in the prophetical sayings and visions of the Old and New Testaments: in which the earth was shaken and cities were consumed and many strange wonders were witnessed. Yet to a spirit, in the world of spirits, the sudden disappearance of his house is but the normal consequence of his affections being changed and his thoughts being centered upon a new field of use nearer to his real aspirations and interests.

And after all, does not a similar thing happen in our minds repeatedly every day, without causing wonder? For our mind's eye is accustomed to sudden shifts from one field of knowledge to another. We cheerfully accept the fact that our mind, our spirit, is ruled by spiritual laws, laws of love which defeat space and time and follow a logic of their own.

While here on earth, our mind is in constant flux, hesitant, restless, tasting many conflicting delights, choosing not only between good and evil, but between all the varieties of each, between the subtle shadings and colorings of each. Throughout a life-time it gradually seeks out the furnishings and materials by which the house of life can be shaped; and as the ruling love is confirmed, this house is remodeled and adapted again and again to new states. Yet it is not until the spirit reaches heaven that the final design is revealed: as a home, a place where the spirit can be at rest, where he is secure and free and beyond temptation and surrounded with others in whose uses he shares.

This is the significance of each angelic community, with its common environment and mutual life. The spirit cannot perform uses alone. The Writings show that each society is therefore bound in a communion of good and truth, in that the knowledge and intelligence of all become available to each one, as if by a choral thinking. Each feels and acts as if he had this wisdom individually, or of himself; but on reflection he gratefully acknowledges that it is bestowed by the Lord through the society in which he is.

Each society is a form of use. Within the society, mutual love binds all together into a human form—in all the social and domestic bonds of love. But interiorly, the love of the society goes out beyond its own borders. Each society is but a part of the Grand Man. Its real use is directed outwardly, to others beyond its borders—whom it would protect and serve and benefit, and if possible draw into closer conjunction with itself, into the choirs or gyres of its uses.


1 Love x. Societies innumerable, as the stars or brain cells, DLW 366

2 AE 1222:3

3 AC 37451, 1999:3, 4, SD 3036

4 HH 95f, AC 3883-3895, 3635, 9670:2

5 AC 4325, 9683:2

6 AC 4931, 3887:2

7 AC 9670:2, 4325ff

8 SS 107

9 HH 46

10 Matt. 22:11, CL 10

11 HH 49, AC 8063

12 HH 50, 189, cp AC 2973

13 HH 204

14 AE 674:3

15 HH 206

16 DLW 88, 186

17 AC 9912, 6366, 6106

18 AC 4205

19 AC 2888

20 HH 206

21 DLW 179, 202

22 HH 208

23 LJ 27, cp AE 1133:6, HH 541

24 HH 207, SS 107

25 CL 2

26 CL 11ff

27 HH 601, AC 4402, 5956

28 AC 5983 seq., cp De Ver. 5, CL 326

29 LJ 27. See pages 238, 84-87

30 HH 50

31 CL 75-77

32 CL 151a, 182, 207

33 CL 182, 207, 293:6

34 CL 11-25;HH 391, 387

35 TCR 553, AC 1484e, 7847, HH 186, DLW 408

36 HH 184, 489:2. LJ post. 318, AE 536:2, 1226:2, TCR 78, AC 1627 seq.

37 CL 56:2

38 HH 489

39 HH 190, CL 12, LJ post. 12

40 AR 611; DP 338:4, DLW 134, LJ post. 318

41 Wis. vii. 5

42 Conv. Angels, 9

43 AE 582

44 AE 926:2

45 LJ 9

46 AE 831:4

47 CL 50

48 SD 5177,5531

49 AC 9213:5, DP 338:4

50 TCR 78


The Spiritual World
Spirits and Men
Talks: Spiritual World
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14. Societies of Heaven

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