Noble's 'Appeal': VI. Heaven And Hell; And The Appearances In Them, And In The Intermediate Region, Or World Of Spirits.:
F. Swedenborg's General Views respecting Heaven and Hell obviously agreeable to Reason and Scripture.
if we have succeeded, as I trust will be the opinion of the Candid and Reflecting, in vindicating the most peculiar and uncommon of the ideas presented in the writings of Swedenborg, respecting the other life and its inhabitants, from the ridicule and contempt which
it has been attempted to throw upon them, and in showing that even these, how different soever from what is usually conceived, are in no respect adverse either to Reason or to Scripture; it cannot be difficult to evince, that the General Views presented in those writings respecting Heaven and Hell are obviously agreeable to all that Reason and Scripture depose upon the subject; and that, in fact, nothing is here presented that can be deemed inconsistent with the usual conceptions of the Christian world. On these General Views, then, it cannot be needful to dwell at much length, though it would be an unpardonable omission not to notice them at all. Besides, even in this respect, the views of the New Church, obviously rational and Scriptural as they are, have not been allowed to pass unassailed. As much then of their nature must unavoidably be stated, as is necessary to rebut the chief of the calumnies which have been published against them. But in confining myself to this;—in forbearing to enlarge upon this subject, I am well aware that I am foregoing a great advantage; for the views we entertain respecting heaven and hell in general, only require, I am sure, to be fully and fairly exhibited, to win the admiration, and charm the affections, of all the candid and reflecting aspirants for the heavenly kingdom.
To generate odium, the opponent whom I have chiefly taken as a guide, imputes to us, by a most unaccountable misrepresentation, as noticed above, the denial of "a future reckoning day and an hereafter of rewards and punishments;" so now, for the same purpose, he represents us as abolishing the difference between heaven and hell. "The Baron," he affirms, "by his descriptions of the invisible world, has gone a great way towards making those who will believe him, neither very anxious for heaven, nor much afraid of hell, which, wherever such a feeling obtains, is a dreadful mental disease. For the sanctions of rewards and punishments do mightily restrain from vice, and promote virtue and piety. "We are all naturally too remiss in religious duties: there is therefore little need to bereave us of those two great stimulants, hope and fear"+ So then, Swedenborg deprives virtue and vice of their sanctions;—a serious charge indeed! To be "afraid of hell" however, in its most proper sense, is to be afraid of evil; for though hell is a place and state of misery, the essence of it is evil. The fear of hell which is not accompanied with the fear of evil, is but a spurious, selfish, and Pharisaic kind of feeling, productive of little benefit either to the individual or to society. A man may be afraid of hell in the manner recommended by this opponent,—even of "the Mahometan's hell" the description of whose terrors he quotes, (for he here again refers, for the third or fourth time, to his favourite standard of orthodoxy, "the Mahometan's Creed!"]—without being much afraid of evil: and surely it is no light evil continually to sin, as is done by our adversaries, against the commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
+ Anti-Swedenborg, p. 67.
That any man who has ever looked into Swedenborg's treatise on Heaven and Hell, and by making references to it, wishes it to be believed that he has read it, should be capable of advancing such a calumny as to say, that the Baron's descriptions of the invisible world tend to make men neither very anxious for heaven nor much afraid of hell; to take away from virtue and vice the prospect of reward and punishment; and to deprive men of those stimulants to good conduct, hope and fear; is truly a deplorable example of the power of theological prejudice; for, most assuredly, never before was heaven represented under so truly attractive, exalted, and glorious an aspect; never was hell depicted so morally appalling, so repulsive for its credible horrors.
Is there nothing calculated to render us anxious for heaven,—to make us regard it as a reward of virtue desirable in the highest degree,—in the assurance offered by Swedenborg, that he who enters heaven comes into a scene, where every object that can impart delight salutes his new-quickened sensations; while yet it is not in any thing imparted by outward objects that his happiness essentially consists, though they contribute to its fulness, but in that ineffable sense of blessedness which fills his whole mind, and which is inherent in that life of love, wisdom, and use, by which he is inwardly animated, and into the full activity, and completely developed enjoyments of which, he now finally enters ? He is immediately, according to our Author, surrounded by kindred angels, all ready and eager to show him the most winning offices of attention, and in whose society he feels at once entirely at home, as if he were among friends and relatives known to him from infancy; whence his spirits expand, and his life is exalted, being united with the life of all around him; which being all in harmony with his own, and not the slightest disagreement creating an opposing or uncongenial sphere to be felt, occasions such a sense of fulness of delight, as can never here be experienced, nor even conceived. Nor can any description ever exalt the imagination even to the threshold of the state requisite for apprehending it; for it can only be apprehended, as it is, by those in the spiritual state belonging to angels, and which cannot be perceptibly communicated to man in the natural world. Of man in his natural state it will ever be true, as Divine Truth hath spoken, that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. Nor does the experience of our author form any exception to this statement; for it was not to the faculties of his natural part, by which he lived as a man in the world, that the experience was communicated, but to those of his spiritual part, which properly belongs to the spiritual world; and he constantly declares that he can give no description of what it was thus granted him to perceive, that can convey any adequate idea of it to man in the world: all that he sketches therefore, and all that we can apprehend, is to be regarded but as a faint approximation to the reality. Let those who feel sufficient interest in a subject interesting above all others, consult our author's work on Heaven and Hell; and if they do not, on a serious examination, find his representations of the heavenly state to be heavenly indeed; to be, to the truly rational and justly feeling mind, pre-eminently attractive; and to bear so distinctly the stamp of truth as to indicate that they could only have been derived from positive knowledge; we will admit that he has no higher claim to superior illumination. Let any one turn in particular to the chapters on the Wisdom of the Angels of Heaven, on the State of Innocence of the Angels of Heaven, on the State of Peace in Heaven, and on Heavenly Joy and Happiness; and it may surely be affirmed, that if any thing can affect him, and awaken in his bosom any heavenward aspirations, he will find it there. I select a few passages, that the reader may see how easy it would be to make a collection of Extracts from Swedenborg's works, that would powerfully recommend them to the pious and sincere.
"The angels can express by a single word what a man cannot express by a thousand words, besides, in one angelic expression are conveyed things innumerable, which cannot be expressed by the words of human language; for in every individual thing uttered by angels are included arcana of wisdom in continual succession, to which human sciences cannot reach. The angels also supply, by the tone of their voice, what they do not express fully by the words of their speech; and in the tone of their voice is contained the affection belonging to the things of which they speak in their order: for by the tones they express affections, and by the words the ideas of thought flowing from their affections. Hence it is that the things heard in heaven, are said [by the Apostle Paul] to be ineffable." (HH 269.)
"It is said in heaven, that innocence dwells in wisdom, and that the angels have wisdom in proportion as they have innocence. That this is the case, they confirm by these considerations: That they who are in a state of innocence attribute nothing of good to themselves, but consider themselves only as receivers, and ascribe all to the Lord: that they are desirous to be led by him, and not by themselves: that they love every thing which is good, and are delighted with everything which is true, because they know and perceive that to love what is good, thus to will and do it, is to love the Lord, and that to love what is true is to love their neighbour: that they live contented with what they have, whether it be little or much, because they know that they receive as much as is profitable for them, little if little be profitable, and much if much: and that they themselves do not know what is profitable for them, because this is known only to the Lord, who hath a view to what is eternal in all the operations of his providence."—"All who are in the good of innocence are affected by innocence, and so far as any one is in that good, so far he is affected. But they who are not in the good of innocence, are not affected by it: wherefore all who are in hell are altogether contrary to innocence, nor do they know what innocence is; yea, they are of such a character, that in proportion as any one is innocent, they burn with a desire to do him mischief." (HH 278, 283.)—"The inmost principles of heaven are two, viz. innocence and peace. They are termed inmost principles, because they proceed immediately from the Lord. Innocence is that principle from which is derived every good of heaven, and peace is that principle from which is derived all the delight of heaven. Every good is attended with delight; and both good and delight have relation to love; for whatever is loved is called good, and is perceived as delightful: hence it follows, that those two inmost principles, innocence and peace, proceed from the divine love of the Lord, and affect the angels from an inmost ground."—"The divine sphere of peace in heaven flows from the Lord, and exists in consequence of his conjunction with the angels of heaven, and in particular in consequence of the conjunction of good and truth in every angel. These are the origins of peace: whence it may be evident, that peace in heaven is the Divine Sphere inmostly affecting with blessedness every principle of good there, thus, acting as the source of all the joy of heaven; and that in its essence it is the divine joy of the Lord's divine love, resulting from his conjunction with heaven and with every one there. This joy, perceived by the Lord in the angels, and by the angels from the Lord, is peace. Hence, by derivation, the angels have every blessedness, delight, and happiness; or that which is called heavenly joy." (HH 285, 286.)
"Every one may know, that when man leaves the external or natural man he comes into the internal or spiritual; whence it may be known that heavenly delight is internal and spiritual, but not external and natural; and since it is internal and spiritual, that it is purer and more exquisite, and that it affects the interiors of man, which are the faculties of his soul or spirit."—"The delights of heaven are ineffable, and likewise are innumerable. But of those innumerable delights not one can be known or credited by him who is in the mere delight of the body or of the flesh; since his interiors look away from heaven and towards the world, that is, backwards, For he who is wholly immersed in the delight of the body or of the flesh,—or, what is the same thing, in the love of self and the world, —has no sensation of any delight but what is to be found in honour, in gain, and in the pleasures of the body and the senses, which so extinguish and choke interior delights, which are those of heaven, that their existence is not believed. Wherefore a person of this description would wonder greatly, if he were only told that there are delights existing when the delights of honour and gain are removed; and still more if he were told, that the delights of heaven succeeding in their place are innumerable, and are such, that the delights of the body and the flesh, which are chiefly the desires of honour and gain, cannot be compared with them. Hence the reason is evident, why it is not known what heavenly joy is."—"All the delights of heaven are conjoined with, and are in, uses, because uses are the good works of love and charity, in which the angels are principled; wherefore every one enjoys delights of such a quality as are his uses, and likewise in such a degree as is his affection for use."—"Heavenly joy itself, such as it is in its essence, cannot be described, because it has its seat in the inmost grounds of the life of the angels, and thence in every particular of their thoughts and affections, and from these again in every particular of their speech and actions. It is as if the interiors were fully open and expanded to the reception of delight and blessedness, which is diffused into all the fibres, and thus through the whole angel; whence its perception and sensation are such as to admit of no description: for what commences from the inmost parts, flows into all the parts derived from them, and propagates itself, with continual augmentation, towards the exteriors. Good spirits, who are not as yet in that delight, because not as yet raised up into heaven, when they perceive it emanating from an angel by the sphere of his love, are filled with such delight, that they fall as it were into a swoon, through the sweetness of the sensation."—"That I might know what is the nature of the delights of heavenly joys, it hath been granted me by the Lord to perceive them; wherefore, since I have had living experience, I can know, but not at all describe them: yet something shall be said to give some idea of them.—It was perceived that the joy and delight came as from the heart, diffusing themselves with the utmost softness through all the inmost fibres, with such a sense of enjoyment, that the fibre is, as it were, nothing but joy and delight; and in like manner every perception and sensation thence derived, receiving its life from happiness. The joy of bodily pleasures, compared with these joys, is as a gross and pungent clot compared with a pure and most gentle aura. It was observed, that when I was desirous to transfer all my delight to another, a more interior and fuller delight than the former flowed-in in its place; and it was perceived that this was from the Lord." (HH 395, 398, 402, 409, 413.)
I know not how these extracts may impress the reader, hut I venture to think that every one may in some measure judge of his own spiritual state, according as he is affected by them or not; and that whosoever is affected by them will be of opinion, that they are in the highest degree worthy of the subject, and that heavenly wisdom, innocence, peace, and joy, could only be so well described by a communication from heaven itself. If any should still think, with our accusers, that such views of heaven are calculated to make a man not very anxious to attain it,—that they deprive virtue of its prospect of reward, and bereave us of the stimulant of hope; an obviously true solution of the enigma, but a most awful one, is given in the extracts themselves.
If they who believe the testimony of Swedenborg, thus have reason to be animated in the highest degree to secure the joy that is set before them, they also are instigated, by the clearest conviction of the eternal wretchedness which awaits the wicked and impenitent, to shun the paths which lead to its abode. They are assured in the most decisive manner, that the state of those who are inwardly wicked,—who are confirmed, in principle as well as in practice and inclination, in the evil dispositions of their corrupt hearts,—will be hereafter intensely miserable; since the increased activity of perception peculiar to those in a spiritual state of existence, whilst it incomparably augments the felicity of the good, must proportionately increase the unhappiness of the bad. We are assured, also, that not only are the inward feelings of the wicked hereafter full of pain and misery, but that, although they are not unceasingly roasted in material nre, without which some of our opponents would fain have it believed that hell cannot be hell, yet actual inflictions of punishment inconceivably severe, and often re-iterated, also await them in the dark world; these being the only means by which their malignant natures can be restrained from breaking forth into such outrages as would disturb the peace of the good, and even endanger the subsistence of the universe. According to Swedenborg, all who are in hell can feel no enjoyment but in the doing of evil: yet no sooner do they attempt it than they fall into punishment. Their existence is thus passed in alternations between two states; in one of which they are in the sense of the privation of all delight, in consequence of being withheld from doing such things as alone are delightful to them,—and this in addition to that turbid wretchedness which lusts such as theirs, even when enjoying their gratifications, carry within them; and in the other they are suffering the positive torture of punishments inconceivably dreadful. This is the hell of which an accuser has declared, he should not be much afraid.
But we will illustrate this subject, also, by a few extracts from our author's treatise on Heaven and Hell.
"Evil spirits are severely punished in the world of spirits, that by punishments they may be deterred from doing evil. This appears as if it were from the Lord; when yet nothing of punishment comes from the Lord, but from evil itself. For evil is so conjoined with its own punishment, that they cannot be separated. The infernal crew desire and love nothing more than to do evil, especially to inflict punishment and torment; and they likewise do evil, and inflict punishment, on every one who is not protected by the Lord; wherefore, when evil is done by any from an evil heart, since this rejects from itself all protection from the Lord, infernal spirits rush in upon him who does it, and punish him."—"What eternal fire is, —which is mentioned in the Word as the portion of those who are in hell, hath as yet been known scarcely to any one, by reason that mankind have thought materially respecting the things mentioned in the Word, not being acquainted with its spiritual sense: wherefore by this fire some have understood material fire, some torment in general, some the pangs of conscience; and some have supposed that it is mentioned merely to impress the wicked with terror."— "The spiritual heat appertaining to man is the heat of his life, because in its essence it is love. This heat is what is meant in the Word by fire; love to the Lord and neighbourly love being meant by heavenly fire, and self-love and the love of the world, by infernal fire."—"Since the lust of doing evils, which originates in the love of self and of the world, is what is meant by infernal fire; and since such lust possesses all who are in the hells; therefore, likewise when the hells are opened, there is seen a sort of fiery appearance, with smoke issuing from it, such as is usually seen from buildings on fire.—But when they are closed, this fiery appearance is not seen, but in its place an appearance like a dark mass of condensed smoke. —It is however to be noted, that they who are in the hells are not immersed in fire, but that the fire is an appearance;—for love corresponds to fire, and all things which appear in the spiritual world appear according to correspondences."—"As by infernal fire is meant every lust to do evil flowing from the love of self, by it is also meant torment, such as has place in the hells. For the lust derived from that love is the lust of hurting others who do not honour, venerate, and pay court to the subject of it:—and when such lust prevails in every one, in a society which is restrained by no external bonds, such as the fear of the law, and of the loss of reputation, of honour, of gain, or of life, every one, under the impulse of his own evil, rushes upon another, and, so far as he prevails, enslaves the rest and reduces them under his dominion, and from a principle of delight exercises cruelty towards those who do not submit. All the hells are such societies; wherefore every one there bears hatred in his heart against another, and from hatred bursts forth into cruelty, so far as he prevails." — "As rebellious disturbances continually exist there, since every one there desires to be greatest, and burns with hatred against others, hence come new outrages. Thus one scene is changed for another: wherefore they who had been made slaves are taken out to help some new devil to subjugate others: when they who do not submit, and yield implicit obedience, are again tormented by various methods. And so they go on continually. Such torments are the torments of hell, which are called infernal fire." (HH 550, 553, 566, 568, 573, 574.) Beside these general miseries, in the first volume of the Arcana Coelestia are described a number of specific inflictions which follow the perpetrators of various crimes.
Now can anything be conceived more truly horrible than such a state as this, — to be incapable of any delight but in doing injury to others, and to have the injury thus done speedily return upon their own heads ? But our adversaries are offended that delight, under any form, should visit the breasts of infernals: yet every observer of human nature well knows, that even the most atrocious crimes are attended with delight to those who are in the love of them, and that nothing is more true than the observation of our Author, that whatever a man loves, he regards as good, and feels as delightful. Thus one well acquainted with the human heart, represents Satan as exclaiming,
"Evil, be thou my good!" (P. L. iv. 110.)
Again, he makes Satan justly express the nature of evil, and its delight, in the following lines;
" The more I see Pleasures about me, so much more I feel Torment within me, as from the hateful siege Of contraries. All good to me becomes Bane, and in heaven much worse would be my state. — For only in destroying find I case To my relentless thoughts." (B ix. 119, &c.)
The same character speaks of his aim as being
" — all pleasure to destroy, Save what is in destroying: other joy To me is lost." (Ib. 477, &c.)
But if there are any so lost in this world to all proper feeling as to think this delight of desirable attainment, could it be enjoyed without check (though even then, every one may see that it would be but a modification of misery); when it can never be gratified without an immediate retribution of shocking torment, can the most abandoned of the human race regard the state where this is inevitable without horror ? Is it just to say, as has been done repeatedly,* that "hell is so much mended by the benevolent Baron, that our paupers at least may go there with a very fair prospect of comfort?" Will such direful pictures as have just been presented tend to make a man not much afraid of hell? Do they deprive vice of its prospect of punishment, and bereave tis of the stimulant of fear? Which is preferable, —so to represent the infernal state of misery (as is done by Swedenborg), as to make it truly terrible to every rightly constituted mind, by depicting its terrors in a manner that does not make the reason revolt at their inconsistency; or so to represent them (as is done by my guide and his "Mahometan's Creed") as to make them absolutely incredible, and thus to destroy the fear of hell altogether ? Doubtless, much of the infidelity of the present times is owing to this, as its occasion if not its cause; and they who continue to press impossibilities as articles of Christian faith, are doing their best to aggravate that "dreadful mental disease."
* Anti-Swedenborg, pp. v. and 68.
It cannot then, I apprehend, be denied, that in the general views given by Swedenborg respecting heaven and hell, there is nothing but what is obviously agreeable both to Reason and Scripture.
In conclusion, what judgment is to be rationally formed respecting the whole of Swedenborg's statements, both general and particular, respecting heaven and hell and the intermediate state or world of spirits, their inhabitants, and the circumstances which attend them ?
If the accounts of travellers in distant countries are read with delight; if even the minute occurrences which happened on the journey to the travellers themselves, and the familiar anecdotes by which they illustrate the manners of the people and the character of the place, are found to possess great interest, though we never expect to visit those countries ourselves; what delight ought to attend the perusal of an authentic account of that eternal country to which we are all hastening, and with what interest should we hang over a favoured traveller's detail of the familiar incidents which are there constantly occurring, and in which we must, ere long, be called to take our share! That a special traveller should be empowered to communicate such information, by no means exceeds, we have seen, the bounds of rational credibility, nor even of probability. The possibility of it is abundantly evinced by the narratives of Scripture; and the facility of it is demonstrated by the views of man's constitution, and of the laws of the spiritual world, discovered in the writings of Swedenborg. Indeed, many divines and philosophers have seen that man is by creation a subject of both worlds, the spiritual and natural. If by his spirit he belongs to the spiritual world, and he has a spirit within him while he lives in the body; it cannot be difficult for Him who is the Author of both, to open the senses of his spirit even while he lives in the body; he must then be at once perceptibly amid the objects of the spiritual world, in the same manner as he will be after death; and accordingly, we have seen, it was thus that views of the spiritual world have been vouchsafed to prophets and others. Is it at all surprising then, that such an opening of the spiritual sight should take place in an extraordinary manner, with one individual, at the era of the Lord's second coming? Most people believe, that in the primeval ages of the world, man lived in perpetual society with angels, and that it was not till he had far descended in degeneracy, that it came to be the character of "angel visits" to be "few and far between:" and most people believe, also, that in the latter ages of the world such communications will be restored, and angels will again be closely associated with men: is it then at all unreasonable to expect, that, as preparatory to such a state, should it be the purpose of Providence to produce it,— or in lieu of it, should that be without the provisions of the Divine Economy,—some distinct, accurate, precise, and even familiar knowledge, respecting the eternal world, its appearances, its inhabitants, and its laws, should be communicated, through the instrumentality of one commissioned herald, to beings who belong to it, in part, even now, and are soon to belong to it altogether? When man's former state, and his still unaltered nature as a subject of both worlds, are reflected on, the wonder surely is, that the world of which his better part is a native and a denizen, should ever have become so shut out from him, and all particular knowledge respecting it so utterly lost, —not that they should again be restored: and when could their restoration be more appropriately in place, than among the blessings attendant on the second coming of the Lord, and consequent upon the performance of the last judgment? Whilst then there is so much to give probability on this subject to the statements of Swedenborg, and nothing which, fairly estimated, detracts at all from their credibility; whilst all the particulars advanced, when their causes are understood, are found to be in the strictest agreement both with Scripture and Reason; they surely may be pressed upon the Candid and Reflecting as in the highest degree worthy of their attention, because conveying information of the highest interest to man as an immortal.