As we grow older the thing that impresses us more and more is that we just feel like ourselves. We all recognize that the body acquires limitations with age, but as to personality we do not feel the slightest bit different, and as we become older it becomes more and more evident to us that the real person is not the body which is subject to rheumatism, arthritis, stomach aches, head aches and the like. The real person is our affections, the depths of our loves, our constancy, our courage, our willingness to accept duty, our ability to pull our weight in the affairs of men, and all the things which are qualities of character and are essentially spiritual.
As we advance in years, we come more and more to identify those immaterial and spiritual qualities with ourselves. It is the thought of the man and his will, that make the real man. When we go into the spiritual world, the Writings say, the only thing that we leave on this side is the natural body, which is subject to decay, disease, and death; but that in us which cannot be touched by death or explosions or atom bombs or any accident of any kind, goes on living, and it lives in the spiritual world.
What I want to make clear in this chapter is how the New Church idea of the spiritual world must appeal to us as a place where we would like to go, and live in forever. It is not like this world which is subject to time and space and all sorts of accidents.
Let us commence our thinking with the idea that God is Love, pure and total love. This idea of God was first voiced in the New Testament, and the theme is dwelt upon at length in the Writings of Swedenborg, who says that God is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself, that is, God is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom.
If we were to understand the Old Testament literally, we might think that God is a God of wrath and vengeance, a God who mocked His enemies. For we read in the Psalms, "The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them." (Psalm 21:9) From that we might be led to believe that God is a God who would blot out His enemies, and Who would be revenged on those who did Him ill. But the Old Testament was given during the childhood of the race, and was therefore adapted to the childhood understanding of the race. As the race grew up and came into the state of youth at the time of the coming of the Lord, He reinterpreted all of those old commandments. He did not annul them, but He filled them full of a new meaning. As He teaches in Matthew, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (5 : 17) This fulfilment He revealed by such words as: "Ye have heard that it bath been said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever will smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. 5:38, 39) And He also said, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44) Besides killing He condemned hatred, and besides adultery He condemned lust.
As we come down through the ages there is ever a greater ability to understand truth, so that the New Church revelation is a body of truth given to man in his rational state, and the motto of the New Church is the one that Swedenborg saw over the temple of wisdom in the spiritual world, "Now it is allowed to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith." (TCR 508) We are not compelled by our religion to have a blind faith in doctrine. We are not compelled, for instance, to have a blind faith in the life after death. But through our revelation we are able to see a rational and beautiful vista stretching out before each one of us, an expectation of future life which makes every day in this world more important and more significant because it leads to that which is imperishable. What inspires us to live a noble life in this world is the conviction that it will continue in the world to come. The knowledge that every sacrifice which we make, every generous and altruistic action that we put forth is worthwhile. These actions are not brushed aside at death; their value lasts to eternity. That is why, in order to make this clear, we must commence our thinking with the idea that God is love itself clothed with wisdom itself.
Let me sketch for you in briefest outline the creation of the two worlds, the spiritual and the natural, because we cannot understand the creation of this world unless we understand that it is but the outer garment which clothes the real spiritual world which is everlasting, and which is the final purpose of God. The Writings of the New Church teach us that God did not create the world out of nothing, which is what is stated to be the case in the creeds of the Orthodox Christianity. The Writings say "from nothing, nothing is made." (TCR 76) Since God was the only substance in the beginning, the only source of the substance from which to create the world was Himself. So God gave the substance for the universe from His own Infinite Being.
Since we are created in the image of God we can see an image of the mode of His creation in the way that man creates anything new. Suppose that I was the author of a songbook. How did I create it? Well, first of all I would create it in my brain, in a realm that you would not be able to see at all. I would first think the new songs out in my mind, and then I would write them and give them to the printer. He would use paper and ink and produce a book that you all could see, giving, as it were, a body to my thoughts, but the real book existed first in my mind where the music and the words were created. That is to say, it was really created in the spiritual world where man's mind lives, the world of his thoughts and his affections.
God said, "Let there be . . ." (Genesis 1:3) The creative word in His own Divine Mind, His Divine Love started the creation. It flowed into the Divine Wisdom and was molded thereby into all the forms of the universe. First He created the inner world of mind and spirit, the eternal world. It is the real world. It is the life that will receive each one of us. It is the life which we will enter when we pass out of this world. That is what He created first, and in the very beginning of the world He created that sun which we call the sun of the spiritual world. This sun does for our minds what the sun of the natural world does for our bodies, that is, it gives light and heat, only the light that it sheds is the light of truth, and the heat that goes forth from it is the heat of love. Truth is light. The spiritual sun is the sun that lightens the mind of every single man in this world as well as in the life to come, and the light that proceeds from that sun is the light of truth, and the heat that proceeds from that sun is the warmth of love.
Man's love is a warm thing. We say that this person is warmhearted. You can go into his house and you will be received with open arms. By being warm-hearted we mean that they love you, they have an affection for you. They are not cold and distant and full of envy, hate, and jealousy, but they really love you because love is the warmth of the spiritual sun. And so this sun of the spiritual world which the Lord created, and which rules in the whole of the spiritual world, is a sun, the very essence of which is love, and the very outgoing of which is the light of wisdom.
The spiritual world has atmospheres and earth just as the natural world has, and the spiritual world, the Writings say, is in the natural world as the kernel of a nut is within its shell. In other words, there is no natural heat that does not have spiritual heat within it as its soul, and there is no natural light that does not have the light of truth within it, as its very soul. Every emotion that we have exists in the spiritual world and is received by us from the Sun of that world, in the midst of which is Jehovah God Himself, sending forth His Wisdom as light, and His Love as heat. The internal of our life here is spiritual so that when we die we do not go anywhere. We simply become aware of the spiritual forces which had been ours all the while, and we cease to be conscious of the material world of nature. In the spiritual world we find the cause of everything. Animals, for example, have souls, but not individual souls like men have. The souls of animals are human affections, good affections producing good animals, and the evil affections evil animals. The real thing that created them in the beginning was a human affection. So it is with the birds that wing their way through the firmament. The soul of them is found in men's thoughts. They correspond to thoughts, which can be lifted up above the ordinary things of this life. Man has two kinds of thoughts, good thoughts which fill his mind with love toward God and the neighbor, and evil thoughts which spring from selfishness and worldliness. Affections and thoughts are the souls which, when given bodies, fill this world with innumerable creatures.
There are two worlds, there is the world of nature in which our natural bodies live, in which we pursue our natural jobs, and have need of food, clothing, and shelter; and there is within that natural world the spiritual world which supplies the food, clothing, and shelter for our spirits. We need to be fed with the things that make the mind grow. We need to be clothed with "righteousness". (Psalm 132:9) We know that going through temptations, struggling through the various difficulties of life, make for character. The spiritual body is the body of our character, and it finds its home in the doctrines which we sincerely believe.
When Peter, James, and John went up the Mount of Transfiguration, the Lord opened their eyes and they saw Him clothed in spiritual garments. "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light." (Matt. 17:2) It was the truth that reveals God that clothed Him. Those truths were His spiritual garments. In a similar manner our spirits have to be clothed. All of our affections are clothed with truths. We speak of our thoughts clothing our loves. Suppose I am fond of my neighbor: that is a good affection. I clothe it with a thought, and say, "I love that man, and I want to do something for him." Then I think of what I can do for him, and that thought clothes the affection. These are the spiritual realities from which the vesture of angels is wrought.
The Lord said, "In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you." (John 14:1) For without eternal habitations life here would be purposeless. What would be the meaning of dying for one's faith? It is because we hear Him saying, "I go to prepare a place for you," that we are willing to take up our cross and follow Him. There are mansions in the spiritual world, and each one of us is secretly building with His help our home there by every act which we do here. Is it not beautiful that our Lord should prepare habitations for us when He said concerning Himself while on earth "the Son of Man had not where to lay His head." (Luke 9:58) When He came to earth He was born in a stable, but when we die He will receive us into a heavenly mansion!
The Lord's scheme is to have a spiritual world the laws of which are the laws of the human mind, and if you want to know those laws, examine the functions of your own mind, and you will discover many things that are true of the spiritual world, a world in which the mind of man is free. When we come into the spiritual world we will be able to do freely all of those things that in this world can be done only with exasperating slowness. Here each housewife wants to make her home look exactly the way she likes it. She longs to have it correspond to her affections. Gradually she makes it correspond to her desires.
In the spiritual world that urge which we have in this world to make our home correspond to the tastes which we have will be the dominating force, and all of us will live in homes that we want to live in, and if because of the spacious quality of our mind, because of our generous impulses and our large interests, we desire an ample abode, we will be blessed with a mansion there that is large enough to house all of our interests. On the other hand, if we are mean and groveling and think only of ourselves, then we are going to be compelled to live in a hovel which will exactly correspond to the wretched character which we have built up in this world. These things are inevitable.
Let us see how the heavenly mansion of character is put together. According to our philosophy, man not only has heredity from his father and heredity from his mother, but he also has a Divine endowment from the Lord. He has a heredity from the Lord, and it is due to that Divine endowment that there is continuity from generation to generation. For example: in every human being the Lord created two vessels. One is called the understanding. This enables him to think, be rational, and to know his God. It gives him the power to see his relationship to other men, and to think out the problems of life. The other faculty that the Lord created in man is the ability to love. How barren and dry, and utterly worthless life would be if we could not love! We have many kinds of love and they are what make life worth living. When our loves drive us forward we have the understanding to satisfy those loves. And so this will, which is capable of love, and this understanding, which is able to think, is the Divine Endowment. These two form the very heart of human nature and they go on from generation to generation. They are not dependent on heredity from the father, or heredity from the mother. They are a gift which the Lord gives independently of the parents to every child that is born into the world.
We now come to the vital question: Why do men die at various ages? It is obvious that no particular span of life, no particular age in life is less dangerous than others, if you want to think of it as being dangerous to die. People die at all ages of life. There is no time in life when death does not strike. So let us consider the reasons why some die at one age and some at another.
All life comes from the Lord, and the Lord is above the Sun of the spiritual world. He is the inmost of it, and the only thing that keeps any of us alive for a single moment is that the connection has not been broken with God. The influx of life is unconscious to us, but nevertheless continuous, and it is that connection with life from God that keeps us alive.
What is our inmost form? When we study the faces of any group of people we soon perceive the tremendous outward variety. The face is the index of the mind, and what we have observed in faces indicates the vast variety that exists in the minds behind the faces. There are more than just the hereditary factors that blend in the offspring; there is the Divine Endowment, and we believe that in the formation of each child in the womb there was an architect; an invisible director that supervised the creation of the body. This invisible supervisor is the Divine Endowment that comes from the Lord but passes through the heavens on its way to man and, in passing through the heavens, it becomes Divinely aware of the needs of the heavens.
I am talking about the creation of an individual soul. An individual soul is a form that comes from God who is life itself, and in its descent it passes through the heavens and becomes acutely aware of what the heavens need. The heavens are receiving more and more people all the time, and as they increase in size there is need for more and wider uses. The individual soul is endowed by the Lord with a form which will help to build the growing heavens.
The Lord cannot miraculously feed the heavens, clothe the heavens, house the heavens apart from individual human beings; just as individual human beings are necessary for the performance of uses in this world. Without Divine guidance heaven would get out of balance. To prevent this, the Divine life descending through the heavens gives to the soul a character which will supply the use which heaven needs.
Science knows a great deal. Scientists can tell you exactly what happens in the fertilized ovum, but what the scientist cannot answer is, who is the architect of the growing child? Who directs the weaving of the body? Who says to this cell, "You become brain matter", and to that cell, "You become part of the blood vessels? The New Church answer is that it is the soul which derives life from God and comes down through the heavens and takes on a form that shall be of eternal usefulness to the heavens; that is the directing form that builds the babe. Our teaching is that growth is not accidental. The first cell does not just happen to fall into place. The invisible soul which lives after death is continually directing the body and forming it to be a home for itself. Since it is the soul that lives after death, it is the soul that provides for itself a body in which it can develop all its latent powers. Thus each one of us has been so created that there is some use in the eternal scheme of things which we are better fitted to perform than anyone who has or ever will be created.
There are many different uses to be performed in the Grand Man of heaven and every use is vital to the scheme of eternal life, and all of the uses are different. The perfection of heaven rests in its variety. The greater the variety the more perfect the whole. We can see this illustrated in a watch. When I look at the works I may say, "Why that's a great big wheel, it must be much more important than this little one", but if I take the little wheel out the watch stops, and if I take the big wheel Out it will not tell time. You cannot say that any one wheel is more important than another. They are all needed to keep the time. And so in the spiritual world, that form which is called the Grand Man is the most perfect organization in the universe; all its parts are human beings perfectly prepared for the uses that they are performing.
Every function performed in the body of each of us will be performed in the body of the Grand Man. Myriads of things make up our oneness. We don't think of our fingers or our ears, or our eyes, we think of ourselves. We are made up of millions of cells, and the Grand Man of heaven in the same way is made up of millions of cells, and some day each one of us is going to be one of those millions of cells, and we are going to be able to do for the Grand Man of heaven what no other person can do.
The Writings say that a gift is given to the whole of heaven when each new angel arrives. That is a wonderful thing to contemplate. It gives to us dignity and a sense of the worthwhileness of life when one day we shall bring a gift that shall carry a new joy to the whole of the heavens. If we regenerate we are bringing a gift to the whole of the heavens, and so there is not a single part of the heavens which is not intimately connected with this world and we, ourselves, are preparing every minute of every day for an eternal relationship with all the men and women who have ever gone before, we are preparing for a wonderful society where each man's efforts count and bring greater happiness to the whole.
You may ask: "What about the person who does not love his use?" I must say just a word about that because you might misunderstand me. If men are selfish and evil and live in disregard of the commandments they still must perform uses. Even in this world they must perform uses. They have to perform uses in order to live, to eat, to have clothing and a home. They have to do it in this world, and similarly they will have to do it in the spiritual world.
The use that we perform in the spiritual world may not be the job that we have done here, because men get caught up in all sorts of circumstances where they have to do a job to support their family, but that does not mean that the job they are doing is their eternal use. We don't know about that, but by means of their job here and through their faithful performance of it, they are prepared by the Lord to perform their eternal use, whatever that may be.
Even the devils of hell have to perform the uses for which they were created because that is the inmost form of their very being, and the Writings say that in order to eat, evil spirits have to perform uses. When they perform those uses they are given goods, and the evil spirits take the goods and they pervert them.
The Divine scheme provides for uses. Whether we are good or evil, we must perform the use for which we were created. We are evil only if we wish to be. The love of evil is the only thing that takes a man to hell. He goes there only because he wants to go there. No one ever slips into hell accidentally. If he is going to hell he was in hell here on earth before he ever died, because he loved evil things. The Lord does not send anyone to hell as a punishment for some wicked deed that he has done while here on earth. Hell is a way of life that evil people like.
Having seen the conditions which govern life in the spiritual world, we are now in a position to understand the reasons why men die at various ages. The Writings tell us that there are four reasons for death, and they must all concur, otherwise death will not take place. (See Spiritual Diary 5002, 5003; AC 6807, 7836)
The Writings tell us that in the first states of marriage, the Lord loans the couple a sphere of inmost angels, who have the purest of thoughts, and they are with the couple when they are married, to give them the vision of conjugial love. These angels are from those who died in infancy, who came into the spiritual world in complete innocence, who have never heard anything derogatory of marriage.
Then we have persons dying at the time of the idealism of youthyoung men and young women who have confidence that mountains can be moved and valleys filled in. They have the courage to tackle tasks which, when we grow older, we fear to attempt for we have seen so many cases where mountains failed to topple, and where valleys have remained ditches. We grow less enthusiastic as we grow older, but the Grand Man needs these young folks who bring that unconquerable spirit with them into the spiritual world. And then we see men dying in the very full tide of their manly powers, when their character is firm and set, and they are leaders. They are strong, and from this side of the
picture we cannot see why the Lord takes them, but it is because they are needed over there. Heaven needs men like that, too. Also in the kingdom of heaven it is necessary to have those who lived a long full life here, who have all of this world's life fully impressed upon them. They bring rigidity and firmness to the Grand Man, even as the bones bring rigidity to the body.
We cannot tell too much about individual cases, but we can see from the outline of the subject that no matter when death comes, there is a reason for it, and no one enters the spiritual world by accident. The Lord is a God of love, and He directs human affairs for that greater end which is the perpetual increase, and beautiful symmetrical growth and development of the Grand Man of heaven.