Noble's 'Appeal': VI. Heaven And Hell; And The Appearances In Them, And In The Intermediate Region, Or World Of Spirits.:
C. All Swedenborg's Statements respecting the Spiritual World are perfectly Reasonable and Scriptural, when certain Truths, relating to that World are known.
in the general views which are presented in the writings of Swedenborg respecting Heaven and Hell, as the abodes, respectively, of happiness and misery, while there certainly is not any thing which is not in the highest degree agreeable to both Reason and Scripture, there also is nothing which can be deemed inconsistent with the usual conceptions of the Christian world. Such, at least, is the case, if it be admitted, as we have just seen is the fact, that all the inhabitants of heaven and hell strictly belong to the human race, having first come into existence as men in a natural world.
But my aim in this Appeal is, to recommend our views of the eternal world and state, and our doctrines of faith and life, not so much by the direct presentation of their obvious beauties, as by the vindication of those points which have been most assailed by objectors, because they most differ from the common apprehensions of the Christian world. Now some of the particulars brought to light in the writings of Swedenborg respecting Heaven, Hell, and the Intermediate Region or World of Spirits,—some of the circumstances relating to their inhabitants, and to the appearances which are there presented to the view,—certainly do widely differ from the commonly received apprehensions. It is by these, then, that our adversaries chiefly hope to make an unfavourable impression on their readers; with which view they set them forth in an isolated manner, separate tram the explanations of their causes which the Author gives in various parts of his works. When the causes are seen, though they do not bring the statements objected to nearer to the common apprehensions, they evince the common apprehensions to be founded in mistake, and establish the agreement of all the Author's statements with Reason and Scripture. The explanatory truths, then, necessary to the right understanding of the subject, I propose here to offer; and nothing more will be necessary for the vindication of every relation which our adversaries would stigmatise as unfounded or ridiculous.
A great change must be made in our ideas respecting the other world in general, when we have got rid of the notion of angels created such, and of some of them falling out of heaven and becoming the original devils. When we conceive of angels as men, freed from the imperfections which adhered to them when here, and exalted to the highest degrees of human perfection; and of infernals as men in the deepest extremes of degradation, deprived of all outward good and rationality, thus of everything properly human, but yet retaining a relation to what is human though in complete perversion; our ideas as to what is likely to take place in the other life must be very much altered from what they are, while we dream of the inhabitants of the eternal world as chiefly consisting of a class of beings of whose real nature we know nothing at all, but only imagine it to be something immensely superior to the nature of mankind. In addition, then, to the great truth, that all angels and spirits began their existence as men in the world, only two other general truths are necessary to be known, in order to see the reasonableness and Scripture ground of the seemingly most extraordinary of the particulars stated by Swedenborg respecting the inhabitants of heaven, hell, and the spiritual world in general, and the objects and appearances which there exist. These two general truths are, first, That man after death, though no longer clothed with a material body, is no less a real and substantial man than before: and, secondly, That all things which exist before the sight in heaven, hell, and the intermediate state or region, are appearances, expressing and outwardly exhibiting, according to the laws of the immutable analogy or correspondence that exists by creation between spiritual things and natural, the state, ideas, and inclinations, of those who dwell there.
1. With respect to the first of these general truths,—That man after death, though no longer clothed with a material body, is no less a real and substantial man than before,—sufficient proof, I apprehend, to satisfy any mind open to conviction, may have been given above in our Section on the Resurrection; where we found that the Apostle Paul expressly teaches, that there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body; and where it was shown that all the testimony of Scripture upon the subject treats this spiritual body as the man himself,—as a real substantial existence, which rises in eternity immediately after death. As, however, Swedenborg's account of this matter has been quoted as ridiculous,* I will adduce the paragraph in which he states the difference between man in the other world and man in this, and leave the candid to judge, whether, instead of its being ridiculous, it is not rational in the highest degree. His words are, "The difference between a man in the natural world, and a man in the spiritual world, is, that the latter is a man clothed with a substantial + body, but the former with a material body, within which is his substantial body; and a substantial man sees a substantial man as clearly and distinctly as a material man sees a material man: a substantial man, however, cannot see a material man, nor can a material man see a substantial man, by reason of the difference between what is material and what is substantial, the nature of which difference may be described, but not in a few words."#
Now, that this is the true representation of the matter, may be scripturally proved from all the accounts of the visions of the prophets. Did John the Revelator see the wonderful things that he describes with the eyes of his body ? Does he not begin his revelations with saying, "I was in the spirit on the Lord's day ?"$ In this state it was that he first heard behind him "a great voice as of a trumpet," and that, on turning round, he "saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man."|| When he was in the spirit, he was in his spiritual or substantial man, and it was with the eyes and senses of this that he witnessed all that he afterwards describes.
That this idea is as agreeable to reason as to Scripture, is evident from the opinions of many intelligent and pious persons, who have been convinced of its truth by their own reflections. I will mention here one testimony of this sort: it is that of Mrs. Fletcher, the widow of the Rev. Mr. Fletcher, the sentiments of both of whom respecting Swedenborg have been noticed above. @
* Anti-Swedenborg, p. 123.
The life of Mrs. Fletcher, published from her own papers, has been very extensively read among religious people: and in it this intelligent and excellent lady gives her views of the state of man after death. She entertained the full belief, that, though separated from her husband, so far as death could separate, her union and communion with him still remained; and she thus expresses her ideas, in answer to objections made to them, partly in the very language of Swedenborg. "Is not [the objector is supposed to ask] the spirit, divested of the body, become of a quite different nature to what it was before, so as to be incapable of the same feelings ? I answer, Certainly, no; the spirit is the man. The spirit of my dear husband loved and cared for me, and longed above every other desire for my spiritual advancement. Now if it were the body, why doth it not love me still ? You answer, Because it is dead. That is to say, the spirit is gone from it: therefore, that which loved me is gone from it. And what is that but the spirit, which actuated the body, as the clockwork does the hand which tells the hour ? It therefore appears quite clear to me, that every right affection, sentiment, and feeling of mind, we have been exercised in here, will remain in the spirit, just the same, immediately after death." * Now if many believe this to be true when they read it in Mrs. Fletcher, why do they deride Swedenborg as an enthusiast for saying the very same thing ? Our opponents will say, "Because she gives it only as her opinion: he delivers it as a truth which he could testify from experience." This does not make it less true, at any rate. But I may add, that Mrs. F. also gives us experience on the subject, both of her own and others, of which I extract the following, which she relates + as an indubitable fact, of a woman whom she calls "that dear old saint, Mary Matthews."
* P. 195, 8vo. ed. 1818. It has been shown above, p. 254, that, after her husband's decease, Mrs. F. consulted the Treatise on Heaven and Hell, to see the account there given of the world to which he was gone. This explains, what otherwise would be truly extraordinary, the co-incidence, not only as to ideas, but as to expressions, between Mrs. F., in the passage above, and Swedenborg. It is quite plain that she fully accepted his sentiments on the subject. . + P. 227.
This good woman having awaked under an extraordinary influence early in the morning, on getting up and coming down stairs, relates what happened to her thus: "All around me seemed God! It appeared to me as if the room was full of heavenly spirits.—Falling, back in my chair, I remembered no more of any thing outward, but thought I was at the threshold of a most beautiful place. I could just look in:—The first thing I saw was the Lord Jesus sitting on a throne. There was a beautiful crown over his head. It did not seem to bear with a weight, but as if it was suspended there, and as he turned his head it turned with him. A glorious light appeared on one side, and all around him was glory! I thought of that word of St. Paul,—Who dwelleth in light unapproachable. Turning my eyes a little, I saw close to my Saviour my dear minister, Mr. Fletcher. He looked continually on the Lord Jesus with a sweet smile. But he had a very different appearance from what he had in the body, and yet there was such an exact resemblance, that I could have known him among a thousand. Features and limbs just the same, but not of flesh. It was what I cannot describe, all light! I know not what to call it: I never saw anything like it. It was, I thought, such a body as could go thousands of miles in a moment. There were several passed who had the same appearance: and I seemed to have lost my old weak shaking body. I seemed to myself as if I could have gone to the world's end, as light as air. I looked on him a long time, and observed every feature with its old likeness. He then turned his eyes on me, and held out his hand to me, just as he used to do. After this, the whole disappeared, and I came to myself."—I offer no opinion of this vision; but I suppose that all the people called Methodists, and most pious persons, will admit it to have been something real. Yet here we have an account of man's retaining his identity after death, and existing in a spiritual and yet substantial body, that exactly accords with the statements given by Swedenborg.
Are we not then intitled to say, that, according to the evidence of Scripture, the conclusions of the intelligent, and the experience of the pious, the testimony of Swedenborg, upon this subject, is most certainly true ? Man after death is still a man,— a real man in a substantial yet spiritual body, though no longer in a material body, as while here.
II. We proceed to the second general truth necessary to our seeing the reasonableness and scripture-ground of the particular facts respecting the appearances in the other world which are stated by Swedenborg. That general truth is, That all things which exist before the sight in heaven, hell, and the intermediate state or region, are appearances, expressing, and outwardly exhibiting, according to the laws of the immutable analogy or correspondence that exists by creation between spiritual things and natural, the state, ideas, and inclinations, of those who dwell there.
It is a fact which was well known in ancient times, though it has long been lost sight of, that there does exist, by the very first laws of nature and creation, a constant mutual relation between spiritual things, or such as relate to the mind and its perceptions, and the objects which appear in outward nature; which is such, that natural things answer to spiritual by an unalterable, fixed, and most exact analogy or correspondence, so that in every natural object an image of some spiritual thing or principle is to be seen. Thus, who does not know, without any one to inform him, that light is an exact image of truth; darkness, of ignorance and falsehood; fire, of love ? And if some natural things thus clearly answer to certain spiritual things, who can doubt that all natural things do the same, and that such, correspondence is essential to their nature ? * Now in heaven and hell there cannot be any really natural things; but instead of the things themselves there are appearances of them, and such as exactly answer to the state, ideas, and inclinations, of those around whom they appear. Hence, many of those things which appear as real to the wicked, have no existence but in their own phantasy, and are mere illusions of their sensual imaginations. An idea of this may be formed from the case of insane persons, and of such as labour under extremely severe nervous disorders, in the world: These, as is well known, will often imagine that they see and are annoyed by different appearances, and even experience severe pains in the body, when the whole is the mere illusion of the imagination, though its effects to them are the same as of the most solid reality. Now all in hell are absolutely insane, nationality can never exist in a state of separation from goodness and truth. In its genuine state, it is the offspring of the heavenly marriage of those two principles. In the world, men, even though wicked, are kept in some outward regard to the principles of goodness and truth for the sake of their characters in society, and also are held in a state of rationality by the Lord, that their reformation may be possible: but such rationality does not reach to their internal part or spirit, when the truly internal man,—the apostle's "inward man which delights in the law of God,"—is closed: it is put off at death together with their external part; and as they then come into their internal, which is in the infernal marriage of evil and falsehood, they become also actually insane; although, as is often the case with the insane in this world, they become in the highest degree cunning, and skilful in malicious artifices.
* See this proved in the work on the Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, See it shown also in Kirby and Spence's Introduction to Entomology, Vol. i. pp. 11, 12, 22, 23, Vol. iv. pp. 401—410: or see the Intellectual Repository, for April, 1826, pp. 131, &c.; where the passages are extracted.
Now that the objects which appear to sight in the spiritual world are appearances of such objects as are seen in the natural world, and that these are all representative of spiritual things, is perfectly evident from all the relations of the kind which are to be found in the Word of God, and which are there very numerous. To take an example which alone is sufficient to establish the fact.
When forces were sent to seize Elisha the prophet, and his servant was greatly intimidated at the danger, we read thus: "And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee open his eyes that he may see: And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round, about Elisha." (2 Ks. vi. 17.) Here were appearances of objects similar to those of the natural world, seen when the eyes of the spirit of Elisha's servant were opened: consequently, the objects seen were really in the spiritual world, and not in the natural world. But who can imagine that there are real horses and real chariots in heaven, or in any part of the spiritual world ? What then were these but appearances representative of the sphere of Divine Protection with which the prophet was surrounded ? The prophet, doubtless, being the immediate agent of God, was in consociation with the angelic world, and in the midst, as to his spirit, of guardian angels: but his servant did not see the angels themselves, but appearances representative of the defense and protection, which, by the ministry of angels, surrounded him from the Lord.
A hundred other instances might be mentioned, but I will confine myself to a few. We read in Zechariah, That he saw a man riding on a red horse among the myrtle trees, behind whom were red horses, speckled, and white: that he afterwards saw four horses presented before him: that he saw a man with a measuring line in his hand: that he saw a golden candlestick and two olive trees: that he saw an ephah, or a sort of a measure, flying in the air, and a woman sitting in the midst of the ephah; and that he saw two other women with the wings of a stork, who lifted up the ephah between the earth and heaven; * with many other things equally extraordinary. These he could not see with the eyes of his body: they were, then, things presented before the eyes of his spirit: thus they were appearances of things in the spiritual world: and that they all were representative of some spiritual subject, no one, surely, can doubt. Just the same was the case with John when he wrote the Revelation. We have already seen, that when he beheld the extraordinary things that were exhibited before him, he was in the spirit, or in a state in which the senses of his spirit were opened: and that all the singular and wonderful appearances which he afterwards beheld were representations of spiritual subjects, and of the interior state of the things and persons to whom they related, no reflecting mind can doubt for a moment. Thus, for instance, when he was favoured with a sight of the Lord as the Son of man: who can doubt that all the appearances which his divine person exhibited were exact correspondences of his divine attributes and perfections ? for it is impossible to suppose that the person of the Lord, in itself, is such as is there described. Thus it is said of this Glorious Being, not only that "his head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes as a flame of fire, and his countenance as the sun shining in his strength;" but also that "his feet were like fine brass as though they burned in a furnace,—that he had in his right hand seven stars, and that out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword."+ These are beautiful representative appearances,—his face like the sun, of his divine love in its interior, higher, and inmost nature, as perceived by angels; his feet like turning brass, of the same divine love in his Divine Natural Essence, whence he operates on men; the stars in his hand, of all the divine principles of knowledge which he imparts to the church; and the sword from his mouth, of the power and operation of his Word or Divine Truth. And who can doubt, if the circumstances under which the Lord himself appears to those who enjoy such a privilege are thus representative of his attributes and the excellences of his nature, that the circumstances in which all the inhabitants of the spiritual world find themselves,—whether in heaven, in hell, or in the intermediate state, are representative of their state, quality, and nature, likewise, and that all the appearances which attend them entirely depend on those circumstances ? And yet that the appearances which there exist are not mere illusions, having no reality whatsoever, is evident from the occurrence, that a little book was presented both to Ezekiel and to John, and which was not only made manifest to their sight, but they were commanded to eat it; which they accordingly did, and both of them describe how it tasted. Ezekiel affirms, "I did eat it, and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness:"$ John says, "And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it my belly was made bitter:"@—circumstances these, which fully prove, that the spirit, in which John and Ezekiel were, has its senses as well as the natural body: for that they could not eat a spiritual book with the organs of their natural body, is evident: the spiritual body only could eat a spiritual book or roll; and with their spiritual senses only could they distinguish its taste.
* Ch. i. 8, 18; ii. 1; iv. 2, 3; v. 6, 7, 9. + Rev. i. 14, 15, 16. $ Ezek. iii. 3. @ Rev. x. 10.
Evident, then, I apprehend, it is, that all things that exist in the spiritual world are appearances, which either are actually real, or appear as distinctly as if they were so to the senses of the inhabitants. If any one cannot believe that the things seen by the prophets had any proper reality, though they impressed their senses as such, we will not stop to dispute the point now: only I will assure him, that we believe all the appearances in the spiritual world described by Swedenborg to be of exactly the same kind: the one exist there as really as the other, and equally owe their origin to the spiritual things and states of which they are the outward manifestations. The only difference is, that the things seen by the prophets were appearances produced at the time by the Lord, to represent things and states belonging to the church and its members mostly at periods future to the time of the exhibition of the visions; whereas the appearances described by Swedenborg as ordinarily existing in heaven, hell, and the intermediate world, are those which constantly flow from the states of the angels, spirits, or infernals, about whom they are seen.
Plain enough, then, I apprehend, is the agreement of our author's assertions on this subject with the testimony of Scripture. And that at is equally agreeable to the suggestions of reason, is evident from the fact, that never did any one endeavour from his imagination to draw a picture, presenting anything in detail, of heaven or hell or their inhabitants, without accompanying it with such circumstances as he deemed expressive of the states of mind of those whom he wished to depict: the only difference being, that persons who have formed their guesses from their imagination, being ignorant of the true correspondences or analogies between natural things and spiritual, have usually been very much mistaken as to the particulars of their figurative delineations. Many writers, also, have seen, that unless the objects that appear in heaven be analogous to those which are found on earth, our idea of heaven is an idea of a mere nothing. Thus the angel Raphael is made to say, in Milton's Paradise Lost,
"What surmounts the reach
In which striking lines he has exactly delineated the true state of the case. Be it asked then; Is it reasonable to condemn Swedenborg for affirming as a fact, what in Milton we admire as a highly probable conjecture ? So likewise, I am assured, even one of our accusers has himself seen the necessity of finding some other objects wherewith to furnish heaven, beside men in their revived material bodies; whence he once preached a sermon to prove, that there would be a resurrection of animals as well as of human beings; an idea which is favoured, also, by the great Bishop Butler: and surely to put there horses and oxen, sheep and goats, dogs and cats,—to consider beasts as existing in the spiritual world in solid bodies of animal flesh and blood,—is immensely more extravagant than our idea, that such things do indeed exist there, but only as appearances. So, I suppose, every Methodist knows, that Mr. Wesley furnishes his new earth, which he considers to be the habitation of the saints in glory, with all kinds of animals and other objects which exist in this earth, only in a much more perfect state. But surely since all seem to be sensible, that, in some way or other, that world must contain such objects, it is far more reasonable, with us, to conclude, that such things exist there as appearances, not possessing any conscious life of their own, existing only as outward figures of the states of the human inhabitants, and appearing or disappearing as those states change, than to imagine, with our opponents, that they exist there of themselves, real living creatures, enjoying for their own sakes the privilege of immortality. Reason teaches us, that the privilege of immortality only accompanies the faculty of rationality, and the capacity of being conjoined to the immortal by the conscious reception of his life-giving energies.
If then our two general positions are seen to be true; if it be admitted that man after death, though no longer clothed with a material body, is a real and substantial man,—if good, endowed with the most exalted wisdom, and if wicked, though inexpressibly cunning, destitute of all true rationality and absolutely insane;—and if it be seen that the things which exist in heaven, hell, and the intermediate world, are appearances, exhibiting sensibly the inward states of those about whom they are seen; or if it be only known, what cannot be disputed, that this is the manner in which these subjects are represented in the writings of our Author and understood by us;—we are provided with satisfactory solutions of all those circumstances in his accounts of the nature of the spiritual world, which naturally at first appear strange, and which may easily be made to appear ridiculous. Refer them to their interior causes, and all pretext for ridicule disappears.