16 A DAY IN AN ANGELIC SOCIETY
In the work on Conjugial Love, Swedenborg is allowed to relate a visit made by ten novitiate spirits to heaven. In this relation, the life of the angels in a heavenly society is described — in many ways so similar to the life which might be imagined in some Utopia on earth that the differences may not at first seem so striking.
Love and charity, which make heaven, must necessarily take a social form. We cannot conceive of love without objects. We cannot picture a charity which dwells alone and revolves around itself. It is the essence of love to love others outside of itself, to will to be one with them and to make them happy from itself.1And love, when received, must respond by reciprocal action. This necessarily must result in a complex of human relationships such as we call uses, and in the formation of societies, each society being centered around some particular way of expressing mutual love.
There are, indeed, certain angels who are said to live alone or apart, as conjugial pairs, not in societies but in habitations situated on lofty mountains scattered among the other angelic societies, and yet these constitute as it were a central region of heaven. They are said to be the best of all the angels, and are classed among the celestial. Their love is more universal and all-embracing—not confined to a strictly limited group of neighbors. Their character is outstanding and unique, and is so integrated as to be "all-one;" and thus they dwell alone, for they are not so dependent upon the constant association afforded by community life. They perform exalted uses difficult to define. It is ever the way that those in high offices seem somewhat isolated from others — seem detached from the common sphere of personal relationships.
Certainly, these celestials who live alone are yet at the very heart of the complex of uses which is the kingdom of the Lord. Their "society" is the universal heaven; their power is exerted modestly and perhaps secretly, but the extension of their uses and influence surpasses that of others. And the inference we draw from what is said about them in the Writings is that they are few as compared with the untold numbers of angels who dwell in societies.2
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The life of the angels is closely tied up with the uses of others in their society, and in consequence they naturally progress on the basis of the reaction and the stimulus which they receive from their companions. And so they enter into common states of enlightenment and common states of affection. All finite life has fluctuations and periodicities in it. The angels are sometimes in a state of intense love and highest illustration and then in lessening degrees of love and wisdom—a state of relaxation from uses. Thus by turns they come into less heat and less light; something of shade and cold or of obscurity and less delightful moods steal over them and modify their enjoyment in their work, or confine their use to a more limited range.
We are taught concerning the New Jerusalem, that "there is no night there." For the Lord is the Sun of heaven, and He is constant. The angelic Sun does not, as ours, appear to rise and set. Yet there is the same appearance of successive days there as with us, in one society after another. The light grows dim and the angels go to rest in their homes, to sleep—perchance to dream —under the benign protection of celestial angels with whom the state of morning has then already come.3
And when the mists of unconsciousness have again dispersed into a dawn of new beauty, the citizens of a heavenly society are restored to full vigor and keen, penetrating attention; and the special affection of spiritual love which is, with that society, to be the inspiration of the new state into which they are entering, stirs them as with a common delight at the prospect of what may be done on this day. (CL 11-25)
In certain societies this affection is voiced every morning in the sweetest spontaneous songs of virgins and young girls, who apparently are the wards of the society, since they live in houses around the public squares. These songs resound throughout the city and move the very souls of the listeners, bringing with them a sense of harmony.4
But when the singing is over, the city becomes silent and still: the windows, and sometimes the doors, of the houses are closed; the streets are deserted except, on occasions, for some sight-seeing visitors who wander about under proper angelic escort. All the citizens are intent upon the duties of their offices and engaged in their several occupations. Without the distracting sense of time or hurry, without the anxieties of impatience, their work goes forward in a state of increasing enlightenment until its climax of illustration and efficiency is reached, at high noon! And then, without allowing the anticlimax to set in (which a growing fatigue of mind and body often brings on in this world), they stop their labors, and the doors are opened, and they partake in a noonday meal—to prepare for a new state, typical of other, more social, uses.
It would be interesting if we could pierce behind those closed doors awhile, to try to understand the uses which the angels perform in their morning states. But no mere guest may do so. Perhaps, if he did, there would be little to be seen — by him. Or perhaps they would appear commonplace and simple, these angelic tasks: outwardly viewed, the same as many earthly occupations?5But for the present, we can only suggest that these morning hours of the angelic day are sacred to the inmost uses of which the angels are capable, and pointed to that end for which the society as a whole cooperates — an end which is not centered in that society but directly upon the specific function of the society in the Grand Man of Heaven.
Let us return to consider how the angelic day progresses. At noon the angels dine. "Dine? What a gross idea of heaven!" Yet, a dinner is what you make it! And food is far too universal a thing to be absent from heaven. Even a flame needs food. And the angels are not incorporeal beings. They have bodies, compared to which ours are but as dead husks! The angelic body is sensitively alive; the angels eat—and exquisite food is theirs. But since the spiritual bodies that are to be sustained are spiritual, the food also is spiritual. What is our mind here, becomes our body there.
Here also our minds feast, and even glutton, on knowledge or opinion or sense-delight that is boiled together in some man's mental cauldron. The things that we eat would raise the hair of an angel's head with horror. Witness a play in a modern theatre: the more vulgar the wit, the greater are the salvos of delighted laughter. Or we read, perhaps, in the scandal-hunting Press, in the "red-blood" novel, in the sensational magazines surcharged with "sex"! What disgusting brews and stews—cooked up in the filthy vessels of sensual minds and later garnished and served up as delicacies—have not gone to feed our imaginations! And when it conies to intellectual life, mark the false poise and pretence, the borrowed opinions cited without understanding, the conceit and doubt and shallow dismissals of truth and decency, in literature and art and learning! Here and there we turn critics and begin to strain a gnat or two—but Oh, the camels that we, unresisting, must have swallowed whole—humps and sprawling legs and all! And in religion! Happy indeed is he who receives his mental food but little tainted by the gross imaginations and blind conceits of men or by the leven of the false traditions of Scribes and Pharisees whether long dead or still living! Happy he who receives it pure, directly from the Word of God in its letter and its spirit and in its Divine doctrine now provided as manna from heaven!
For only this food, provided by the Lord, is angels' food. It is very real, that food from heaven. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." This proceeding Word is the creative sphere of Divine truth which fashions all things of heaven. We know well that our minds would waste away if deprived of the truth that comes to us from without. But on earth we do not see this spiritual food as a real, substantial thing—whereas in heaven we do; for in the light of heaven we see the reality—see our utter dependence upon the nourishment which we so often disdain on earth.
But in heaven we would recognize a further thing,—that the reality, the truth, upon which our lives depend, is not of man's making. For in this land of perpetual miracle, the food appears to be prepared, and to be replenished, on the platters and in the cups, without human agency.6
Here, again, the question comes up as to the part the angels have in their spheres of use. If all is provided, without labor, why then are there any employments at all? For even houses, and gardens, and garments, furnishings and works of art are given gratis there—as gifts from the Lord! What is there left for angels to produce? Yet even the conversation at the table might be concerning the uses of the society—an exchange of wisdom and knowledge with a view to perfecting common uses!7 And strange to say, those who are indolent—spiritual parasites living on the labor of others, beggars who only desire to talk and play and sleep and eat—can find nothing but an empty table, if indeed they should be able to attend such a heavenly feast!8 In the universal spiritual world the lot of an idle soul is to go hungry, for only those who are in a use come into contact with the reality which is the sustaining substance of human life. If we reflect we must admit that the minds of men (both the good and the evil) can be sustained only by the knowledge of realities! And what is real except the Divine truth?
A further question: What is a feast if we lack a sense of taste? The angels have all the senses and they are far more exquisite than man's. They also have that of taste, but their sense of taste flows forth from a spiritual origin. Taste corresponds to a desire for knowledge or a natural perception of good and truth.9 Yet it is also definitely said that they lack a sense of taste, although they have something analogous which is adjoined to the sense of smell!10 For 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 to their states.
But let us leave this persistent paradox, and inquire what state in angelic life is introduced by this noonday banquet, which seems often to be a gathering of those in similar uses or professions, and which—in a fashion—serves to confirm the morning state of illustration and spiritual use and appropriate its goods and truths.
In the afternoons the angelic society presents quite a different aspect. The social intercourse of the inhabitants commences, the atmosphere of civil interest and moral virtue reigns in whatever is done.11 In the society whose life Swedenborg describes in some detail,—the society whose use included that of education, and whose coat of arms depicted an eagle on the top of a tree, brooding over her young — the social life, we are told, took its color from different states. On the avenues boys and girls were playing, while nurses and tutors sat on the porches overseeing them. But in the outskirts of the city various games were in progress for the boys and youths—racing, ball-play such as tennis, trials of skill as to which were the more ready in speech, in action, in perception, thus calling forth their latent abilities. Laurel leaves were given to the more active, as an encouragement.12
Outside of the city, Swedenborg was told, there were also theatrical performances by stage-players, representing the various virtues and graces of moral life, and among them were also actors for the sake of comparisons, that is, roles which suggested a contrast. Yet "it was established by law that nothing of the opposite shall be exhibited, which is called dishonorable or unseemly, except figuratively, and as it were remotely."13 For in heaven the moral issues of life are not between good and actual evil. There could scarcely be any interest among the angels in such crude contrasts. The more subtle dilemmas which concern angelic choice and angelic prudence and judgment must be conveyed in the more delicate contrasts between lower and higher forms of good—and the literature and drama which angels would compose are studies in such nuances of relative perfections.
But we doubt whether the wiser angels take so much pleasure from these dramatic representations of the wisdom of life. It is rather hinted that they find their recreation in the living representations which their gardens and surroundings — with ever changing detail of beauty and truth—present as a continual stimulus to their thoughts.14 The wise gather, there as here, to converse and exchange views on the deeper aspects of life and faith. In heaven, there is indeed a certain transference of thought without speech—in matters that pertain to their common loves and common uses. But there is also private thoughts, for each angel is utterly individual in his interior thinking, and grows more and more so.15 The tendency of heaven is not towards a blurring out of the unique individuality of each angel into a sort of vague unanimity in which there is merely choral thought and each angel is but an echo of the others! No. Each citizen of heaven becomes more and more valuable for his characteristic contributions to the common use. His conversation—as we picture it-becomes increasingly precious to his friends: it is not exhausted on closer acquaintance. His digestion even of common experiences is of a different type. And in ever greater perfection he will be able to express these individual perceptions in the speech of heaven, and this with an added power to convey and illustrate the thought by spiritual representations which graphically depict it for others.16
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The uses of the society during the morning period, which alone is dignified by the angels as their work-period, are (we take it) spiritual uses properly so called. Such uses need not necessarily be performed by social contacts. The thought of person brings spirits into social presence in the other life. If personal thought ruled in the morning hours, the city would then have a different appearance. But spiritual uses are performed by the power and aid of spiritual thought which is abstracted from persons and places and which views the essence of things, views principles, and is thus more immediately under the guidance of the Lord. We are thus taught, that
"In heaven they think about a thing, without person, because when person also is thought about then is called up the society which is in such a thing and thus the thought is determined thither and is fixed. For in heaven where there is thought there is presence, and presence would bend to itself those who are in that society, and would thus disturb the influx of the Divine there. It is otherwise when they think abstractedly concerning a thing; then the thought diffuses itself in every direction according to the heavenly form which the influx proceeding from the Divine produces, and this without disturbance to any society. For it infuses itself into the general spheres of the societies and in that case does not touch or move any individual member in the society, thus does not divert any one from the freedom of thinking accord-to influx from the Divine. In a word, abstract thought can pervade the whole heaven without stopping anywhere, but thought limited to person or place is there fixed and stayed."17
The spiritual uses (properly so called) of the angels are performed not only within the society, but outside it. Yet no angel ever leaves his society—for to leave it is to leave his ruling love and his illustration. But, although not away from his society, his home, his use and love, an angel can perform services in the universal spiritual world. It is in this paradoxical way that angels control evil spirits and examine them; it is so that angelic spirits govern the hells, resuscitate the dead, and serve as guardians over men. For (as we conceive of it) all these functions are usually effected by angels who are present not in person but by aspect.
We are told that while the Lord in Person dwells in the very Sun of heaven, and also within the angels by influx, and always apart from space, yet He can still appear in Divine angelic form in heaven, and this by aspect-presence. Similarly it is true of angels that they "appear to be present in a place where their look is fixed or is terminated, even when this place is far away from where they actually are."18 (We are of course referring to spiritual "places" and "distances.") This presence by aspect can be directed to all the quarters of the spiritual world. For while the angels are always turned interiorly to the East where the Lord is, yet exteriorly they can in company face each other, and turn to any side. Moreover, while an angel—like a man—only sees what is near him and "does not even perceive in himself all that is taking place in his own society," yet he can see towards all the quarters at once, as if his sight was all around. This is not external sight, but occurs "inwardly" in their mind.19 And this their sight (or aspect) is therefore described as their interior sight or that of thought.
We gather that there is much variety in the use of this interior sight. Still, it seems necessary to suppose that this is the kind of sight by which the aspect-presence of the angels is effected, and by which they can be present away from their societies in any quarter, present even in hell when some use calls them there; and that in the performance of the spiritual uses of which we have spoken, the aspect-presence is from interior thought abstracted from person. They are not present with men in person, indeed they do not see or know the person with whom they are, although they see his spiritual states, which then become a reflective plane for their own perceptions and delights, of which they are keenly sensitive. Nor are they present in any social sense, when they fix the gaze of their internal sight upon an evil spirit who has gone beyond the range of his permitted action. The angel then, no doubt, sees the spirit, but sees him as to the abstract quality of evil, even as a judge is impersonal in his judgments. The power of this angelic inspection is almost incredible. A look of an angel's eyes puts a host of spirits to flight, or causes them to swoon with fear. "If anything makes resistance, which is to be removed because it is contrary to Divine order, the angels cast it down or overthrow it by a mere effort of will, and by a look."20
An elliptical and difficult notation in the Spiritual Diary (4061, 4062) suggests the double-presence which this form of use may require. It is couched in the form of unfinished sentences, as follows:
The uses performed spiritually by the angels in their morning states are too various to be comprehended under any one idea. But we conceive that they perceive "nothing more blessed" than to bless others to their fullest power. It is not enough to perform uses among themselves—and thus perfect their mutual happiness, as in a society of friendship. It is not enough "to be in societies and have mutual love and thence to derive their felicity, so that each should have the felicity of others set over to his own account."21 This is not enough! Their uses must extend to others, outside of their own society. And this is done in the morning state!
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Still, no society prospers without citizens who look to its welfare, and promote its social development, its "moral, civil and domestic life." And these things also are works done, even in the third heaven, from affection. But because such "works" derive somewhat from the world, and also from what is useful to themselves and their own, they do not regard them as more than "derivations and productions" from their real uses, "which are done with them from the Lord" and have relation to worship, to the church, to the implantation of holy things, to innocence, to the good of society in general and particular; and which "do not regard persons but such things as are with persons."22
The celestial angels are such that they perform these internal uses, but do not talk about them. But even celestial angels discourse about what is around them—things which their external sight sees—and also about moral, civil, and domestic undertakings, which "keep the life of their body in such a state that the life of their love can dwell in it and perform its uses."23
The state of decreasing illustration, which prevails in the afternoon, may thus take on an aspect of moral, civil, and social uses. Thought then becomes personal, and less abstract; and with the young something of emulation enters in—as in their sports. There is also more of enjoyment of representations. The many blessings of the society come into external focus. The appreciation of personal qualities brings friends together—irrespective of what their particular functions and offices may be. The confidence of mutual love asserts itself, and compensates for the fact that the full illustration granted to all in their spiritual uses is now on the wane. Life feels full and satisfying, the common hope for future progress is rejuvenated from mutual appreciation.
And this state, again, is confirmed by food from the Lord, no doubt exquisitely adapted to the needs of that more external state. For the angels sup, in their homes, sometimes in company with guests—angelic couples or, on rarer occasions, visitors.24
Time! There is no notion of time. If there be clocks in heaven, they would show only the sequence and quality—not the duration —of successive states. And so, when the light of day is lessened, the best of friends would part, and the most ultimate of the uses of heaven would claim attention—the domestic use, the interests and delights of the home.25
Not only the church and the community, but also the home, requires administration in heaven.26 The home—in both worlds— is the foundation, the fulcrum and mooring of man's life,—the focus upon which all other uses react. For uses performed to others bring with them its returns—in various perceptible and imperceptible ways. And this return is epitomized in that most re ciprocal of all relations — married life. Between two conjugial partners in heaven, reciprocation of love is complete, so that they two are one life, one flesh. Between them there is unity in all things. According as their love has been purified with both by ascending to spiritual uses, it can descend pure into the most intimate and ultimate life, even to the life of the body. Conjugial love, therefore, is the most fundamental of all loves, celestial, spiritual and thence natural. It is said "thence natural" because natural loves, which "have relation to the loves of self and the world," are not in themselves evil, but are the ultimates of the love to the Lord and of charity.27 In the conjugial life the soul of man seeks its self-preservation and perpetuation, and the home is meant as a protection for the individual—man or woman—and a protection for his specific use. There he is to be fed, strengthened, and confirmed, not only by outward food but by the spheres of love and peace, not only as to body but as to the life of his mind and its affections. Into the home is as it were gathered that of the world which can serve as a means for perfecting the uses of the man and his wife. It becomes a little world which they love—not for itself, indeed, but for the use it indirectly serves.
Yet into these natural loves all the celestial and spiritual loves of man inflow from the Lord; and therefore all joys and all delights from primes to ultimates are gathered into love truly conjugial. Love, wisdom, use, become here personal, rather than abstract. And this implies that even in heaven the domestic uses of husband and wife take the most concrete forms. Among the uses of the angels we find therefore mentioned, as the last, "to attend to household matters there, for there are such there as man knows nothing aboutl"28 And we are informed that "angels talk with each other just as men do in the world, and on various subjects, as on domestic affairs, and on matters of the civil state, and of moral and spiritual life." But often the topics are exalted —touching subjects such as the glorification of the Lord! And there is no difference, except that their conversation is more intelligent than that of men, because it is from more interior thought.29
The husband and his wife would surely discuss the progress of their wards if they have any. The experiences of the day and matters social and moral, are no doubt talked over between them. And that which was only intelligence, becomes, when they are together, imbued with a wisdom which is born as a spiritual offspring from the conjunction of the wife's will with the husband's understanding. And this they convey, not merely by that inner spontaneous perception which communicates unuttered thoughts, but by the outward mode of speech, whereby the delight of reciprocal states is aroused.
The Writings speak much of the "evening state" of the angels, which is, as it were, the twilight before morning. In this state they are in a certain obscurity as to the natural man and its good.30Without such alternations even heaven would seem "dry and little esteemed"; just as the manna seemed to the Israelites a too unvaried diet! The interior things of heaven cannot be appropriated to man unless he is let down somewhat more into his proprium, and there confirmed by the enjoyments of natural pleasure or natural delights.31 Then he feels the zeal of good as his own—and "the pure good of truth ... is modified by the Lord by means of the enjoyments of loves which had belonged to his life before"—delights that are external yet in some measure agreeable with heavenly good; such as "the enjoyments of doing good in a large way," which has "something of glory" in it, yet also "benevolence and zeal to be of service" — an enthusiasm perhaps somewhat undisciplined. In such evening states the angels feel "the enjoyments of magnificence in the embellishments of the home and in the ornaments of dress, and many similar delights. Such enjoyments do not destroy the good of heavenly love, though they set it aside; and at length, according to the degree of man's regeneration, they become the ultimate planes of heavenly good, and are then no longer called concupiscences but enjoyments."32
But the ambitions and enjoyments of the natural man soon dissolve—with the angels—into gratitude and worship, and deep humiliation. With this there comes at last the peace that passeth understanding, the peace of innocence and of complete surrender to the power of love—the Lord's love, which again is reflected in conjugial love. The life of the individual is felt to be nothing in itself, his power is felt to be utterly futile. And so even the angels surrender their thoughts—their puny conscious life—for awhile, and sleep commands them: and the creative love of the Lord descends into their minds and bodies to relax and reorder the strained fibres that the conscious activities of the day are bound to have displaced out of their true relations.
One thing stands out from these teachings: that new states are continually born to the angelic couple—as spiritual offspring from their conjugial life.33 No individual—whether man or woman —is equipped for the full life of heaven, or for its uses. The two-together—are one angel, as a use considered; and thus, in the view of the Lord, they are one.34
Their states together are not confined merely to the evening states. But their need of each other's more tangible presence is greater when their enlightenment is less; even as on earth, the comfort of companionship is most needed in times of temptation and affliction. Yet the glorious morning state is also theirs, together, however short it may perhaps seem. And in the more specific uses of the forenoon, there is a conjunction more interior than ever before—a conjunction in the more abstract things of spiritual thought and affection, which is necessary to each and both.
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It is not to be expected that the life of heaven can ever be grasped by natural thought, still less described in a brief narration of the outward features. Yet these features, as given in the Writings, are to be the basis of our rational thought about the other world.
1 TCR 43
2 HH 50, 189, cp AE 988:6, CL 205, AC 471, 10813
3 HH 159, 157, 155, 146; AC 5962, cp 9684
4 CL 17, 55
5 Wis. vii. 5:3. See page 250 seq.
6 CL 16, SD 6088:6, LJ post. 323e
7 CL 16:2
8 LJ post. 338, 337
9 AE 618, LJ post. 323, AC 1480e.
10 AC 1516, 1521, 1880, 1973, 4622, 4794, SD 3567
11 CL 16e, 17
12 CL 17
13 CL 17, cp 138; TCR 62
14 AC 1619, 1622e, 4411
15 DP 42. It is true of the angels that "the more closely one is conjoined with the Lord, the more distinctly does he seem to himself as if he were his own, and the more clearly does he recognize that he is the Lord's."
16 AC 3343f, 3475, 1869, SD 2186f, 2192f, 4006, 5519
17 AC 8985
18 HH 121, 196, SD 5987
19 HH 593, SD 5528
20 HH 229
21 SD 3617
22 AE 828
23 AE 828:2
24 CL 19, LJ post. 337
25 HH 162 seq., DLW 73ff, AE 571e, 1219:4
26 HH 388
27 TCR 394f, CL 65, 67f
28 SDmin. 4773
29 AC 5249, HH 234
30 AC 8431, 6110:6
31 AC 5672, 8487
32 AC 8487
33 CL 51, 65e, 44:9, SD 6110:40, AE 1000e
34 CL 50e, 52, 56, 44:6, 75:5