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27 The Fall of "Babylon"

The Treasure City

Among the cities of the papists in the world of spirits there existed, before the Last Judgment, an immense underground metropolis which extended straight across the western quarter, and then, at right angles, straight across the southern quarter up to the great southern "chasm." The city was at the border of the "middle space" or inner square, which was occupied by the Protestant nations. The name of the city was called Great Babylon, or Rich Babylon, by Swedenborg. It was, of course, a spiritual city—a city of doctrines elaborated for centuries. Ingenuity and inventions of all sorts were there esteemed, and the inhabitants excelled in "the light of nature," or a "natural lumen," in which falsities can shine as resplendently as truths.1

What this persuasive light is can be judged to some extent from the cleverness with which the Catholic Church builds up faith in its dogmas through carefully constructed reasonings, such as were employed by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages and which resulted in monumental systems of philosophy like that of Thomas Aquinas, which is still used; and then confirms these dogmas by proclaimed miracles. For many centuries no learning was permitted unless it was authorized by the Church. Scientific research and speculation were driven underground, to survive only as alchemy and sorcery. Popes and bishops also exerted power by much material wealth, and a vast part of Europe's land was in their hands. This hoarded wealth — but especially the apparent wealth of learning monopolized by prelates, monks and Jesuits — was represented in the spirit-world by gold and silver and precious stones, which were concealed in the Rich City Babylon in dark vaults lit by candles.2 It was represented also by the fact that the priests performed their masses, "not in the common language of spirits, but in a language composed of high-sounding words which induced an external holiness and awe, but were utterly unintelligible"; although this is against the law of the spiritual world.3

But when they began to commune with certain magical hells, and while the dust they thought to be gold was being carried out of the crypts, the ground under these treasures commenced to bubble up and an earthquake engulfed many in nearby hells. Panic followed, and crowds of Jesuits and monks poured up through the shafts which connected the underground city with the mountain-top. Some tried to rescue their golden images, but in vain. Presently the mountain was borne away, exposing the city with its magnificent monasteries, palaces and temples. And at last the city itself was blown away by an east wind and dispersed as if into smoke; and with all its treasures it was cast into a great sea farther off to the west. A deluge came upon the place where it had been, and a monstrous dragon was at last seen hovering over it.4

Thus perished the great city Babylon, with the riches it had amassed through the ages; and it should be understood that the loss of these riches signified that the spirits ruling there had been deprived of the truths and goods which they had externally possessed, and by which they had exercised power. For "from him that hath shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." (Luke 8:18).

The districts themselves in the world of spirits are permanent, while their populations shift and their features change in consequence. Swedenborg gives a number of diagrams of the various quarters to show their relative situations and the arrangement of the cities. In the case of the Rich Babylon this was the more necessary, he explains, "on account of turning to a quarter opposite from those who are above me."5 Possibly this meant that while Swedenborg was observing these evil states he had to turn the sight of his understanding from the direction in which his angelic guardians faced — or from the direction of his love.

The Aftermath of Judgment

Even after the great cities of Babylonia had been destroyed, and their dominion broken, there were immense districts to be judged. One was a monastery region in the west, with twenty times as many monasteries as on earth. There the monks were sinful and gluttonous, and were almost entirely ignorant of doctrine. They went about at night, intimidating simple souls with miracles and threats. Only a few cloisters were above the earth, to observe the state of things there. The rest were beneath, for new monasteries of the same orders had been formed in each age, and the older ones had then let themselves down to lower levels. Those of the Dark Ages dwelt beneath those of the time of the Reformation and were not in so wicked a state.

There were also many women, who had lived in almshouses, who infested Swedenborg while he was in the western quarter. These had lived indolent lives, and had loved gossip, eating and sleeping, and going to church — yet without any desire to be instructed. There were also beggars and hoboes who acted as if they were stuck together. In the west also there were many rich men who had lived in various centuries and continued to cherish phantasies of wealth. When their dwellings were laid open they scurried about like rats to save their treasures.6

All these regions were judged. But there remained in the farther west about twenty mountains, called the "seven mountains" in the Apocalypse because "seven" signifies what is profane. The spirits there were mostly from various parts of Italy and many were crafty in disposition, claiming that they possessed the power belonging to the Lord's human nature, and attempting in vain to practise the methods of the Inquisition. Some proclaimed themselves as gods; others maintained a devil-cult while at the same time worshiping the Divine, so that they might have a protective communication with certain simple good spirits who lived in a heaven on mountains that rise up near the Middle Space of the Protestants. In the judgment which these malignant spirits invited when their evils broke out, they were dispersed by earthquakes and became insane or stupid. Some were led through deserts and swamps, and had to cross certain bridges and then go through an underground tunnel; and the farther away they went the more stupid they became, until they lay down like corpses. Some were cast into the hells of the Nephilim — the antediluvian hells.7

In the eastern quarter, the spirits who had made the phantastic "sun" were also promptly judged, and were dispersed into deserts in the north. But in the same quarter were multitudes who had been held in subjection, yet had been pious and upright and devoted to duty. Some of these were transferred farther east. But others, who were in inner sanctity and yet were infected with something of hypocrisy and a desire to rule, were brought to the west and the north, where those had formerly been who dwelt in alms-houses. From the nuns and young women living in convents, the evil and adulterous were cast into deep hells. The rest, those who were not idle, were led to form a society without convents. But only a few stayed, for most of them could not be weaned from their conventual life. Many who had been diligent in domestic service, from affection and religion, were brought outside the region of the church to form a society in which they could learn the truths of faith and yet be protected from the infesting spheres of men. But those who were idle, and cultivated piety alone, were distributed among the adherents of their own religion to act as servants.8

Swedenborg then records: "Thus was Babylon devastated and utterly destroyed on three sides, the south, the west, and the north; this commenced at the end of the year 1756 and in the beginning of the year 1757; yesterday and today these three tracts, today being the 6th of January, 1757."9

The whole district was ruined. For the eastern tract also was cleared of false heavens. It is interesting to find that many of the things which happened before Swedenborg's eyes remind us of the prophetic descriptions in the Apocalypse, where it is said that the great city Babylon was mourned by the merchants of the earth, in that in one hour her judgment was come. For to the devastated tract came many merchants, who were accustomed to trade in her precious merchandise of gold and incense and slaves and the souls of men, and who lamented when they could not even drag any of these from the bottom of the western sea where everything had been cast. These "merchants" were monks and others who had been traveling abroad when the destruction came.10 And some of the wealthy of the neighborhood, who lived only for luxury and amusement and worshiped God only from habit, were seen fleeing with millstones over their left shoulders, to signify how they could not get rid of their execrable dogmas by which they had enchained others. It is said in the Apocalypse that the sound of a millstone should not be heard again in Babylon (Revelation 18:11, 21) 11

The Residue of the Catholics

What happened to those pious and good Catholics who had an affection of truth is also told. Many of them had been living in subjection in the eastern quarter. But now these were transferred to the west by a direct way across the Protestant tract; and they seemed to stop on the way and borrow silver and garments from the Protestants who were in truth but not in good, even as the sons of Israel borrowed from the Egyptians.12 They were then given fertile tracts in the northwest, near the Protestants, where they were instructed by priests from the Reformed in a school or college whence there is an entrance to heaven.13 These new colonists in the west inherited also much treasure left underground by the monks, and this because they had an affection of truth. Other groups of simple good Catholics who had lived among the monks underground, but protected from the contagion of idolatry, were given places in the various quarters formerly occupied by the evil. Those who strongly adhered to Catholic tradition remained hidden near the western sea.14

Thus a new, orderly arrangement was made around the Babylonish tract, providing a city like Rome in the west, with a good spirit presiding as "pope," schools conducted by converted monks, and enough spirits, both good and evil, to serve the needs of Catholics on earth.15 The hells descend obliquely into the earth at the outer borders of the tract. Since new spirits arrive all the time from Catholicism on earth, and many hundred thousands roam at large in the world of spirits, they are successively vastated. Similar monasteries appear, and there are similar judgments on a smaller scale. Babylonians gather as before on the mountains which represent their loves, and seek to establish new "heavens." But before as many as two thousand gather, they are judged and their society is dissolved. They cannot return, and their false heavens collapse of themselves through the nearness of good spirits.16

Monks still persist in sending out emissaries to seduce the Reformed, but are punished if they do; for Babylonian spirits now have no intercourse with other spirits, but all spirits go to their own places soon after death.17 Possibly the rise of nationalism may be of significance in this connection. The world of spirits is organized on the basis of natural affections, and the power of Babylonia is weakened by national loyalties.

Many and great heavenly societies are formed from Catholics.18 All spirits who can receive truths of faith in the goods of life are instructed and elevated to heaven. It is not their fault that they are born in the Catholic Church. All their infants are in heaven, but these are ignorant of their parents' falsities.

The Catholic Church on Earth

It is to be observed that the description of the Babylonia of the spiritual world cannot, without many reservations, be regarded as a picture of the Catholic Church presently on earth. For one thing, the spirits of many past centuries were subject to the Last Judgment. The Writings say: "As regards Babylon in the natural world or on our earth, those meant by Babylon there are not in the same state as those in the spiritual world; and yet the exhortation (Revelation 18:4) is also for them, that they may take heed to themselves": "Come out of her, O My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues: for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities" (Revelation 18:4, 5) .19

Concerning the end of Babylon the Writings say also: "Not that the idolatrous worship of such in the world will be destroyed and themselves with it, for this will remain, but not as the worship of any church but as the worship of paganism; consequently, such after death will come among pagans, and be no longer among Christians. But from those who have adored the Lord, and not the pope or saints or graven images, a new church will be gathered up by the Lord."20

The Judgment on the Mohammedans

In the last days of the year 1756, before the Mountain of Multitudes had been destroyed, the judgment came upon the Mohammedan spirits, whose tract was outside and round about the Catholic circuit.21 This judgment took less time. It took the form, mostly, of a migration from the west near the south, where the Moslems had dwelt distinguished according to nations. From this district they were led by a way around the Christian region, and through the deserts and bogs in the north beyond where the City of Multitudes still stood, and past the gulfs of that quarter unto the east, and, even farther, to the south. On the way the good were separated from the wicked, and it appeared as if these latter were cast into marshes and lakes or scattered in a far off desert in the north. The rest went on to the east and there colonized a vast area of mountains and valleys, behind certain Christian societies of instruction in the east towards the north. But the best proceeded farther south, and it was there that those Moslem heavens were established which had communication with Christian heavens because they accepted the belief that the Lord was not only the Son of God but one with the Father. Some of these arrive at their heavens by an inner circuit, going from the lower earth, first to the east, then to the north and on a higher level over the west, and so to the south.22

The reason the judgment took this form of circuitous travel is that in the other life all states and spiritual contacts are repeated, so that each spirit may thus confirm or reject his previous attitudes. This often takes the form of communication with different quarters or classes of spirits, or by travel through the quarters.

The Koran, the holy book of the Moslems, written by Mohammed, contains distorted fragments both from the Old Testament and from the New. A few pages in the Koran even contain correspondences by which there is some light in the Mohammedan heavens.23 The religion of Islam stresses the unity of God and was permitted in Providence that it might eradicate the prevailing idolatries; but it is accommodated to the genius of the orientals, and therefore allows polygamy and gives sensual ideas of heaven. The Lord is acknowledged as a great Prophet, and in a sense as the Son of God because He was born of a virgin.24

Moslems after death usually seek for Mohammed, because they think he will intercede for them at the day of judgment. For this reason, before the Last Judgment, a spirit impersonating Mohammed was always provided who had acceded to the Christian religion, and who therefore appeared in some place beneath the Protestant Middle Space.25 Some of these substitutes refused adoration; but others arrogated power to themselves, and when multitudes of good spirits deserted them they became openly angry and wanted their followers to invade Christendom. To quell such a crew the real Mohammed, a black and terrible spirit, was once raised up from the lower regions to announce, "I am your Mohammed," and sink down again.26

One distinguished group of Moslems were the Moguls, whose empire — originating with the conquests of Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane — was beginning to totter in the 18th century. As spirits they were proud, and lived in wealth and magnificence on a mountain in the south. They were hostile to Christians, and their mountains were cast down and those of them who from love of self thought of Mohammed instead of God were deported into deserts or into hells.27

There are three grades of Mohammedan heavens. The first is introductory. The second consists of such as have rejected polygamy. The third or highest consists of those who acknowledge the Lord as the only God and one with the Father. Swedenborg conversed with some of these; and they gave reverent attention to the teaching that the Lord glorified His whole body and, differently from any man, took all things of the body with Him, because His soul was infinite. The same was also explained by angels to certain gentiles in the east.28 It may be noted as of interest that the Koran claims that Jesus was not crucified, but only His image, but that God took Him up unto Himself (chap. iv:157).

Moslems are instructed by teachers of their own religion who have been converted to Christianity. They are so docile and obedient that Christian spirits were moved with shame.29 But when some "wished to go and join the heavenly Christian Church" they were advised to remain in the doctrine of the Koran about the Lord as the greatest Prophet and the Son of God, for their spiritual good and conscience had been formed from this faith, which could not suddenly be extinguished.30 The general teaching is that the Mohammedan heavens must remain distinct from the Christian heavens.31 Yet there is influx from the Christian heavens, and it is stated that many Mohammedans became Christians.32

Judgment on the Gentiles

It was noted that in the Babylonish City of Multitudes there were many idolaters from previous ages who were cast out into lakes and marshes toward the west. When this occurred, there started also a general judgment upon the gentiles who occupied two circuits beyond that of the Mohammedans. In the inner circuit were the Africans, and in the outer fringe were spirits from "the Indies" and other pagans. Still farther toward the circumference certain gulfs appeared, and the great surrounding sea which appears as a boundary for spirits of our earth. Still, these circuits appeared as if laid out, not in a plane, but in a globe.33

The gentiles, like the Mohammedans, were judged by migrations through various quarters. All such spiritual travel is according to the successive states of thought from affection, for the ways that one walks spiritually are actual determinations of the thought.34 The Lord had said that at His second coming He would "send His angels . . . and they shall gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31). This actually took place with the gentiles. They were led from the west, where most of them lived, and were brought a short way in the west and then directly above the northern level of the Christians without communicating with them, and so to the east; and were eventually allotted places at the east and south, on both sides of the Mohammedan heavens. Some who in the world had worshiped God under a human form were conjoined with Christians in heaven, even as it is written in Luke: "They shall come from the east and west, and from the north and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."

During their migrations, the evil among them were diverted and cast into various gulfs, two of these openings to the pagan hells being on the two sides of the Moslem heavens, and two others stretching obliquely downwards in the west.35 The judgment on these vast multitudes was completed in a few days. For "everyone after being yielded up into his own love and into his own faith is immediately assigned and carried to his like."36

The Africans

The best, and also the most intelligent and lovable, among the gentiles were the Africans. They had an interior judgment and a genius akin to those of the celestial kingdom.37 Even before the judgment they had received instruction from angels in the Heavenly Doctrine, and had been promised "a Bible, but a new Bible from the Lord."38 They were therefore more receptive of the Heavenly Doctrine than others on this earth, and were told that the Lord would come and establish a new church and that "His appearing is made through angels who teach."39

Some years after the judgment, Swedenborg was brought, by changes of state, to the spiritual Africa in the southern quarter.40 He even drew a diagram of the district, which in some respects corresponded to our terrestrial Africa. He found that the wisest and best lived in a central region. These perceptively knew all that was in Swedenborg's mind, and more, and could speak truths; and although they seemed deficient in the knowledge of correspondences they were yet delighted to see their value. They told him that in this great tract they all worshiped the Lord, and were taught by many who communicated with the angels of heaven; and that the communication is not through speech by the angels, but through an interior perception; and that these are their instructors whom they perfectly discriminate from all others. If papists or other Europeans intrude and are unwilling to be their servants they send them away to Asia as slaves.

These African spirits then received a copy of the Word and read it. At first they could see no holiness in it, but afterwards more and more of the internal sense became apparent. And then they gave it to their teachers, who admitted that they already had it. In fact, these angelic teachers said that they "dictated it to the men in Africa with whom they had communication, just as the Lord guides: hence it is evident that there is a revelation there."41

In another account of the same visit, Swedenborg notes that some of these instructors "speak with Africans in the world;" that this speech falls into their perception interiorly; and that they "perceive the influx and so receive the revelation with enlightenment."42 In still another passage about the spiritual Africa, Swedenborg states: "It was told me from heaven that the truths now published in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord, concerning the Word, and in the Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem, are orally dictated by angelic spirits to the inhabitants of that country."43

Whether the Africans "in the world" here meant those in the world of spirits or those on our natural earth seems somewhat problematical. Certainly the Writings do not elsewhere mention any modes by which doctrine can be revealed to men by oral dictation on the part of angels. But in closing his account of his visit to the spiritual Africa, Swedenborg writes: "Afterwards they were given the work Heaven and Hell, which they received and preserved: similarly also The Last Judgment and Earths in the Universe and also The White Horse, lastly The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, that they might pick out (eligant) those things which they saw useful."44 All these books were published in 1758.

It is thus obvious that Africans in the spiritual world had knowledge of the Writings as well as of the Sacred Scripture, and that having this, they could the better receive angelic speech as an enlightenment of interior perception.

That the books of the Heavenly Doctrine, after their publication on earth, existed in similar form in the spiritual world is clear from the above accounts. How far they can be of use in instructing gentiles depends, of course, on the states of these spirits. Novitiate African spirits seem to gather still in the far west near the north; and there, we are told, they are visited by some of the instructors who in vast numbers are sent forth from a Christian heaven — which is also identified as a certain "seminary" — to distant nations. Those Africans who were in communication with this missionary school were such as had lived well and acknowledged one God under the human form. They were in the love of truth, desiring to find out how to live rightly, and knowing that the Lord would give them enlightenment according to the kind and amount of their good of life. Afterwards Swedenborg, who spoke with them about the Lord, heard "that a great many spirits and angels who are instructed in Divine truths from the heavenly doctrine were sent thither."45

But these things could not have happened before the Last Judgment was completed; for the heavenly "seminary" or college from which these teachers of the Heavenly Doctrine were sent forth was itself purged in the judgment before it could be a means of healing the nations. How the judgment on the Protestant nations took place, and what were its after-effects, will be discussed in following chapters.


1 SD 5280ff

2 Rev. 18:23; SD 5282-5293

3 LJ 56; SD 5289, 4931, 6049

4 SD 5294-5303

5 SD 5302. The diagrams are found between nos. 5249 and 5485 of the English edition of the Diary.

6 SD 5309-5321

7 SD 5630-5638, 5648-5658

8 SD 5337-5343; LJ post. 109

9 SD 5336

10 SD 5344, 5333

11 SD 5335

12 SD 5405ff

13 LJ 63, SD 5504f, LJ post. 110ff

14 SD 5503

15 LJ 56, TCR 820, SD 5408, 6022, 5501f

16 SD 5598f, TCR 818ff

17 TCR 817f; LJ 64, AR 812:3

18 LJ post. 112

19 AE 1107

20 AE 1029:8,10

21 SD 5240ff, 5258ff

22 SD 5258ff, LJ post. 91ff

23 SD 5809:8 It is stated in the Koran that in it "There are some verses clearly to be understood; they are the foundation of the book; but others are parabolic" (Chap iii.)

24 CL 342, AE 1180:2, Koran iii. 40-43

25 LJ 50, CLJ 69, TCR 829, CL 344, SD 5243

26 SD 5666 (a) , CLJ 70, TCR 830

27 SD 5729

28 SD 5063, 5244, LJ post. 87, 129

29 HH 515, SD 403ff, 344

30 LJ post. 97, SD 5669 (a); HH 516

31 CL 352, 342, LJ 50

32 SD 5246

33 SD 5240-5248, 5263-5265; AC 9583, LJ 48, LJ post. 126, SS 105e

34 LJ 48

35 LJ post. 127, LJ 51f, SD 5263ff, 5279

36 LJ 51

37 TCR 835, 837, HH 326, SD 5518

38 SD 4770ff

39 LJ post. 118, SD 4783

40 SD 5946

41 SD 5946

42 LJ post. 124

43 CLJ 76

44 SD 5946

45 SD 5515ff, LJ post. 119


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27. Fall of "Babylon"

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