28 The Judgment on the Reformed
The Decline of the Christian Heavens
When we think of someone going to heaven, we think of heaven as a state of eternal and undisturbed bliss. But heaven, after all, is not a place, but is a society of souls which takes its quality from those who compose it.
In the beginning of the Christian Church, a heaven was formed from those who lived in acknowledgment of the Lord as their Savior and in a good life for the sake of Him and of the Divine precepts. Soon, however, the church on earth, as it grew in numbers and external power, declined in its simple loyalty to the Lord's teachings, and its doctrine began to be confused. Many Christians, after apostolic times, came to worship the one God under three persons without having the idea of three gods. These were admitted into the Christian Heaven; as were also other spirits who had lived a moral life, and many who, from habit in the world, acted piously, even though they were interiorly malicious.
Thus the heavens gathered after the Lord's advent deteriorated. At first they consisted of spirits who had heaven within them, and who worshiped the Lord and thence had heaven around them also, as is the proper order. But, successively, the spirits who entered became more and more external; and while even these were given happiness and an abundance of all things, so that they lacked nothing, they began to place heaven in dignities and in the magnificence and beauty around them. And when they craved service from others and reverence for themselves, they could no longer receive such luxuries and pleasures from the Lord; whereupon they gradually began to provide these things for themselves by phantasies and arts unknown in the world. In vain were angels sent to warn them. Their societies grew worse, so that the original good spirits had to be taken out and concealed for ages in various places inaccessible to the evil. In appearance, many of these societies of refuge seemed to be situated in the "lower earth" below the world of spirits. Those who were of a more interior kind were instructed, however, and preserved in heaven.1
All spirits who are flagrantly evil as well as inwardly wicked promptly and naturally gravitate into hell.2 But those who retain a moral behavior and emulate a spiritual life in externals are permitted to remain among good spirits who trust them; and the evil can indeed guide and instruct the simple good, who look no further than the surface.3 This is the reason for the long-suffering tolerance of the Lord, which permitted the evil to maintain themselves for centuries in these false and transient heavens. Their final judgment was delayed lest the simple good should suffer. For let us note this, that spirits are taught by those of their own church and religion, and the Christian Church had so falsified its original truths that it could no longer supply a true standard of spiritual judgment — could no longer distinguish genuine religion from pretense. It could not lead men except to heavens that were imaginary or false.
The same, of course, was true of the pagan religions. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century the "heavens" formed from those who had died from our earth since the Lord's advent were heavens only in name, for those in them were not angels but spirits of various religions. But the more spiritually minded among them, and all those who had died as infants and been brought up among these in the other life, were, as was said, removed from their corrupted societies and concealed by themselves, under the protection of the ancient heavens.4
The Spiritual Diary relates one remarkable instance of how the decline of the original Christian societies in heaven affected simple good spirits. For some time before the Last Judgment, some of the apostles — who had lived in heaven in great happiness, yet not in any particular eminence, but in what seems to have been the ultimate heaven — were remitted into the state in which they had been on earth. It was certain literalistic spirits who thus stirred up the corporeal state of these apostles. The effect was that the apostles — as they did in the world — came into the phantasy that they were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. They also maintained that none should be admitted into heaven except those who had suffered persecutions and miseries. And while they were in this state the apostles could remember nothing of what they had learned in heaven in their first state, or even that they belonged in heaven. And while they fluctuated, as it were, and were by turns in one state or another before the Last Judgment, it is afterwards told of them that they attended while Swedenborg wrote the True Christian Religion and, on June 19, 1770, were endued with new power from on high and sent out to be the heralds of the new age.5
Before the Last Judgment the general state of the simple good spirits of the ultimate heaven was one of confusion. It was disorganized because so many evil spirits were consociated with them in externals; and as long as this was the case, enlightenment failed and the interiors of their minds could not be opened.6 Indeed, even the state of the middle heaven was disturbed. And nothing could restore the even pace of angelic progress except the removal of the evil spirits from their position of prestige and leadership.
Remember that these evil spirits who had taken over the power were from the Christian Church itself! They represented the means of salvation! They were trusted exponents of the teachings of Christ. And as long as they were so trusted it was to them that Christians turned for guidance in the way to heaven. The simple could not be expected to know that in the last times there would arise false Christs and false prophets who, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:24).
The Reformed in the World of Spirits
The first group of evil spirits which became the object of final judgment was, as described in previous chapters, the "Babylonians"; mostly Catholics who exercised dominion through the pretense of being vicars of Christ and able to forgive sins, and who held the people spellbound with various mysteries, miracles and superstitions. The judgment which destroyed the phantasies of Babylon in the world of spirits, and dislodged these spirits from their high places, took place quickly, in the space of a few days, and was virtually completed by the sixth day of January, 1757.
But the judgment on the Protestant strongholds in the world of spirits was more protracted, and had to be effected by successive changes. Swedenborg testifies that it began about the seventh day of January — after the judgment on all the Catholic, Moslem and gentile regions had drawn to a close — and was nearly completed by the seventh of April, although it continued with certain residues throughout the year 1757. One reason the judgment on those from the Reformed churches was delayed was that the reading of the Word had been restored at the Reformation, and that by the Word they had communication with the heavens and thus a certain protection. For the same reason "all the Protestants or Reformed of whom there was still some hope," or "who had led lives of charity and its faith," were, at the time of the judgment, collected in the central region of the world of spirits; while in the surrounding districts were those who made "seeming heavens" for themselves, being in externals without genuine internals. Such false heavens appeared situated mainly on mountains and rocky plateaus on all sides of the "middle space."7 It was upon these latter, not upon those at the center, that the Last Judgment came.
The "Lower Earth"
But it is easy to oversimplify the appearances by which spiritual relations are expressed in the world of spirits. And before the Last Judgment had, as it were, straightened out these relations, they were especially confusing.
In general it can be said that at the time of the judgment the entire level which is usually described as the ground level of the world of spirits was entirely occupied by evil spirits.8 Below this earth-level, and concealed from the evil, was a "lower earth"; and it was there that the salvable Protestants lived in central communities, surrounded on all sides, and above also, by evil spirits who had indeed read the Bible and frequented churches, but had made nothing of the Commandments and had loved self and the world.9 And farther off to the sides were many dark caverns stretching far off and leading down obliquely into the hells. In fact, these hells were thus situated underneath the Babylonian district, which extended around that of the Reformed.
It is also told that the "lower earth" was so arranged that it had various levels or strata; and good and evil spirits dwelt in such a way that they were in alternate strata, so that the good might restrain the evil and thus maintain order; even as in the world the public opinion of decent people controls open crime, or as the involuntary fibers in the human body rule the voluntary fibers.10
This "lower earth" is therefore sometimes referred to by Swedenborg as "below the feet." There good spirits lived, "encompassed by the hells," yet well protected from them.11 There is a certain temporary protection, as we well know, in modesty, ignorance and lack of pretension. These spirits were in falsities about heavenly life and in a state of vastation, sometimes attended by despair and spiritual torment; like the "souls under the altar" whom John heard crying: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou delay to judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10).12
But there were also many spirits there who were in faith and charity and who lived in peace and tranquility. On a hill in the "truly Christian" middle of this district there stood a quadrangular place which is identified by Swedenborg as "the New Jerusalem." And it is said: "All things in the other life must be considered in relation to such a site."13 In fact, Swedenborg made a diagram of the "lower earth" to show the relationship of this "New Jerusalem" to the various kinds of evil spirits who were arranged according to their characters in the angles extending between the four quarters.14
What was meant by the New Jerusalem is not here explained. It is clear that it was the abode of those who were in the greatest light from the Word, and through whom that spiritual light was spread to receptive spirits on all sides, even to the gentiles in the farthest circumference.15 The New Jerusalem, of course, signifies the New Church as to doctrine and life; and in memorable relations written by Swedenborg after the Last Judgment he mentions certain "Jerusalemite cities," one of which he saw besieged in vain by evil spirits.16 But even before the judgment, the genuine Christian remnant in the "lower earth" received the heavenly doctrine of charity and faith, and thus constituted a nucleus which was to be raised up to form the New Heaven out of which the New Church was to descend.
The Mountain Level
It was mentioned that on the ground level of the world of spirits only evil spirits lived before the judgment. But above the world of spirits, and around it, there arose mountains on which the worst sort of Christians had sought to establish themselves in order to exercise command and gloat over their eminence; for indeed the glory of dignity and superiority rivals even the delights of dominion. These were external men without internal spirituality. They established a great many cities there, and each city meant some particular type of religious doctrine. Into these they lured many simple souls who thus became their partisans and supporters, and who had wandered up into these mountains in their search for the true heaven. Both good and evil spirits thus lived on this level.17 These mountains were indeed the proper place for the ultimate or natural heaven, and Swedenborg at first called them the "heaven of spirits," which he found to have been usurped by evil spirits.
But high above these mountains there was still another expanse, overhead and as if invisible in the clouds. This was occupied by several types of pietists who were in the conviction that they were sanctified and holier than others, because their thoughts were continually in the clouds, attempting to think of the invisible God without determining their thought to think of the Divine under human form.18
Even before the Last Judgment, societies of evil spirits were in periodic ferment.19 Not only is peace impossible for the wicked, because of constant jealousies and underhand intrigues; but when evil becomes open and brutal, and begins to injure the well-disposed, the Lord sends angels for a visitation; causing rulers to be deposed and conspirators to be sent away to lower levels, or even into their hells. Such visitations are always for the protection of good spirits, who are then taken away and secreted. Sometimes a society is overturned and good spirits are established where the evil were, even as the Israelites dispossessed the nations of Canaan.20 Certain Swedish cities in the lower earth underwent preliminary purifications; and previously to that it is mentioned that Charles XII, in his haughty stubbornness, "declared war on God," thinking himself to be the Devil himself.21
There were also various signs given of the approaching day of doom. There were earthquakes in divers places, and a storm cloud or misty sphere seemed to spread over the mountains and rocks as a sign of the Lord's presence in the angelic heavens above them, and especially in the ultimate heaven. The higher heavens seemed to be brought nearer, causing the interiors of the evil spirits to be disclosed so that they could no longer appear like moral Christians. Their lusts were set free, and they began to reject their pretended piety of the former state with contempt and ridicule. And with this, all the splendid possessions that they had made by artifice vanished away; their palaces turning into vile huts, their gardens into stagnant pools, and their temples into rubbish.22 The most acute reasoners among them rushed into the middle and assumed the dominion, and the rest fawned upon them as if they were tutor-angels. These were "the beginnings of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8). Here and there the ground opened to belch out fiery smoke. And where disorders affected the lives of the simple good, visitations of angels took place. As at Sodom, the angels were often offered violence while they assured the escape of good spirits.23
The evil spirits on these rocky places were mostly those who professed the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Some had professed charity, but had in their private lives indulged in shameful vices while still enjoying a measure of official enlightenment in their uses. It is notable that the evil can hide behind a moral external for a long time; but when the heavenly sphere of real love and charity approaches too closely they finally cannot endure it, and feel so suffocated that in desperation they cast off their masks as if in relief. For, of course, there is nothing "harder on the nerves" than to live a life of pretense.
The Beginning of the Judgment on the Reformed
The Last Judgment on the Reformed nations in the world of spirits broke out on the sixth of January, 1757, at the same time as the papists of the eastern quarter were brought down beyond the northern tract.24 Those first affected were various external spirits living on a mountain immediately above and around the center of the Protestant middle space, thus also above the hill in the lower earth which was called the "New Jerusalem."25 These spirits were of various sects — Lutherans, Calvinists and others. Most of them lived outside of the cities, and this would indicate that they were not strongly fortified in doctrine, but had been churchgoers mainly interested in self and the world. Their fate was to be brought obliquely down into hells bordering the Protestant region and below the Babylonish districts. There they were deprived of all doctrinals and were scattered, never to return, in desert places in the various quarters according to their character. Those from the cities who had lived morally from fear or for the sake of reputation were banished into mountain regions.26
What brought on this first judgment was their inability to refrain from criminal acts, and from seditious plotting against those who held the Word holy and worshiped the Lord as the God of heaven and earth.27
The Reformed Nations
The Spiritual Diary records, with meticulous detail, the progress of the judgment from state to state and place to place in the world of spirits, a world which changed its appearance during the process. But in general there is a relative fixity in that world also, for it is organized according to the natural affections which ruled the spirits when they lived on earth.
Prominent among those ruling natural affections is the bond of nationality. This we sometimes call patriotism or love of country. But it may be only a love of one's kindred, one's familiar customs and confirmed ways of thinking, common knowledge, and a loyalty to what we regard as our own. Such common affections mold each nationality into a genius which is distinct from that of others and which survives death. Spirits at first therefore gravitate to their compatriots and form cities like those in which they lived on earth.
The geography of the world of spirits is, of course, vastly different from that of earth. For the directions, or cardinal points, in the other life indicate the inclinations of the mind and the ruling characteristics or genius, as well as the state of intelligence and affection. The nations thus appear there in their quarters according to their religion, and "according to each nation's common faculty for receiving Divine truths."28 The Protestant nations, at the time of the judgment, were led into the middle space because the Word was read among them, and they were in greater spiritual light than others .
Before we can describe the course of the judgment we must therefore first picture the situation of the various nations. The English appeared in the central part of the middle space, the Dutch toward the east and the south, the Germans more towards the north, the Swedes in the west and the north, and the Danes toward the west.29 Of the English it is said that they had an interior perceptive sight as to religion, and that many of them would receive the Heavenly Doctrine and come into the New Jerusalem. They also had freedom of speech, which encouraged sincerity.30
The Dutch were in the love of trading, not in the love of wealth alone; and while they often held to their religious principles after they had been proved wrong, they excelled in distinguishing phantasy from reality, and kept spiritual light conjoined with natural light more than others. They tended to be secretive from prudence.
The Swedes were worse than any others in Europe except Italians and Russians. They were outwardly sincere — like the Dalecarlians — from a hereditary disposition, but inwardly they could harbor hatred against those who did not favor them, and they had no respect for honesty. Of course, there were good Swedes as well! Not much is said about the Danes, except that some were hypocritical and preferred to rule rather than to work — a trait not confined to them.
The Germans are spoken of as a "noble nation" which was not of so unified a quality because divided by religious differences and into many principalities. They devoted themselves less to matters of judgment and more to matters of memory and book-learning, the history of letters, and so on. They kept spiritual things inscribed on their memories and seldom elevated their thoughts. The Germans were under despotic government in each dukedom, and did not enjoy freedom of speech and of the press like the "free nations" of Holland and Britain. And influx adapts itself to efflux.31
Among other spirit groups in this intermediate world Swedenborg found the Jews. Although not Christians, they read the Word of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew and therefore had communication with some of the heavens, and were for this reason preserved and tolerated in the "middle space." They, however, dwelt underneath the Protestants — a "little to the left, in a parallel with the sole of the foot and below."32
The Moravians, followers of Zinzendorf, also belonged to no special nationality. Their situation was at first in a valley near the Jews. They were characterized by their peculiar "societies of interior friendship," based on doctrinal brotherhood and the conviction that they alone were saved.33
The Quakers are described as wandering spirits. They could form no societies, for they rejected the sacraments and have no fixed doctrinals of faith, but speak from enthusiastic spirits who obsess them and cause them to commingle profane ideas with what they know from the Word. Their state seems to have gone from bad to worse, and finally they fell into nefarious practices and ideas which their founder and William Penn and others disowned. The early Quakers had ecstatic convulsions, but these ceased after the first type of enthusiastic spirits was removed from them.34
Cities in the World of Spirits
The "nations" just described were societies of spirits, often governed by the same princes or kings as had recently ruled over those nations on earth. Such rulers were tolerated as long as they administered their offices justly. These societies usually took the form of cities — cities which were in great part replicas of those on earth, with corresponding districts, streets and buildings.35
Skeptics would here exclaim: What! Cities in the spiritual world? How could there be houses and streets in that world, except as apparitions floating in the air? And if they then, after death, should be amazed on being shown that there were even libraries there, and pens and ink and writing and mechanical arts, the angels might tell them: "We perceive that in the former world you thought that this world was empty because spiritual, and that you so thought because . . . what is abstracted from the material appeared to you as nothing and thus as a vacuum. Yet in this world there is a fullness of all things. Here all things are substantial, not material; and material things derive their origin from things substantial."36
It may seem that the reality of spiritual cities has little to do with the Last Judgment. But this judgment often took the form of a destruction or rearrangement of cities in the world of spirits, as we shall show in our next chapter. And the New Church is consistently described as a spiritual city, a holy Jerusalem. The cities of the Reformed in the world of spirits are also referred to collectively in the Apocalypse as that "great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified"; a city where, it is said, His "two witnesses" would prophesy for a thousand, two hundred and sixty days, and would be slain, and their bodies left as dead on the street for three days and a half, after which they would be raised and ascend to heaven (Revelation 11:3-12). The acknowledgment of the Lord as the one God-Man and the life of spiritual charity are the two witnesses which in our modern world have been left as dead in the churches. Swedenborg relates that, while he was writing out the explanation of this chapter of the Apocalypse, he was stricken by a pestilential smoke issuing from that spiritual Sodom, and seemed to lie for three days and a half as if dead in the street, mocked by the voices of its evil inhabitants. When his spirit recovered he went forth into the city and rebuked the wicked spirits. And presently the center of the city collapsed and sank down and became a rocky plain, while the inhabitants were dispersed.37
In the spiritual sense, a city means a doctrine, and in this case a doctrine which rejects the Divine Human of the Lord and defends a love of dominating from self-love and from a pride in one's own intelligence.38 It is called a "great" city with reference to the widely spread doctrine that man is justified in the eyes of God by faith alone apart from repentance. When such a doctrine dominates the religious thought of a society of spirits, that society becomes a Sodom and an Egypt, whatever appearance it may take from the national origin of the spirits that inhabit it, and whether it resembles a London or an Amsterdam or a Stockholm. But the connection of these spiritual cities with those on earth needs further examination in our next chapter.
1 SD 5745-5749; LJ post. 141, 169, AR, Preface
2 LJ 69
3 LJ 59
4 LJ 2, 69, 59, SD 5747, 5745
5 SD 1321-1332, TCR 791
6 AE 684:1, TCR 121, 119
7 LJ post. 142, SD 5347
8 SD 5481-5485
9 LJ post. 142, 139
10 SD 5485, 5781
11 CL 231, AR 845, AE 899:2
12 AC 7090, 4947, 699
13 SD 5471, cp 5302, 5347
14 SD 5471-5491
15 CLJ 14
16 AR 655
17 SD 5485
18 SD 5377ff, LJ post. 142
19 SD 5838
20 LJ post. 135ff, SD 4925ff, 4944
21 SD 5034ff, 4884
22 CLJ 23f
23 CLJ 25f
24 SD 5348, cp 5336f; LJ post. 143
25 SD 5347, 5471
26 SD 5347ff, LJ post. 142
27 CLJ 27
28 SD 5395, LJ 48
29 CLJ 20
30 LJ post. 2-6
31 TCR 814f
32 SD 5619, LJ post. 251
33 CLJ 86, SD min. 4763, et al.
34 CLJ 83ff
35 LJ post. 136f
36 CL 207:5
37 AR490, 531, SD 6108
38 AR 502