26 The Judgment on "Babylonia"
The Ordination of the Heavens
When a specific church or dispensation outlives its function as the mediate source of spiritual light, and no longer serves as a means for continual judgment in the spiritual world, it enters a period of spiritual vastation which culminates in its utter consummation, when materialism and atheism rush in together (Coro. Summary). The Writings reveal that when a church so departs from the truths of faith and the goods of charity, the world of spirits is filled with evil spirits from the millions who go thither from the world, and who interpose themselves between heaven and the church like a black cloud which prevents the sunlight from shining. They cut off much of the influx of heaven, so that the truth of faith and the good of charity can no longer penetrate to the men of the church (ibid.). Being deprived of their basis in human minds the angels lament that their state of life becomes as it were drowsy, and that heaven is like a body deprived of feet.1 A general judgment is thus called for, to be effected by a new advent of the Lord, a new revelation of truth from His mouth, or from His Word, by inspiration. For by this there is redemption from the hells, and the formation of new heavens, whence a new church is produced on earth.
But before this redemption can be effected the heavens must be ordinated by the Lord.2 A new state, preparatory for judgment, must be induced upon the angelic heavens; and especially upon those good spirits of the lowest or natural heaven who had been cast into obscurity by the evil, and had been as it were driven away from their inheritance by evil spirits who, by spiritual pretensions, had come to usurp the power there.
The ordination of the heavens is possible only by the power of Divine truth. And angels can be in the perception of spiritual truth—the truth of the spiritual sense of the Word — when men on earth are piously reading the Word in its literal sense without being misled by false doctrines. If falsities intervene, the literal sense is distorted in meaning and does not yield its spiritual sense for the attending angels.
With the design that the heavens may be ordinated or ordered by a new perception of the spiritual meaning of the Word it is therefore necessary that a new Divine revelation be given on earth, through which the falsities of the consummated church may be recognized and removed and the literal Word seen in its genuine sense.
This was why the Lord raised up His servant Emanuel Swedenborg, and through him, by Divine inspiration, opened the spiritual sense of the Scriptures for men. This was done in the eight years preceding the Last Judgment; and the many volumes of the Arcana Coelestia stand as an everlasting record of this Divine preparation for the judgment. The fact that this work at first found few readers on earth did not prevent its functioning in the heavens. For through its expositions of the spiritual sense the literal Scriptures were again opened so that they could testify before spirits in the other life to the interior laws by which judgment is there performed. The Word was no longer closed to spiritual beings, even if men were as yet unable to receive the new revelation.
It is thus significant that the ordination of the heavens is described in the Apocalypse in an early chapter which begins: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven. . . . And immediately I was in the spirit." John then describes how he saw the throne of God, and around it the four and twenty elders and the four cherubim and also a sea of glass (Revelation 4). Thereafter John saw the Lamb, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who had seven eyes and who opened, amid the jubilation of the angels, the book that was sealed with seven seals, which none either in heaven or earth had been able to open or even to look upon (ibid. 5).
The Apocalypse next tells of many preludes to judgment — many preparatory or temporary judgments which were attended with much dread, many woes and persecutions; although the servants of God were first "sealed" or marked lest they be harmed when the seven trumpets of doom were sounding. And then, it is said, the temple of Go d was opened in heaven, and the ark of the covenant was seen!
We do not recognize, in the Apocalypse, any prophecy of the historical procedure of the Last Judgment. Yet it discloses the principles of judgment. And it is therefore notable that the next thing spoken of in the book is the appearance in heaven of a woman crowned with twelve stars who was clothed with the sun and had the moon under her feet, and whom we can all recognize as a representative of the New Church — not the New Church on earth, for this was not yet — but the New Church in the heavens. And this heavenly woman was in pain to be delivered of a man child, who was then swiftly caught up to heaven lest he be devoured by a great red dragon. The man child, the Writings reveal, signified the Heavenly Doctrine, but the "nascent doctrine" which was later to be formulated and published on earth.3
The celestial woman plainly signifies the heavens after their ordination before the judgment. What, then, was meant by the man child, or the "nascent doctrine," which was born in heaven and yet caught up to God's throne lest it be profaned? Was the doctrine of the New Church the offspring of angelic minds?
The answer appears to be that the Heavenly Doctrine here means that spiritual sense of the Word which became seen in its fullness in heaven when the Lord opened the Scriptures by inspiring the writing of the Arcana Coelestia on earth. Before the judgment, this heavenly teaching could not be communicated to spirits in the world of spirits, whose minds were confused with wrong interpretations of the Scriptures. Spirits not imbued with such falsities of faith could indeed be instructed, and children were always taken into angelic care when they died. And if this be so with children, it would also be so with the good among the gentiles who had not known the Word and could therefore not have perverted it.
Preparation of the Gentiles
In many places in the Arcana mention is made of the dreadful state of the spirits who were accumulating in the world of spirits from Christendom, as a sure indication that the last times were at hand, and that a judgment would pave the way for a new church. And it is noted that "seldom if ever" is such a new church established within the old church, but among gentiles.4
Swedenborg published the last volume of the Arcana Coelestia in 1756, and during the remainder of the year he was apparently busy preparing a comprehensive subject-index of the whole work. Besides, he was planning to extract the doctrinal parts inserted between the chapters and to publish this material under separate titles. The articles which had been headed "The Doctrine of Charity" were, after the addition of a preface, to be arranged into a book which was to be called The Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. It seems to have been while he was arranging the chapters of this book that he heard it announced in the world of spirits that "somewhere amongst the gentiles there begins to take place a revelation from heaven; that is, that spirits and angels speak with them arid teach the heavenly doctrine, especially about the Lord; and that those there embrace it, and that thus a new church from heaven is rising up. . . ."6 Certain spirits near "the entrance to Africa" were also expecting revelations of the unblemished doctrine of heaven and were promised "a Bible, but a new Bible, from the Lord." And the angels rejoiced that the Lord's advent was now at hand and that "the church now perishing in Europe should be renewed in Africa," and this by the Lord, and not through missionaries from the Christians whom they distrusted. The Heavenly Doctrine, it seems, would be received among these and other nations in the spiritual world, and thence be propagated to other spirits and finally to spirits of other earths.6
The Spiritual Babylon
But meanwhile the heavenly doctrine became an issue among Christians in the spiritual world. In a certain Swedish city below the world of spirits the temporary masters plotted to retain their dominion by adopting the doctrine of charity and the acknowledgment of the Lord as an official creed.7 Shortly after, Swedenborg was led to see a highly organized network of societies which was maintained and controlled by such as were in the love of exercising dominion by means of the holy things of the church.
These spirits, who came chiefly from the Roman Catholic nations, were entrenched in vast cities on top of, and also inside, the mountains which stretched on all sides around the Middle Space where the Reformed nations dwelt.8 The whole district was called "Babylonia"; for in the Word the tower of Babel represents an attempt to rule from a love of honor and power by using the pretenses of piety and the authority of the church. Later, the kings of Babylon conquered Judah and desecrated the temple, taking its sanctified vessels to be put to profane use; and the kings themselves were even worshiped as gods. In Christian times, the popes of Rome arrogated to themselves the power of Christ as His vicars on earth. The worship of saints and relics was introduced, and the priests imposed a spiritual tyranny over the minds of men by pretending to have authority to forgive sins by demanding blind faith in their dogmas, even forbidding or discouraging the reading of the Word. Thus arose the spiritual Babylonia in the world of spirits.
On earth there are limits beyond which the love of dominion dares not go. Obvious abuses of authority eventually lead to rebellion. And in the sixteenth century the Protestant Reformation caused many nations in Europe to separate from the Roman Church and purify religion from some more patent evils, such as the selling of indulgences. While retaining many falsities, such as the ideas of a vicarious atonement and a tripersonal Godhead, and adding the falsity of salvation by faith alone, Luther and other reformers reestablished the reading of the Scriptures, which were forthwith translated into the vernacular languages.
The effect of this was of such moment that the Protestant or Reformed churches took their positions at the center of the world of spirits, in the "middle space" where the Catholics had before been. And the spirits of Babylonia were as it were forced into the outskirts of the Christian region in the world of spirits.
In the other life the bonds of worldly restraints are loosened. Those who are in the love of dominating others will aspire to be revered or even worshiped in the place of gods, and will resort to persuasion by fear and to various hypnotic and magical methods of controlling the minds of their subjects.
Thus we find from the Writings that Babylonish spirits, in their insane ambition, often proclaimed some one of their own rank as a god. But when this occurred, the mountain on which they were usually opened up into a cleft, and they were swallowed up by the hells.9 Before the Last Judgment commenced, one such mountain of phantasy was situated in the eastern quarter at the height of the sun; and bishops and prelates, aided by Jesuits, established there a great city, ruled by a consistory through many underlings who were distributed like so many "commissars" over the mountainside, and who constantly inspected the multitudes below from watchtowers. The faith they inspired was mainly this: that the things they said were from the Lord, who was with them in His own presence.10 But Swedenborg tells how presently this mountain sank down to the level of the horizon and was transferred to the left, or to the north, amidst the terror of the spirits upon it.
And here was a strange thing. For this occurred while Swedenborg was reading in Isaiah concerning Lucifer the king of Babel; which caused the attention of the angels to be centered on that mountain!11 Seen by the angels, the internal sense of the prophecy was a clear denunciation of the profane love of dominion; and a glimpse of this truth communicated itself to the more intelligent of the spirits who had been kept under the spell of their Babylonian oppressors, so that they no longer gave them support. For Isaiah wrote: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning. . . . For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
It must be realized that spiritual mountains, while they appear in every way as solid and real as those in the world, may be the results of phantasy. When the Lord said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you"; it was such mountains that He meant. Even as mountains are upheavals of the earth's surface, so man's ambitions can raise his love to impossible heights of pretense and self-deception, and can impose its phantasy of greatness upon simple souls. By constant assertion, lies and prejudices can become the means of enveloping entire nations — as under Hitler — within a cloud of phantasy which prevents truth from entering. And it was a similar hierarchy of bold and sanctified falsehood that ruled in the Babylonish region of the spirit world before the general judgment. But phantasy, however overwhelming it may feel itself to be, however firm its dictatorship, is brittle. An ounce of true faith may make its towering mountains sink to the level of the earth.
To understand the phenomena which accompanied the Last Judgment we must always keep in mind that the very earth on which the spirit walks is spiritual. He sees himself, and feels himself to be, in the relation in which his mind and personality stand to other spirits. Even on earth we speak of looking up to those we admire, envy, or wish to imitate. We are conscious of class distinctions and social levels, as if some people were above us and others below us. Greater education, greater wealth, more exalted uses or greater powers and abilities, segregate some to heights above us. Such distinctions may be based upon realities of solid worth and on uses performed. If not, a comparatively small occasion can create an upset of these levels of society. A government may topple, a reputation be pricked like a balloon, a system of financial credit may collapse and a whole nation may be plunged into turmoil and chaos. For our lives, even in this world, are founded on our faith, our confidence in others. Where faith is shattered we experience a spiritual earthquake.
But the severity of such an earthquake is according to the importance of the faith that has been shaken. If a friend proves false, or an enterprise proves chimerical, or even if a nation falls, we can still readjust our lives. But if the very faith on which we have built our lives should be challenged, the whole world seems to tumble into ruins about us. Those who have faith in the Lord and in His Divine providence are on solid ground which no judgment can upset. But those who — like the evil spirits who had usurped lofty positions in the Babylonia of the spirit world — trusted in themselves and their own prudence, and whose power depended on the credulity of the multitudes, these became desperate when new truth began to break through from heaven.
The Onset of Judgment
The main judgment on Babylonia commenced "at the end of the year 1756 and in the beginning of the year 1757"; and by the 5th and 6th of January it was, in general, completed.12 The first preparations had taken place in the eastern quarter, where the "mount of the congregation" was removed and sank down to a lower level. This did not cause its abandonment. For in desperate attempts to hold the confidence of the simple, some of the evil spirits resorted to a magical phantasy by which they produced a "sun." But even by their phantasies they could not make it shine.
Therefore they placed a man in this artificial sun and hailed him as God the Father. He then became their mouthpiece, authorizing their crimes and their new dogmas which kept their subjects in fear of purgatory. And whenever this profane spirit was judged a successor was appointed.13
The judgment had barely begun. In the Spiritual Diary — which had by this time turned into a commonplace book with only a few dates noted — we find hundreds of pages describing how the strongholds of the papal religion were devastated, tract by tract, city after city, and how the multitudes of spirits who had lived in mutual charity were liberated. Swedenborg himself was everywhere, observing, and conversing with spirits about the sole Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ who had all power to save. At the very start he seemed to have been personally involved in the very center of the cyclone of judgment, although he himself was unhurt and remained in a strange calm. For in a wakeful vision he visited a certain senator in the southern quarter, in a great Babylonish city which spiritually was called "Rome." The house showed a resemblance to a palace on the Capitoline Hill. The senator, with some other spirits, had been trying to form a doctrine of life; and they accepted some things which Swedenborg told them, although they still adhered to some of the Catholic extravagances.14
It was noted that Swedenborg, in this period, had been putting together the work to be published later as The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, of which he states that it was revealed to him out of heaven.15 It consisted mostly of articles extracted from the Arcana and of copious references to that work. Some of the Babylonians had already been considering how they might pretend to receive this doctrine and subtly pervert it to their own ends.16 But now the senator with whom Swedenborg visited seemed to receive certain things which Swedenborg said about the Lord. And when the prelates and cardinals of that place perceived this, they conspired together and formed a mob which broke in by the windows of the house and sought vainly to kill the senator and drag his seemingly dead body away. Swedenborg was then brought into a sleep, for his own protection, since spirits cannot harm a man when he is asleep. And when he awoke, his persecutors and their allies in the vast district had already begun to be overthrown and cast into what appeared as a gloomy gulf which opened in the southern mountains.17
This direct attack on the Heavenly Doctrine seems to have been the signal for the release of the winds of judgment upon the whole Babylonian tract. A papal consistory, with a changing membership, still exercised dominion from the distant south, although no popes were allowed to show themselves, nor was any denial of the Divine permitted.18 But soon the events came too close upon one another for description. The peaks of the mountains of the papal tracts in all the four quarters flowed together as into a continuous chain, suggesting that the leaders of the hierarchy were joining in a defensive action. But whether ignorant or learned, and whether good or evil externally, this action brought upon them a common judgment; for inwardly they had magnified themselves from self-love beyond endurance and were therefore carried down into a deep chasm in the south, together with some of the popes.19 And then, it is mentioned, there was a great rejoicing among the Catholics who had lived in mutual charity according to their religion.
The chasm just spoken of widened out below into a vast subterranean hell, in an orderly arrangement as to quarters. Angels were sent to effect this arrangement. For it was a new hell, which is kept closed below but open above, and is for those of such character who had lived since the beginning of Christianity.20 This judgment occurred, it is noted, "in the last days of the year 1756." And at this point, also, the judgment on the Mohammedan tract seems to have begun,21 which will be described later.
The Mountain of Multitudes
But the judgment on Babylon was far from completed. Investigating an infestation which seemed to come from the north and west of the papal district, Swedenborg was conducted to a strange mountain which consisted of cities, one below another, connected by winding shafts or stairways. It was inhabited by an immense multitude of spirits; far too many, Swedenborg thought, for the size of the mountain! It was found that these were spirits from various ages since the first beginning of the Christian Church, many being monks, some being idolaters. Those of the earliest ages lived in the lowest cities, separated from those of later centuries. The remarkable thing was that while these multitudes lived on and within the same mountain, and were, so to speak, in the same space and had the same cities as the ultimate of their sensory life, yet those of different centuries were unable to see each other or to interfere with one another's activities; because in the spiritual world different opinions and manners of thinking cause spirits to "turn to different quarters," and then they disappear from each other's view, and sometimes their houses vanish with them.22
This apparent crowding of many spirits into an impossibly small space used to puzzle Swedenborg at first, and he thought that perhaps one spirit was, as it were, within another.23 He realized, however, that there is no space in the spiritual world and, that spirits can be present in a moment by what is called "aspect presence"; which is effected by thought from some affection, and causes them to appear where they really are not. Their real abode is always according to their ruling state. As to this more permanent state they always rest in some idea of place. Generations of corporeal spirits who have been attached to the same city will therefore seem to themselves to live in that city, although the houses may appear somewhat different to each. It is also explained that the ideas of similar buildings, streets and cities — ideas utterly lifelike—are not from their own memories but from the material ideas of the men they as it were "possess."24 And this is why it is said that the spirits may disappear when they turn themselves to a different "quarter"; for by this expression is meant that they are turned to such ultimates in the human race as correspond to the falsities or evil loves which they delight in, although the spirits are not aware of the men with whom their thoughts terminate.25
Now, while Swedenborg was in the City of Multitudes a visitation by angels took place. The governors of the innumerable monasteries were cast out and also the monks, who were a lazy crew who had kept people subjugated by means of phantasies and violence. Their agents of oppression had been controlling the communicating shafts, and were cast into hells along with pagan idolators; and those in the lowest city who had ruled the rest — even as the papists had always done, by means of evoking the power of tradition — were cast into the southern gulf; and the mountain was dispersed like smoke. And, coincident with these events, the gentiles in the farthest circuit were being prepared for judgment.26
The Papal City
The next Catholic district to be visited was in the neighboring region of the western quarter. Here there was a vast mountain country, much of it excavated and filled with monasteries which were entered through caverns covered with roofs. On top of one mountain was a small city ruled by a pope who lived in a palace like that on Monte Cavallo in Rome. Catholics coming into the other life always have a pontiff set over them, but seldom is any pope from the world so appointed. Yet this was the case with the pope who had ruled twenty years before, "because he believed in heart that the Word is more holy than is believed, and that the Lord ought to be worshiped." This pope was Clement XII, known as a reformer rigid in discipline and austere in personal life, a patron of language studies. And Swedenborg notes: "It was perceived that in the world he had been blind" — whether physically or spiritually blind is not said. But Swedenborg adds, "Perchance he was saved." And when the judgment came, Swedenborg reports that he saw some spirits escaping, taking with them first a golden image of Mary and second the pope, before any harm could befall him.27?
But below the papal city there was an immense metropolis inside the mountain and stretching far and wide. It was a monastic city, containing multitudes, some of other religions. The monks lived off the people and were obviously hypocrites. And our scribe notes: "I found some acquaintances in that city."28
The Lord had warned that He would "come quickly," and as "a thief in the night." Despite many warnings and much delay, judgment strikes like lightning. This underground city heaved up and sank down, and the monks were forced out by an irresistible Divine force. The well behaved among the populace were allowed to remain, however, under the supervision of judges and priests.
Thus the judgment on this part of the Babylonian tract did not leave utter destruction in its wake. For a great part of the Catholic communion were spirits who had lived in good according to their practices, although they had not been in truths. And since every nation (gens) is served by its own spirits — although sometimes by others — yet a sufficient remnant of Catholics was left in the former papal city, where now the streets remained but neither the Monte Cavallo nor St. Peter's Basilica.29
And there were other concessions granted in the western quarter. Near the northern angle there are a number of societies which are devoted to external delights. And the enterprise that is pursued there is the introduction of credulous newcomers into the kind of heavens that they had imagined would provide them with eternal bliss. In some societies they play, or dance, or converse or feast; in others they discuss religion or politics, or even revel in ribald talk or unchaste pretenses of innocence. By such attractions evil and ignorant spirits with a bent for leading others entice them into remaining under their control. But since these external joys of the imagination soon begin to pall, those false heavens are permitted as useful means by which many are withdrawn from their foolish notions concerning intromission into heaven.30 And angelic spirits are then able to instruct them that the real delight of heaven is a love of use.
Judgment is not for the sake of punishing the evil, but for the sake of saving the good. In the next chapter we shall complete the account of Babylon's fall, and of the preservation of the innocent who hearkened to the voice from heaven: "Come out of her, O My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not her plagues!"
1 LJ 19
2 AR 225, AE 258
3 AR 533, 535, 543
4 AC 2121-2130
5 SD 4770-4776
6 SD 4777-4781
7 SD 4835, 4838, 4842ff
8 LJ 58
9 AC 10412
10 SD 4965ff, 4956f, LJ 58
11 Isa. 14; SD 4970ff
12 SD 5336
13 SD 5004ff, 5088ff
14 SD 5210
15 HD 7
16 SD 4988
17 SD 5211f
18 SD 5215, 5229
19 SD 5230-5234
20 SD 5336ff [M]SD 5239f
22 SD 5249ff
23 SD 2338, 5531
24 SD 5092
25 SD 5251f, 5610, 4683
26 SD 5255ff, LJ 58:6
27 SD 5249ff, 5270, 5272; CLJ 59; LJ post. 102
28 SD 5271
29 SD 5406, 5408
30 LJ 56, cp CL 7-9