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29 The Downfall of "The Dragon"

The Origin and Nature of Spiritual Cities

The abodes of angels are exactly like houses on earth in appearance, and where many live together the houses are arranged to form cities. Such angelic mansions seem quite separate from the abodes of men; and yet "they are with man in his affections of good and truth. Their presentation to sight as separate is from an appearance."1 This teaching is prefaced to the work The Last Judgment, because it is necessary for the understanding of the manner in which tremendous upheavals visibly occurred in the cities of the world of spirits when the states of the inhabitants changed. The passage goes on to state that a spirit, after death, "no longer subsists on his own basis, but upon a common basis, which is the human race. No angel or spirit subsists without man, and no man without spirits and angels."2

The doctrine further teaches that the ideas of spirits are terminated in the material ideas of men's memories, although man is utterly unaware of it.3 The spirits are also unconscious of the fact that they thus employ man's ideas, and sometimes they assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man.4This is especially so with the spirits who attend man most intimately. But spirits feel lost if they cannot terminate their ideas in material things and attach their thoughts to places and external objects.5

Spirits who by natural affections are consociated with the men of some city in the natural world therefore have as their ultimate of thought and sensation the very duplicate of that city; not from their own corporeal memory of it while on earth, for that memory becomes quiescent after death, but from the memories of men.6 The cities which thus become the environment of these spirits have a very "strict and material" correspondence with the natural cities, "according to the ideas of the thoughts of the men in the world" in whose memories the spirits dwelt so intimately.7

But when a judgment comes, and many of these spirits are scattered, the spiritual city changes its features. Corporeal spirits, who sought out the most material features, are removed; and more interior spirits, less bound to material ideas, come into possession. The city is perhaps still the same city, but it now represents more plastically the interior affections of these spirits. It may become more beautiful, to answer to the state of spirits who have progressed away from undesirable ultimates. Or, on the other hand, if wicked spirits take over the city and the good spirits flee away, that city may lose most of its nobler landmarks and former attractiveness and change into a mass of slums and ruins, to correspond to the states of the evil crew which is now uprooted from all orderly externals. Such a city cannot for long maintain itself in the world of spirits, but will eventually sink down into hell.

Swedenborg observed concerning the cities in the world of spirits that their correspondence to their earthly counterparts was "close and material, according to the ideas of thought of men in the world"; but that "now, in this last time of the church, another arrangement takes place, and another correspondence: thus through correspondences not so direct and close, but more remote."8 The new correspondence is with the internal state. And since the angelic city-societies are perfect images of the celestial and spiritual states of love, wisdom and use, it is even said that "the angels are completely ignorant of what a city is, and of the name of any city, for they are in spiritual ideas." A city to them signifies a doctrine, or a principle of doctrine, and thence a use based on doctrine; and it stands also for the interiors of the mind wherein truths are conjoined with good.9

We are therefore warned that the existence of cities in the spiritual world "does not fall into sensual ideas, but only into rational ideas enlightened by spiritual light." In this light it is recognized that "the spiritual appears before a spirit as the material does before a man; and that all the things which exist in the spiritual world are from a spiritual origin." The houses of the cities there "are not built as in the world, but rise up in a moment created by the Lord; so, too, all other things."10

Such cities therefore have, in a sense, two origins. The elements which compose them come from the ideas of men on earth, which are also spiritual creations produced in the minds of men by the Lord's power. But these elements are unconsciously selected by the spirits in the other world; and indeed it is the Lord who causes them to be brought together into a complete mental environment a house or a city in which the spirit dwells as truly as man dwells in his. And because there are many spirits who are in the same general states and in the love of the same externals, in which they can meet and associate, there arise cities which remain as long as there is such a common bond.11

Judgment on the City Dwellers

Cities are, as a rule, formed first of all by good spirits, but are later usurped by the evil.12 For in the cities the wicked, although in private vices, can live an orderly moral life an ability which they take with them from the world; so that a certain amount of law always reigns in these cities.13 The good and the evil do not dwell promiscuously, but in the good cities the best spirits are in the center, where the public buildings usually are; and these are then the governors and magistrates. All are arranged as to quarters according to their character; in the east those who are in a clear good of love, in the south those who are in a clear light of truth, and so on.14 But the evil would then live in the outskirts, where their influence would be less felt. In wicked cities, on the other hand, the evil would occupy the center, and the upright would be crowded into the suburbs.

Law and discipline rule in every city. But a spirit usually does not dare to go outside his city lest he fall into the hands of robbers; even as a man falls a prey to strange and dangerous influences, and may be robbed of his faith and knowledge, if his thought does not remain within his own religious doctrine. There is a certain protection in that which is familiar and within the range of one's own thinking. But the robber spirits, if they should enter the cities, are not allowed in the houses, but remain in the streets, where they are deprived of power.15

But we are told also in the Spiritual Diary that newcomers who had died within the last ten or twenty years are usually given abodes in the suburbs and environs of the cities. Such spirits, whether good or evil, minister to men as attendant spirits and serve as subjects through whom the heavens or the hells exert their influence on men. These ministering spirits are in the process of vastation; their character is not yet well defined, and they are therefore not ready for the judgment.16

The last judgment upon the Reformed nations began with a general clearing out of the evil spirits who occupied the mountain region above the genuine Christian center, which lay in the "lower earth." These were mostly those who were outside the cities. But soon the exploration extended to those in the cities who had lived morally, but only from fear of the law and for the sake of honor and profit. These had lived "within the church without the church, or in religion without religion," and their numbers were immense.17

The cities affected were sometimes double or triple, one city beneath another. In the lower or subterranean city there were often spirits who had dwelt there from ancient times, and were there more secure from change. And the cities were situated either on top of the mountains or within them.18

On the ninth of January, 1757, the cities of the Dutch began to be cleansed from the evil, while those who had something of religion were suffered to remain. Spirits of more humble character among the Dutch lived in cities that were covered above, and most of these spirits were preserved. Such covered or roofed-over cities prevented the inhabitants from being under constant inspection by the evil on the surrounding mountains.19


There were two English cities named after London. The upper city was situated on a rock in the Christian middle space and had much resemblance to its earthly counterpart, with districts like Cheapside, the Exchange, the Temple, Islington, Moorfield and Wapping. The well-disposed lived in this city, and we are told that they rejoiced that they could still be in their beloved England and in its great city. The best dwelt in the east, where they all worshiped the Lord, and the intelligent lived in the south. Those who periodically inclined to evils gathered around a malicious rabble-rouser near the middle of the city, and were as often conveyed in hordes outside of the city.20 There was also another way of purifying the place. Those who were of a contrary genius could be seen only on occasions, for they turned their backs to the other citizens and became invisible; and these were allotted quarters under a small hill which seemed to heave up within the city. Although the hill was small, thousands of wicked spirits congregated there, waiting for their final dispatch to their hells; but some returned.21

Yet there was another London of similar layout. This was not situated in the Christian middle space but farther to the north, and below, "in a plane on the level of the sole of the foot, a little to the right." Here the evil dwelt, and this city sometimes sank down in the middle to deliver the worst to hell, and then rose up again.22 In this London, Swedenborg was conducted by mean streets in which there was not a living soul, although all the houses were full; for they were all spiritually dead and invisible to the eyes of the angels.23 Yet on the east side a little city appeared where a remnant of good spirits lived, well protected by guards. Stockholm, Swedenborg confides, did not have any such little city in the east.


In fact, the Swedish cities were in a hopeless state. Swedenborg, his interior sight opened, was led through several streets in the ancient quarter of Stockholm, and the angels told him that although he saw many people walking about, not anyone was spiritually alive, so that his angel companions shuddered and wanted to turn back. No windows appeared in the houses, but dark holes; for evil spirits see in their own light, which to the angels appears as darkness.24

Since the spirits in Stockholm cared nothing for doctrinals, but only for sensational news and material things, they allied themselves readily with devils and ridiculed anything of the church and heaven. And so the city was from time to time partly destroyed. The left side of one principal street was laid waste in the central city, and also a part of the southern quarter, very close to Swedenborg's own house.25

Most of the districts in Stockholm were represented in this supernatural replica. There were the same marketplace, the same bridge, the same shopping streets, even the same apothecary's shop.26 But the upright and honest Swedes were associated together in another city which resembled Gothenburg.27 And, strangely enough, the rest of the Swedish cities were not scattered as in the world, but arranged closely around Stockholm into a vast metropolis, the worst spirits being in the center. The cities were divided by walls and a "sense of distance"; Boras was to the north, Falun to the east. Even country dwellers had houses in the cities for fear of robbers. These spirits representing an active state of the people at that time had no regard for civic good and civic truth or for morality, because not for religion; and "civil good and civil truth are the foundation of religion."28

Therefore this compound city began to sink down, the center more deeply, almost as water eddying from a sink. The better sort among the inhabitants were separated and sent out by angel guides, and the houses were overthrown. Those remaining began to rebuild the city in a different order, with the better spirits at the circumference. Falun sank down most deeply in this judgment, for its evil inhabitants were of a more interior kind.29

Cities of the Jews

Similar judgments overtook the cities of other nations German and Danish. The Jews, from their place below the Christian middle, were dispersed and their synagogues destroyed; after which they wandered about without worship in the northern desert. But some are described as living in ghettos under the earth of the north of London, "where Tower Hill is." "Portuguese Jews" also have an abode in the southern quarter, being of a more intellectual type. They had ceased to expect a Messiah and their attitudes were modernistic.30

After the judgment the Jews inhabited two great cities which constantly changed in appearance because of newcomers arriving and departing. These cities were ankle-deep with filth and reeked with evil odors, and the people went about in rags. Yet some spirit whom they believed to be Moses sometimes appeared to them and sought to dissuade them from expecting a Messiah since Christ was the Messiah. A few take heed to this spirit and are then instructed in synagogues composed of converted Jews.31 These receive new garments and copies of the Word and abodes in decent cities. Others are eventually judged, being cast into a wilderness or into hells like that of the avaricious, which is called Gehenna. The cities of the Jews used to be known as "Jerusalem," but after the judgment the name was changed because spiritually Jerusalem means the church as to doctrine, where the Lord alone is adored.

Since they read the Word in its original Hebrew, Jews, in the other world as in this, often act as bankers or trade in precious stones which they procure for themselves from heaven.32 Being external men they think little of religion, but much of an expectation of being led back into Canaan. More than other spirits they persuade themselves that they are still in the world, although some of them believe that their dead ancestors will rise from their sepulchres and find their lot in a material paradise, such as has been the aim of the Zionist movement in recent times.33

The Dragon Cast Down

In the Apocalypse, the evil spirits from the Protestant part of Christendom are prophetically represented by several monsters, and by a being called the false prophet. All symbolize some aspect of the pernicious doctrine of salvation by faith alone which is made the excuse for a life of outward sanctity and morality, and a formalistic piety without self-examination and actual shunning of evils as sins against God. But we read particularly of a "great red dragon" with seven crowned heads and a tail which ensnared the stars of heaven; a dragon which is also named "that old serpent called the Devil and Satan which deceiveth all die world," and which, when cast down to earth, persecuted the celestial woman whose man child was to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 12). This dragon, overcome by Michael and his angels, was later, it is said, cast into a lake of fire, and then "bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years," after which he should be loosed for a season until the final judgment (Revelation 20).

John also saw a blasphemous beast rise out of the sea, whose power and eloquence came from the dragon. This signified justification by faith alone among the laity. Next came a monster out of the earth, which signified the same faith with the clergy and is identified later with the false prophet (Revelation 13:11; 20). Those signified by the dragon justify all people in their evil loves in order to obtain their good will, confirming their position by the letter of the Word apart from true doctrine; and they curry favor especially with the powerful and the wealthy. Being sensual men, they hold the spiritual sense in aversion and thus wander into all manner of heresies, for they are willing to join any religion.34

These constituted as it were the head of the dragon. Their real loves were selfish and worldly and they used the Word only as a stepping stone to honor. The tail of the dragon was made up of other spirits who used the Word for preaching but not for life; and also of an immense number of pietists who as was before noted dwelt in an invisible expanse high above the world of spirits. They were literalists who had no use for doctrine by which to understand the Word rightly.35 Many of them were idle, and their excessive piety made the angels of the surrounding heaven melancholy. They were therefore explored and judged, and let down to the earth level and led around to gloomy plains and distant forests where their thoughts would not disturb anyone. Their fall from heaven was hastened when the spirits of the dragon began to conspire to destroy the heavenly doctrine, which was now as it were coming to birth in the world of spirits. And their fall was represented to the sight as a shower of stars, a Milky Way, falling from heaven (Revelation 12:4) ,36

The judgment on the "solifidians," the champions of "faith alone," now increased in intensity. For these spirits not from a zeal for their doctrine, but from a delight in dominion and prestige came by scores from all quarters except the east to stir up a rebellion. They had been in the mountain regions, maintaining themselves through an external moral behavior. But now they were discovered and hurled down, and in the process they became black as devils. These were such as are meant by the he-goats whom the Lord condemned in His parable of judgment (Matthew 25:31).37 All sorts of evil were represented among them. Some despised all sciences, others loved to cause mental or physical torture, and the like. Many, among them archbishop Erik Benzelius (the elder), were seen as "robber priests" and were cast into a lake in the south-eastern angle and thus removed from the world of spirits.38

The Combat of Michael

The Spiritual Diary tells how one evil state after another, one crew of wicked spirits after another, was inflamed to overt actions and then cast down from its false position. It would be impossible here to recount these many judgments, which were always directed to liberate the spirits who were still in a salvable state. The exact order is not always clear, for Swedenborg retraces the story at times to give further details. But the value to future generations is more than historical; for here we have an analysis of all the evils and weaknesses to which the human heart is susceptible, even to tragic and dreadful depths of perversity, but also an insight into the lofty wisdom and tender charity of angelic states.

The judgment went on through January and February. And when the hypocritical spirits established on the mountain level had been unmasked and swallowed up, the evil spirits who on the level of the world of spirits had been plotting open evils under their protection had no more defenses and no power to resist, and so these also were cast into their various hells. This occurred, we read, on the thirtieth day of March, 1757.39

And now the universal judgment reached its climax. There appeared as it were a hand stretched out by the Lord over the heavens. And then began that battle between Michael and the dragon which is described in the Apocalypse (chap. 12). It lasted for days.40 Myriads of angels not seen before appeared over the middle space of Christians. At the same time there appeared a tremendous number of evil spirits who, when seen together, looked like a vast dragon raising his back on high and lashing with his tail as if to tear down the heavens.

This was the appearance. The reality was that the angels, in the entrance to heaven, were speaking concerning the Lord and the life of charity. And since the dragonists were attacking these truths they were compelled to listen, and the attention of all was centered on the discussion. The dragonists and all who heard were compelled to fall back into the thoughts which they had entertained in the world about the Lord and about faith. It became clear that the dragonists wished to talk only of an invisible God, rejecting the Lord's Divine Human and making salvation a matter of faith alone, not of life. This verbal or spiritual battle became for all the heavens that had gathered together through the ages of Christianity a most grievous and heart-searching temptation, verging on despair. The real issue between the good and the evil was at last made clear beyond doubt. It was perceived by the good spirits that the Lord had held them in truth while the devils had persuaded them of falsity. And now this internal conflict was relieved, as the judgment caused a unification throughout all these Christian heavens of those who could acknowledge the doctrine of heaven.

Although it was seen that it was impossible for those who opposed the heavenly doctrine to remain in these heavens any longer, the dragonists resisted, insisting that they had always been there. Then the Lord was seen as it were outside of the spiritual Sun, descending in a bright cloud with angels attending, and there was heard the sound of trumpets. This was a sign of how the Lord protects the angels and draws the good away from communion with the evil. When this occurs, the evil rush openly into the abominations of their lusts. And then these spirits of the draconic crew were seen cast down, by hundreds of thousands, from one heaven after another, into the western quarter, where the earth was seen to open and they were covered by dense clouds.41

"Thus perished the old heaven and the old earth." And Swedenborg adds in his Diary: "These things occurred from the thirty-first of March to the eleventh of April, when Easter was celebrated in the year 1757."42 He also tells that the spiritual battle which marked the crisis of the Lord's redemptive work was felt in his own mind as a temptation, and from that experience he calls to remembrance the terrible temptations which the Lord suffered from earliest youth to the end of His life, and by which He not only subdued the hells but also reduced the heavens into order and glorified the Human, without which no mortal could have been saved.43 But it is well to note the difference between these two redemptions. Swedenborg, though he felt the temptations while the heavens were in travail, was only an observer; and the Lord came in His second advent, not to suffer temptations, but in His glorified Human to exert the power that He had taken on seventeen centuries before.

But what is meant by the "Michael" who overcame the dragon? Michael the Writings show signifies all those who defended the Lord's Divinity and the life of charity. These were "chiefly from the ancient heavens who all remained steadfast, and from those who were in them from the gentiles and from infants everywhere" who had grown up in those heavens.44

Redemption from the Lower Earth

The real objective of the Last Judgment was not to overthrow the evil but to liberate and redeem the good. And these were not all in the heavenly places from which the wicked had now been cast down, but were also in vast numbers in the "lower earth," which the Scripture refers to also as the pit, the grave, Sheol, or Hades.

Normally the lower earth represents a transient state of vastation which well disposed spirits must undergo if they have been in principles of falsity. Such spirits may have lived a life quite free of hatreds, revenge or adultery, yet have been imbued with a spurious conscience hard to change. Some of these therefore suffer hard things before they can put away their false principles. They may seem to themselves unhappy and tortured by evil spirits, and imagine themselves eternally condemned to their fate, though angels occasionally come to comfort them.45 Others are in natural delight but in no spiritual delight, and care only for worldly and corporeal things. Their correspondence relative to the Grand Man of heaven is to the undigested food in the stomach and intestines.46 Some are in something of combat because their faith is denied with worldly ideas. Spirits who placed merit in good works seem to themselves to be cutting wood to keep themselves warm, and feel that they must remain in their place until they have really merited heaven.47 Spirits of still another type are in great obscurity and in a sleepy state, for they are afraid to think, knowing that they will then ruminate on all the evils they had perpetrated from imprudence even though not from set purpose.48

Yet many in the lower earth are concealed there and guarded for ages lest they should be injured by the spirits of the dragon, while these occupy the heavens for which they are destined. In the lower earth they are in safety and have communication with heaven. They live together cheerfully and worship the Lord, nor are they aware of the hells that surround them. In the west, towards the south, great numbers had been reserved who from childhood had cultivated doctrinal learning for the sake of reputation, but later had led a Christian life and put off some of their pride. These were in the lower earth, removed from evil contagion, in order to be initiated into spiritual life.49 For the protection afforded in the lower earth comes from an absence of spiritual pretensions.

Only after the cleansing storms of judgment had restored spiritual equilibrium in the world of spirits could these "souls under the altar" (Revelation 6:9) be safely elevated into heaven, their rightful inheritance.50 They were then by turns raised as if from a grave, or liberated as if from captivity. As soon as the world of spirits had been delivered from the powerful spheres of the dragon which they could not have resisted successfully, they were brought out as if in an exodus and, after various temptations, were instructed in the internal truths of the Word. Swedenborg saw immense numbers of spirits so released after the judgment, to be organized into heavenly societies. Many seemed to find abodes in the "mountains of the east."51

Spirits who are misled by the evil may serve as powerful tools of the hells. Certain foolish spirits, it is told, who were emotionally pious but who had no affection of truth, merely trusting the authority of their leaders, became a "fulcrum to the infernal crew," that is, became subject-spirits for the hells. They were then cast down from the mountains of the hypocrites and concealed in the lower earth, so that those among them who could act from the heart might serve for the "ultimates of heaven"! Piety is indeed an ultimate of heaven. In fact, they were allowed to move into a city of good Christians and practice their devotions to their hearts' content, yet at the same time were told to enjoy social intercourse as far as they desired.52

What is said of the lower earth and the "false heavens" cannot be understood unless we realize that evil spirits who usurp a position in some mountain or heaven on high are not really there! They are not in heaven except in phantasy and in the view of those whom they can infect with their phantasy. The angels saw these spirits "where they were as to body," thus on "the plane of the ground," or wherever their ruling love was.53 The Last Judgment, in the final analysis, was the dispersion of the phantasies of evil by the Divine truth. And the immeasurable and eternal effects of the judgment were expressed prophetically by John in Patmos: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."


1 LJ 9

2 Ibid., cf DLW 92, AE 726:6

3 SD 3022f, 2751ff, AC 5858

4 AC 5853, SD 1938 5 SD 2751f, 3753, 3610

6 SD 5092

7 SD 5716

7 SD 5716; cp 5092

8 AC 5297

10 LJ post. 12

11 SD 5252, 5531

12 SD 4930

13 SD 5714

14 LJ post. 12

15 SD 5714

16 SD 5361

17 SD 5353, 5359, LJ post. 147

18 LJ post. 12, 19; SD 5249ff

19 SD 5366ff, CLJ 51

20 LJ post. 268, SD 5712, CLJ 42

21 SD 5360

22 CLJ 43, SD 5016

23 SD 5711f

24 SD 5711

25 SD 5721

26 SD 5711

27 SD 5036

28 SD 5037

29 SD 5034ff

30 TCR 841ff, CLJ 79ff, LJ post. 284

31 CLJ 80

32 AE 717:4

33 LJ post. 251-261, TCR 845, cp SD 2878, DP 260

34 SD 5370ff, 5422

35 CLJ 28

36 SD 5373ff, 5426

37 SD 5731 1/2ff, 5758ff

38 SD 5722ff

39 SD 5696-5699

40 LJ post. 167f, 186f, CLJ 28, SD 5742, 5746

41 SD 5743f, LJ post. 168, CLJ 28

42 SD 5746

43 SD 5743

44 SD 5747; cp AR 548, 564, AE 735

45 AC 699, 1106ff

46 AC 4940ff, 6914, 6928, 5392

47 AC 4943

48 SD 1771

49 SD 5480

50 AR 325ff

51 AC 8099, AE 899:2, SD 5480

52 SD 5814f

53 SD 5789 1/2, 5816


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29. "The Dragon"

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