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Part Two: The Angelic Heavens


Nothing of nature or of the suns and stars of nature is visible to spirits and angels. But the Sun of heaven is the Lord, and it is as a Sun, inexpressibly bright, that He is seen constantly by the celestial angels.1 This does not mean that this Sun is identical with the Lord, for the Lord is Divine Man.2 But He appears before the angels in the Sun or encompassed by a solar circle. This Sun is from the Lord and is not only the first substance of creation "but is also the only one, from which all things are; and as it is the one only substance, it follows that it is in every created thing. . . ."3

Thus the Sun of heaven, as an underlying spiritual substance, is universally present in both worlds, yet apart from space. It is through this medium that the Lord's Divine love and wisdom proceed into the heavens in the form of heat and light—but spiritual heat, which is love, and spiritual light, which is truth or wisdom. The Sun of heaven is as it were girded by two or more "radiant belts" which accommodate the Divine life for reception by the angels.4

From the heavenly Sun there proceed by creation three spiritual "atmospheres," formed "one from another and one after another," thus in three discrete substantial degrees, for the angels of the three heavens, according to their ability to receive love and wisdom.5 Thus we read:

"The angels of the three heavens dwell in the regions of these atmospheres: the angels of the supreme heaven in the celestial aura which most nearly accompanies the Sun where the Lord is; the angels of the middle heaven in the spiritual ether below them; and the angels of the lowest heaven in the spiritual-natural air below those two. Thus are all the heavens established — from the first, to the last one which is at this day being founded by the Lord."6

This teaching seemingly allocates each heaven to one specific atmosphere. But, lest we misunderstand, there are other teachings: Angels are complete human forms, and therefore have hearing, sight, and — it is suggested — an interior perception requiring still purer organics, sensitive to more subtle atmospheres. This is so with men, and therefore there is in nature not only the air which men breathe and by which sound and speech are possible, but an ether which carries light-waves to which the eye is attuned. And "still purer atmospheres" may be needed to excite the natural substances which are associated with the natural mind.7 And point by point, these things are correspondingly true of the angelic body and its mental organics. For every angel breathes, hears, sees, thinks and feels. Moreover, all the three natural atmospheres exert a pressure upon the bodies of men or upon their interior organics, and without such pressures these organisms would perish. And the same is correspondently true of the spiritual bodies of the angels, of whatever heaven or degree.8 How then can it be said that the angels of each heaven "dwell" in one specific atmosphere? Certainly every angel needs all three.

A spiritual atmosphere is a medium for the Lord's influx of life. We speak of this life as spiritual heat and light which are really the Lord's love and wisdom, proceeding. It is infinite love and truth — offered to the angel without measure, yet adapted to the angel's needs by accommodation in a finite vehicle which is called — for lack of a better name — "atmosphere."

To mortal man it may appear as if these spiritual accommodations could be called "atmospheres" only in a figurative or poetical sense! But this is because it is difficult for us to feel the reality of spiritual things, and also because we know so little of the nature and marvelous functions of our own natural atmospheres. Yet the atmospheres are the means by which we perceive physical things, and the media by which all these things are energized and sustained. There could be no conversion of energy into new forms without atmospheres as the means.

It is the same in the spiritual world. There no life could be communicated except through the Divinely created media which serve as atmospheres. These media are "outside" of the angels. They exist as real substances — as "discreted substances or least forms, originating from the Sun," conveying spiritual heat and light and adapting these to the angels and the spirits under heaven.9 They are not part's of the angelic constitution, nor do they exist merely in the minds of the angels! But through these atmospheres of heaven there operate spiritual forces corresponding to the various physical forces which are displayed in nature. The heat or activity of the highest spiritual atmosphere, or the "celestial aura" of the highest heaven, is received as celestial love — for to the angels of the highest heaven life or heat means a love to the Lord, and light means the perceptions of the wisdom of mutual love. Even the celestial angels "possess an external, like all spirits." They possess all the lower degrees.10But their real mental life is from the realization of love; and that which gives them a plane of consciousness is therefore "the celestial aura."

And even as the highest of the natural atmospheres — "the purer ether, which is universal" — is the source of all gravitation in the physical world; so the "celestial aura" — the atmosphere of love — is the origin of all spiritual gravitation, by which everything in the other world finds its relation to the Lord and its true weight and place in the Divine economy.11

The "spiritual ether" has a different function. Even as, the "middle ether" of nature is the medium of light and the source of magnetism, so we find in the "spiritual ether" a plane for the magnetism of charity and for the radiation by which spiritual thoughts and affections diffuse their enlightenment. Thus it becomes the plane of life and consciousness of the second heaven. Yet it is also noted that spiritual light does not pass through spaces "but through the affections and perceptions of truth, thus in an instant to the last limits of the heavens."12

The good spirits of the first or ultimate heaven find the stimulus of their life in the plane of the "spiritual-natural air." The air of earth serves as the means of sound and hearing. And man early learns to hearken to parental commands — even if he does not understand why they are given. The "historical faith" which man accepts on the authority of others, and which marks the beginning of reformation, leads a man's spirit into the "spiritual-natural air," the sphere of the first heaven, the heaven of obedience to the doctrine of his religious faith. In this lowest spiritual atmosphere — in which ideas are modified into words — are lodged the forces of spiritual loyalties, and it1 exerts the imperceptible pressure of natural loves — which betimes are turned into the winds of judgment.13

The Spheres of Spirits and Angels

"The spiritual-natural air," like the two other atmospheres, is present in each of the heavens. But in different degree of purity, and with different degrees of pressure — even as on earth at different altitudes. Each angelic society has it own type of breathing, and an air of different clarity. In the highest heaven it appears "like the pure aura which is called the ether; in the lower heavens as one less pure, almost like the atmosphere which is called the air; in the lowest heaven it has a thin watery appearance above which there is vapor like clouds." In fact, the natural heaven, as viewed from the spiritual, appears often like a vast sea.14

The origin of this variety lies with the angels. Just as our air is contaminated with dust and fumes, or rendered delightful with the fragrance of flowers, so the spheres of societies of spirits or angels cause modifications of their atmospheres.

"Around every angel there is a sphere...of his life, which spreads abroad to a great distance from him. This sphere flows out . . . from the life of his affection or love. It is therefore an extension outside of him of such life as is in him. This extension is effected by means of the spiritual atmosphere or aura which is the aura of heaven."15

By this sphere, which of course is nonmaterial, spirits can perceive each other's qualities at a distance. It is "as it were" an atmosphere in which spirits live.16 It wells forth from everything of a spirit's body, like a stream of substances set free therefrom and actuated by the beat of his heart and the breathing of his lungs. These waves of effluvia are concordant with his life, yet are not the spirit but are (so to speak) devoid of his life. For they pour forth unconsciously from his interior memory and are not under his control. Although called the sphere of the spirit's affections and thought's, it is not in any sense insubstantial or separate from the sphere of his spiritual body.17

This sphere, which is perceptible as odors, or colors, or sounds, becomes the medium by which representative creations take place around the spirit, in the forms of vegetation or animal life. It can evoke delight or loathing, peace or terror, persuasion or phantasy. By this sphere, when received by evil men, the hells can even contort the creative influx of the Lord into nature, resulting in diseases or in the appearance on earth of evil and hurtful forms of life, both vegetative and animal. For "within everything spiritual there is an endeavor (conatus) to clothe itself with a body. The hells are about man, and therefore in contact with the earth, because the spiritual world is not in space, but is where there is a corresponding affection."18

While man is living in the world, his spirit is affected by the atmospheres and spheres of heaven and hell. We are taught that in addition to the three spiritual atmospheres of the discrete heavens, there are also three spiritual atmospheres which are operating "below the sun of the world." These constantly accompany the three natural atmospheres and enable men to think and feel.19

Every spirit must eventually seek and remain with his like, for he cannot bear to be outside of a sphere which accords with his own. He can find no freedom, cannot breathe or think normally and happily unless he returns to his own congenial sphere and into an atmosphere which belongs to his own degree of life.

The Light of Heaven

Before Swedenborg's spiritual sight was opened, he, like otner Christians, had no idea that there could be light and visible objects in the other life. Yet it is a common thing to speak of the light of intelligence and to say that we see mental objects when we recall them. The gospel speaks of the creative Word — the Logos — as "the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Frequently the Lord referred to Himself as "the Light of the world." And — after "the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light"20 — the New Jerusalem would descend, a celestial city which "had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb was the light thereof."21

When our mortal eyes are darkened to the sun and moon of nature, we enter a world of the mind where truth is the only light.22 And this light emanates from the Sun of heaven, in which the Lord appears in glory. When it is said of the New Jerusalem that the Lamb is the light thereof, it means the Lord in His Divine Human.

All in heaven turn their faces (and this means their interiors) toward the Lord, where He appears as a Sun in the "East" of heaven, at middle height. From this the other "quarters" of the spiritual world are determined, and spirits and angels have their spiritual situation in the four quarters according to their reception of love and wisdom from the Lord.23

"An angel can see God, that is, the Lord, both within himself and outside of himself: within himself when he thinks from love and wisdom; outside of himself when he thinks about love and wisdom." For God is not in space. Nor is the spiritual Sun in space. Angels may therefore turn themselves about and see all their surroundings, while the Lord as a Sun appears constantly before their face, with the South to the right and the North to the left, "at every turn of their body."24

The Sun of heaven never sets. But in the sight of the angels, the light dims and brightens. When it is morning in the inmost heaven, it is evening in the second or spiritual heaven. When a state corresponding to "sunset" comes to the lower heavens, the mountains on which the celestial dwell and which are enshrouded with deep blue clouds, seem to sink down to a lower level. Those of the celestial kingdom see the Lord constantly as a Sun, fiery and flaming, while the spiritual see Him "as a moon," — that is, of a light similar to moonlight, white and brilliant — but far exceeding any earthly sunshine.25 But compared with the light of the celestials this is like that of moon and stars at night. They see Him as a Moon, sometimes encompassed by many moonlets almost solar in brilliance. The reason is that the spiritual heavens receive the influx of charity and love into the truths of faith which mediate this influx in much the same way in which the moon reflects the sunlight.26 Such faith may contain many fallacies in which no evil is involved — and which are accepted by the Lord as truths. And since, before the Lord's advent, there was a Divine influx by the mediation of the angelic heavens, but after the Lord's glorification an influx immediately from the Divine Human, the Sun of heaven after the Lord's coming "shone out with greater effulgence and splendor than before"; even as the prophet had promised, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days."27

The angels of the spiritual or second heaven frequently also see the Lord as a Sun, and this is sometimes granted even to those of the ultimate heaven. But generally, those of the lowest heaven only perceive Him as a light far surpassing that of the physical sun, or else as a Moon.28


1 HH 116ff, DLW 83, 85

2 DLW 103-107, 86, 93, 97, 290f, 151-156

3 DLW 300, DP 5

4 AC 7270, Ang. Id., TCR 33, 76, AE 726:2, Ath. 190. As to the function of the spiritual Sun in creation, see Creation, Academy Publication Com., Bryn Athyn, Pa. 1964.

5 Ibid.

6 Coro. 17 (Italics added.)

7 DLW 176, 257

8 DLW 176, LJ post. 314, SD 4063, 4066

9 DLW 174

10 SD 5548, 2157f

11 LJ post. 312, cp AC 5658

12 LJ post. 312, CLJ 14

13 AC 7089e

14 AE 594, AR 238

15 AE 392:2

16 AC 10130:2, SD 3817

17 DLW 291-294

18 DLW 343

19 LJ post. 313

20 Matt. 24:29

21 Rev. 21:23

22 HH 116f, Wis. i

23 DLW 120, 122, 124ff, 132

24 DLW 130ff

25 SD 4639, 2219, cp 4933, AC 9684:2

26 AC 2849, 1531, HH 118, SD 4219

27 AE 401:10, AC 6S71ff, DLW 233, Isa. 30:26

28 DLW 85, 429, 182, DP 166, cp AC 1531, 6832


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


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9. Sun of Heaven

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