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There is nothing in man that makes him worthy of entering heaven. But all good is measured by the innocence which it contains. For real innocence is the willingness to be led by the Lord rather than by self-will. The helplessness and humility of an infant touches our hearts because the babe is asking for love, leading, and security. Even his hereditary evils and bodily appetites—for which the infant cannot be held responsible—are overlaid by a borrowed good or by an external innocence—the innocence of ignorance.1This innocence is what makes the child docile—so that he can be taught to see things in the light of truth rather than from his inherited inclinations which he feels as his real self or "proprium."

The infantile innocence which so attracts and charms adults is from an influx of good from the Lord through the celestial heavens. Therefore the Lord said, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven."2 Angels from those heavens attend tender infants. And if such an infant should die, those angels at once take charge of him. As soon as they are resuscitated3 they are thus taken into heaven and brought to angel women who in the life of the body had tenderly loved children and at the same time had loved God.4 These receive them as their own, loving them much more than their earthly parents did.5Such a "mother" may in some cases take into her home three to five children.6 Under the Lord's auspices these are "in their first age" educated in the inmost heaven. Afterwards they are transferred to another heaven where they are instructed and grow in intelligence and stature.7 All infants who die as such are saved and become angels.8

Strange to say, the common Christian idea has been that infants who die remain babes to eternity—an idea which might stem from the fact known to the ancients that the celestial angels sometimes appear as infants.9 Catholics speak of unbaptized infants as excluded from heaven and held in a limbo near the hells. Many Protestants think that all who are not baptized are condemned or even annihilated; or that some are predestined to hell.10 Yet the Word clearly teaches that "the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers."11 "It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."12 Children are certainly not condemned for the evils of their inheritance.13

"All children (infantes), whether born within the church or not" and whatever their heredity, "are adopted by the Lord and become angels. And their number reaches to a quarter or a fifth part of the whole human race on earth."14 This shows the immensity of heaven; especially when we reflect that the human race is not confined to this earth alone, but extends to all the untold planets of the universe.15 From infants comes "a third part of heaven." And "these are all initiated into the acknowledgment and faith that the Lord is their Father, and afterwards that He is the Lord of all, thus the God of heaven and earth."16 And it is especially said of the new heaven when this was organized at His second coming, that it was composed of "both Christians and gentiles, but chiefly of all the infants from the entire world who have died since the Lord's advent."17 Yet it is also stated that "infants . . . who are born outside of the Christian Church, after they have received faith in the Lord, are introduced by other means than baptism into the heaven assigned to their religion; but they are not commingled with those who are in the Christian heaven."18It is significant that while the infants of Mohammedans and gentiles are taken up into heaven immediately after death, their boys and girls are first transferred to spirits of their own religion, who teach them spiritual life by such moral truths as they can receive.19 (SD 347, cp. HH 516)

Since all children are saved by the Lord through an angelic education, the question may arise whether this means that they are deprived of their human faculty of free choice! And the same question might be raised about those of the celestial church who were born before the Fall, and whom we might be tempted to envy, as being assured of an easy salvation obtained without having "borne the burden and heat of the day."20 But the Lord draws all men unto Him.21 Only those are lost who resist His invitation and refuse His leading by confirming evils of life by deliberate falsities. Every one does not have the same temptations. Freedom does not depend on the presence of evil. Wherever there is a choice offered between a greater good and a lesser good, there is an ample sense of freedom.22 And the wakeful life of man or angel is every moment attended by alternatives, judgments, and decisions—and this long after the initial choice between good and evil has been made.

Why so many die as infants, is partly seen from the general law that the Lord allows men to live only so far as they can be held in spiritual freedom.23 Yet every one "is born such that he can enter heaven...." "All can be regenerated, each according to his state."24It is not to be thought that when a child dies it is because his parental heredity is so evil that he could not be held in freedom. For the Lord calls men to the other life for various reasons; perhaps because they can best be perfected in the other life, or because they can supply some use known to die Lord alone, for the maintenance of the equilibrium of uses in the Grand Man. "Wherever forces fail they are balanced." This teaching is given in the Spiritual Diary:

"Concerning the durations of the life of men: why some live long, and some not so long.

"The life of every man is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; wherefore he is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.

"The reasons why some die as children, some as youths, some as adults, some in old age, are: 1st, on account of use while he is in the world to men; 2nd, on account of use, while he is in the world, to angels and spirits: for man, as to his interiors, is with spirits; and he is there as long as he is in the world, in which all things there terminate; 3rd, on account of use to himself in the world, either that he may be regenerated, or that he may be let into his evils lest they lie dormant and afterwards break out, which would result in his eternal ruin; 4th, therefore, on account of use afterwards in the eternal life, after death, to eternity; for every one who will be in heaven has his place in the Grand Man, or, on the other hand, he has his place in hell: wherever forces fail they are balanced, and, in the Divine providence of the Lord, [men] are brought thither. Thus also, the kingdom of the Lord is cared for, the welfare of which is universal Providence."25

Infants, when they die, enter heaven by a shorter way than other spirits do. This is represented by the fine atmospheric aliments which are absorbed through the skin and tongue and are passed into the bloodstream without having to be broken up in the digestive canal.26

Since infants have not as yet had their proprium aroused, and have not attached themselves to many societies in the world of spirits, they do not have to pass through the same states as older spirits when they are resuscitated from death.27 Instead they remain with the celestial angels. One reason for this difference is that

"those who die in mature life have a plane acquired from the earthly and material world, and this they carry with them. This plane is their memory and its natural corporeal affection. This remains fixed and then becomes quiescent, but it still serves their thought as an ultimate plane, for the thought inflows into it. Hence it is that such as that plane is and such as is the way in which the rational corresponds with those things which are in it, such is the man after death. But infants who die as infants and are brought up in heaven, do not have such a plane, but a spiritual-natural plane; wherefore they derive nothing from the material world and the earthly body. On this account they cannot be in such gross affections and thence thoughts: for they derive all things from heaven " 28

Until they are told they do not know that they were born on earth.29 Swedenborg once met an angelic couple from the heaven of innocence, who had grown up in heaven; and he found that they did not even know what evil was.30

It is however possible for a man who lives out his span on earth to come into as perfect a state as that of those educated in heaven: provided only that he removes the loves of self and the world and receives spiritual loves in their stead. "For there is the same in him as in the infant."31

The angelic "mothers" of the inmost heaven are said to belong to the province in the Grand Man which corresponds to the genital organs of both sexes.32 We are also told of certain chaste and modest virgins, corresponding to the supra-renal capsules and the thymous gland, who care for babes and attend pregnant mothers.33 But the infants themselves are said to be in the province of the eyes, and in "rainbow heavens" among paradisal delights and surrounded by ineffable beauty.34 Such paradises are in the ultimates of heaven, or at the threshold of the superior heavens.35

The innocence of ignorance is a natural good.36 Infants are not angels, but angels in the making.37 They are with their angelic "mothers" and teachers, and receive the influx of the heaven of innocence,38 but their own state is as yet natural, and their spiritual situation, while they are being educated, is at first in the "north-east" of the world of spirits, and later more and more towards the "south."39 Thus while spared a lonely progress through the world of spirits, they are as yet in the state of spirits.40

In heaven as on earth education is adapted to successive states. Infants there learn to walk and talk without any training, but their speech (which is the universal spiritual language of ideas) is at first expressive only of general affections rather than of thought. They are, however, quickly initiated into more particular ideas, and their speech becomes more distinct.41 Thus in one sense they "learn to speak from their instructors," and this "within a month."42 Much is also said of the introduction of children into "choirs"—that they may learn to think and act together. Evil spirits cannot come near to infants because these have not as yet in their memory or their acquired proprium anything that the spirits can take on. Yet later they also must learn to resist being led by any other than the Lord, and so to foil the attempt of evil spirits to direct them. This constitutes their first "temptations."43

As the children grow and their infantile ideas and affections mature and become rational, they also grow in stature. For the increase of intelligence and goodness—which is mental nourishment—is also the growth of their spiritual body in strength and beauty. Understanding and judgment make them appear as young men and virgins.44 When those brought up in heaven reach a stature similar to that of fifteen year old girls and eighteen year old boys, they have attained marriageable age and their external growth stops.45 In terms of our years this goal may even be reached much sooner.

Like other spirits, those who die in infancy possess spiritual bodies and spiritual senses. Their experiences enter into their interior memory and are translated into ideas devoid of the notions of space and time.48 But those brought up in heaven have a more plastic and adaptable character, and the special uses which they can perform may correspond to the softer and more liquid tissues of the body. They "become more celestial and spiritual than others," and "are nearest to the Lord"—as are the inmost angels. The speech of one such is described as "love itself speaking."47

But this does not necessarily imply that all who die in infancy become equally celestial. The main differences are those of inherited genius. In general, the races surviving the "Flood" are of a spiritual genius.48 But even at this day, some men are, as to disposition, like the antediluvians who would not listen to instruction, while others "can easily be regenerated." Different races may be of different genius. The Africans are of the same genius as the angels of the celestial kingdom, while Europeans are of a spiritual genius and think more exteriorly.49 "Connate inclinations, varied by education, associations, and imbued persuasions," may cause conjugial similitudes or dissimilitudes.50 There are also differences in boys and girls who die at an older age.51 Those who have acquired "a good disposition from their education in the world" are taught in heaven.52 But children who have acquired bad habits of thought, speech, or immoral behavior and been persuaded that there is no evil in such conduct, must be restrained in the world of spirits under an instructor who is quite severe with them until they are "vastated" of the evil.53

In several memorable relations Swedenborg describes how children are brought up in heaven and instructed in adaptation to their hereditary genius.54 It is shown that their first instruction is by representations delightful to the eyes — such as gardens with trees laden with rich fruit and beds of spring flowers which seem to sparkle with joy when the children pass by or when they are used as wreaths to adorn them. Indeed, the gates of the garden might move as if living, and every object around them seems alive; even as children on earth think of their toys as living, since they have as yet formed no idea of any thing inanimate.55 But in the spiritual world this infantile perception is profoundly true, since the substance of that world is living. And sometimes their childish affections lead them to want to help the Lord ascend from the sepulchre by means of invisible cords.56 Within such innocent fancies they sense as it were the presence of the Lord.

The most universal difference in genius faces us in the fact that sex is predetermined from conception. The male is masculine in every least part of his body and his mind. It is equally true of the female, that the feminine enters into every cell of her body and every state of her mind. Nor can one be changed into another to all eternity.57

Therefore the education of boys and girls in the heavens is very different, although hard to describe. While infants they are both under the care of angel nurses. But later the boys are placed under masters who teach them to think and act in manly ways. Boys and girls have sufficient association to enable them to appreciate each others' virtues and skills as these develop. The girls no doubt watch with delight and applause the competitive sports and discussions of the boys and young men. And a chaste love of the other sex arises, devoid of allurement; in which the beauty of the maidens is matched with the morality of the young men.58

Swedenborg describes the life of some maidens who lived together, each having their own bedroom with cupboards and a chest of drawers wherein they stored their treasured possessions. They were kept busy with embroidering linen, either for their own use or as gifts for others.59 They cared also for their gardens which flourished when they thought well; and they were sometimes given coins of silver or gold, not for trading, but as tokens of industry or virtue. If they thought ill or had done something wrong, their garden might disappear, or else they would find their garments indelibly spotted or missing. And if they still did not understand such portents a wife came and explained what was wrong. On the other hand, if they did well, a new garment would appear in their wardrobe.60

Even as infants, they learn the Lord's Prayer and attend worship.61 Sometimes preachers visit them and examine them. The daily reading of the Word, of which they have their own copies, is a requirement without which their life languishes.62 Even girls of a celestial or celestial-spiritual genius need this. It is mentioned of certain ones that they understood the Word according to the internal historical sense, where no names of persons or places appear.63

The instruction of boys would presumably also be based on a knowledge of the Word. Boys are taught by masters who introduce them by representations and by discussions into more abstract truths of intelligence and wisdom, and call forth their latent abilities. Swedenborg relates that some boys in the world of spirits watched certain evil spirits who were cast down from heaven and were seen as dead horses! They asked their master what this peculiar appearance might mean, and were told that dead horses represented spirits who understood the Word materially and who thought of God only from person—indeed as three persons—rather than from His essence. The boys confessed that they, too, thought of God from person rather than from His qualities. Would they also, they wondered, appear as dead horses? The master comforted them, explaining that they were only boys and could not yet think otherwise; but since they had a desire to understand, their thought partook of a spiritual quality. He then admonished them to try to think of the Lord's Person from His Essence or qualities — such as His omniscience and omnipresence, His mercy and love and wisdom.64

There are "gymnasia" or colleges conducted by masters "in the upper northern quarter near the east" where young men are initiated into matters of wisdom.65 Here discussions are held among the pupils — some of whom had been brought up in heaven — on such topics as the three universal loves of heaven, the nature of the soul, the distinction between the spiritual and the natural, etc.

Maturity involves the ability to tell good from evil. When children brought up in heaven have become adults, they are now and then let down into the awareness of the terrible evils to which they have an inherited tendency; until they acknowledge that whatever good that is in them is solely from the Lord's continual influx.66 Yet no one is punished in the other life for the dormant evils of his inheritance; and such evils do not "return" after death, although the paternal heredity is never actually expunged.67

This immersion into the life of the proprium causes a temporary separation from heaven and makes for contacts with evil spirit's. Thus it takes the place of the temptations which every one on his way to heaven must undergo if they were not experienced on earth.68

As the education of a spirit nears its conclusion he must have learned to think in spiritual ideas — which spring from love and charity.69 Their tutelage over, they are clothed in angelic garments and assume the name of the Lord's "disciples."70 By ways unknown they are led to their own society of heaven where they are immediately recognized and received with joy.71

* * * * *

Another phase of the story needs to be shown. For when the young approach maturity they begin to feel an inclination to marriage.72 Heaven cannot be well imagined apart from a conjugial partner with whom to share the gift of life in its fulness and completion.

"The marriages of the angels are all provided by the Lord, who alone knows the similitude of minds (animorum) which will endure to eternity . . ."73

That conjugial pairs are born and, unknown to both, are continually educated for marriage, an angel confirmed to Swedenborg by the conjugial similitude seen in their faces.74 When they have reached marriageable age, the maiden and the youth "meet somewhere as if by chance and see each other. As if by instinct, they instantly know that they are mates; and, as though from a kind of inner dictate, think within themselves, the young man, 'She is mine,' and the maiden, 'He is mine.' And after this thought has dwelt' for some time in the minds of both, they deliberately address each other and are betrothed. It is said, 'as if by fate', and 'as if by instinct,' but what is meant is 'by the Divine Providence'; because when not known, Divine Providence has this appearance."75

A wedding in heaven is described in some detail by Sweden-borg.76 And in other passages he shows that the wedded couple generally settle in the home society of the wife.77 It is explained that in heaven betrothals are solemnized by a priest, as is proper also on earth; for "the consent is the essential of marriage." But at weddings, the angelic couple simply exchange pledges after which the invited guests call down a blessing from heaven.78 The wedding took place in a society which was devoted to the education of the young, and the emblem of which was an eagle brooding over her young in a nest on top of a tree.79 Thus is symbolized the most obvious obligation of the church in both worlds — the preparation of spirits for heavenly life. If this use of instruction in spiritual truths could be accomplished on earth, the way to heaven would be shortened.80


1 AC 4563:2, AE 989:3

2 CL 396, HH 277:4, AC 5054; Matt. 18:10

3 CL 410, HH 332

4 HH 332

5 AC 5052

6 SD 5660

7 CL 410f

8 HH 4, HD 3; the general teachings are given in HH 329-345, AC 2289, 2309

9 AC 2304, HH 340, CL 413

10 HH 329

11 Deut. 24:16

12 Matt 18:14, DP 328:8, 324:9, AC 1059

13 AC 2307f, 828, SD 2710, 3899, AE 989, cf DP 281, TCR 521

14 HH 416

15 AC 2289, HH 416

16 HH 4, 416

17 HD 3, cp AR 876e

18 TCR 729, CL 352, 340, De Conj. 48, LJ 50

19 SD 347, cp HH 516

20 Matt. 20:12

21 John 12:32

22 CL444

23 Cp AC 828, SD 2710, 3899

24 DP 324:9, TCR 580, AE 989:3

25 SD 5002f

26 SD 1021f, 1035, cp AC 5174d

27 Cp HH 450

28 HH 345, cp SD min. 4645f

29 HH 345, AC 2293, SD 5668:12, 4726

30 CL 444

31 HH 345e, DP 324:9

32 AC 5053f, De Conj. 100, 106

33 AC 5391, 5172, SD 969f, 1004, 1048

34 AC 1621, 1623, SD 3213, AE 831e

35 AC 4528, SD 3213, 5668:5

36 AC 3504

37 AC 2304

38 CL 410, HH 332

38 Cp HH 513f, TCR 476

40 SD 5167

41 HH 331

42 CL 411, HH 334, SD 5668:14

43 AC 2290, 2294, HH 343

44 SD 4297, AC 2289, 5576, HH 340, CL 44:2, 5, 411, 444

45 CL 444:8, cp 42:2, 3

46 SD 4726, 5623f, 5668:13

47 SD 3545, HH 280

48 AC608e

49 AC 736, SD 5518

50 CL 227

51 SD 2454, cp 3621e

52 HH 391

53 AC 1113, 2307f

54 The general teaching is given in CL 411, 17:2, HH 329-345, AC 2289-2309, SD 5660-5668, HH 342:2, 343.

55 HH 337f, SD 2844

56 HH 335, CL 412, AC 2299, SD 233ff

57 CL 32, 33

58 CL 17, 44

59 Cp CL 207

60 SD 5660 ff

61 SD 5668:3, 5666f

62 SD 5666, 5618

63 SD 5618

64 AR611/TCR623

65 CL 261, 315, 326ff, AR 839

68 HH 343, AC 2307f

67 AE 989, AC 1414, 1573:3

68 AE 452, 474:2

69 HH 519

70 CL 261

71 HH 519f, AR 611

72 CL 187

73 De Conj. 53

74 CL 316: 3, 229

75 CL 316:3, cp 229, 44:6, HH 383

76 CL 20-22, cp 316

77 CL 411:2, cp SD 6027:16, HH 378

78 CL 301, 21:4, SD 6027:10

79 CL 15

80 HH 491, 513


The Spiritual World
Spirits and Men
Talks: Spiritual World
10Q: Life After Death


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7. Children

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