Tuesday, December 6, 2011


“Believe in God: believe also in Me.”

_John_, XIV, 1

“My Lord, and my God!”

_John_, XX, 28


God is One, and Infinite. The true quality of the Infinite does not appear; for the human mind, however highly analytical and exalted, is itself finite, and the finiteness in it cannot be laid aside. It is not fitted, therefore, to see the Infinity of God, and thus God, as He is in Himself, but can see God from behind in shadow; as it is said of Moses, when he asked to see God, that he was placed in a cleft of the rock, and saw His hinder side. It is enough to acknowledge God from things finite, that is, created, in which He is infinitely.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 28


We read in the Word that Jehovah God dwells in light inaccessible. Who, then, could approach Him, unless He had come to dwell in accessible light, that is, unless He had descended and assumed a Humanity and in it had become the Light of the world? Who cannot see that to approach Jehovah the Father in His light is as impossible as to take the wings of the morning and to fly with them to the sun?

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 176


We ought to have faith in God the Saviour, Jesus Christ, because that is faith in the visible God in Whom is the Invisible; and faith in the visible God, Who is at once Man and God, enters into man. For while faith is spiritual in essence it is natural in form, for everything spiritual, in order to be anything with a man, is received by him in what is natural.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 339

Man’s conjunction with the Lord is not with His supreme Divine Being itself, but with His Divine Humanity, and by this with the supreme Divine Being; for man can have no idea whatever of the supreme Divine Being of the Lord, utterly transcending his thought as it does; but of His Divine Human Being he can have an idea. Hence the Gospel according to John says that no one has at any time seen God except the only-begotten Son, and that there is no approach to the Father save by Him. For the same reason He is called a Mediator.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 4211


In the Lord, God and Man are not two but one Person, yea, altogether one, as soul and body are. This is plain in many of the Lord’s own utterances; as that the Father and He are one; that all things of the Father are His, and all His the Father’s; that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; that all things are given into His hand; that He has all power; that whosoever believes in Him has eternal life; that He is God of heaven and earth.

–_Doctrine Concerning the Lord, n._ 60

There is one God, and the Lord is He, His Divinity and Humanity being one Person.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 122

They who think of the Lord’s Humanity, and not at the same time of His Divinity, by no means allow the expression “Divine Humanity”; for they think of the Humanity by itself and of the Divinity by itself, which is like thinking of man apart from his soul or life, which, however, is no conception of man, still less of the Lord.

–_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 26


The Lord from eternity, Who is Jehovah, came into the world to subdue the hells and to glorify His Humanity. Without Him no mortal could have been saved; and they are saved who believe in Him.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 2

The Lord came into the world to save the human race which would otherwise have perished in eternal death. This salvation the Lord effected by subjugating the hells, which infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, and by glorifying His Humanity; for so He can hold the hells subdued to eternity. The subjugation of the hells, and the glorification at the same time of His Humanity, were effected by temptations let into the Humanity He had from the mother, and by unbroken victories. His passion on the cross was the last temptation and complete victory.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, n._ 293


Because, from His essence, God burned with the love of uniting Himself to man, it was necessary that He should cover Himself around with a body adapted to reception and conjunction. He therefore descended and assumed a human nature in pursuance of the order established by Him from the creation of the world. That is, He was to be conceived by a power produced from Himself; He was to be carried in the womb; He was to be born, and then to grow in wisdom and in love, and so was to approach to union with His Divine origin. Thus God became Man, and Man God.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 838


The Lord had at first a human nature from the mother, of which He gradually divested Himself while He was in the world. Accordingly He kept experiencing two states: a state of humiliation or privation, as long and as far as He was conscious in the human nature from the mother; and a state of glorification or union with the Divine, as long and as far as He was conscious in the Humanity received from the Father. In the state of humiliation He prayed to the Father as to One other than Himself; but in the state of glorification He spoke with the Father as with Himself. In this state He said that the Father was in Him, and He in the Father, and that the Father and He were one.

The Lord consecutively put off the human nature assumed from the mother, and put on a Humanity from the Divine in Himself, which is the Divine Humanity and the Son of God.

–_Doctrine Concerning the Lord, nn._ 29, 35


When the Lord was in the world, His life was altogether the life of a love for the whole human race, which He burned to save forever. That life was of the intensest love by which He united Himself to the Divine and the Divine to Himself. For being itself, or Jehovah, is pure mercy from love for the whole human race; and that life was one of sheer love, as it can never be with any man.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2253


Do you, my friend, flee evil, and do good, and believe in the Lord with your whole heart and with your whole soul, and the Lord will love you, and give you love for doing, and faith for believing. Then will you do good from love, and from a faith which is confidence will you believe. If you persevere in this, a reciprocal conjunction will take place, and one that is perpetual, indeed is salvation itself, and everlasting life.

–_True, Christian Religion, n._ 484


They who are truly men of the Church, that is, who are in love to the Lord and in charity toward the neighbor, know and acknowledge a Trine. Still, they humble themselves before the Lord, and adore Him alone, inasmuch as they know that there is no approach to the Divine Itself, called the Father, but by the Son; and that all that is holy, and of the Holy Spirit, proceeds from Him. When they are in this idea, they adore no other than Him, by Whom and from Whom are all things; consequently they adore One.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2329

God is one in essence and in person. This God is the Lord. The Divinity itself, which is called Jehovah “the Father,” is the Lord from eternity. The Divine Humanity is “the Son” begotten from His Divine from eternity, and born in the world. The proceeding Divinity is “the Holy Spirit.”

–_Divine Providence, n._ 157


“Lord, what is man that Thou art mindful of him; And the son of man that Thou visitest him?”

_Psalm_, VIII, 4


The object of creation was an angelic heaven from the human race; in other words, mankind, in whom God might be able to dwell as in His residence. For this reason man was created a form of Divine order. God is in him, and as far as he lives according to Divine order, fully so; but if he does not live according to Divine order, still God is in him, but in his highest parts, endowing him with the ability to understand truth and to will what is good. But as far as man lives contrary to order, so far he shuts up the lower parts of his mind or spirit, and prevents God from descending and filling them with His presence. Then God is in him, but he is not in God.

–_True Christian Religion, nn._ 66, 70


Man is an instrument of life, and God alone is life. God pours His life into His instrument and every part of him, as the sun pours its heat into a tree and every part of it. God also gives man to feel this life in himself as his own. God wills that he should do so, that man may live as of himself according to the laws of order, which are as many as there are precepts in the Word, and may dispose himself to receive the love of God. But still God perpetually holds with His finger the perpendicular above the scales, and regulates, but never violates by compulsion, man’s free decision. Man’s free will is from this: that he feels life in himself as his, and God leaves him so to feel, that reciprocal conjunction may take place between Him and man.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 504


Man is so created that he can be more and more closely united to the Lord. He is so united not by knowledge alone, nor by intelligence alone, nor even by wisdom alone, but by a life in accordance with these. The more closely he is united to the Lord, the wiser and happier he becomes, the more distinctly he seems to himself to be his own, and the more clearly he perceives that he is the Lord’s.

–_Divine Providence, nn._ 32 _et al._


Man is so created as to live simultaneously in the natural world and in the spiritual world. Thus he has an internal and an external nature or mind; by the former living in the spiritual world, by the latter in the natural world.

–_Heavenly Doctrine_, n. 36


There are in man from the Lord two capacities by which the human being is distinguished from the beasts. One capacity is the ability to understand what is true and what is good. It is called rationality, and is a capacity of his understanding. The other capacity is the ability to do the true and the good. It is called freedom, and is a power of the will. By virtue of his rationality, man can think what he pleases, as well against God as with Him, and with his neighbor or against his neighbor. He can also will and do what he thinks; and when he sees evil and fears punishment, by virtue of freedom he can refrain from doing. By these two capacities man is man and is distinguished from the beasts. Man has these twin powers from the Lord, and they are from Him every moment; nor are they ever taken away, for if they were, man’s humanity would perish. The Lord is in these two powers with every man, with the evil as well as the good. They are His abiding-place in the race. Thence it is that every human being, evil as well as good, lives to eternity.

–_Divine Love and Wisdom, n._ 240


Man inclines to the nature he derives hereditarily, and lapses into it. Thus he strengthens any evil in it, and also adds others of himself. These evils are quite opposed to the spiritual life. They destroy it. Unless, therefore, a man receives new life from the Lord, which is spiritual life, he is condemned; for he wills nothing else and thinks nothing else than concerns him and the world.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, n._ 176


The reason why the love of self and the love of the world are infernal loves, and yet man has been able to come into them, and thus to ruin will and understanding in him, is as follows: By creation the love of self and the love of the world are heavenly loves; for they are loves of the natural man serving his spiritual loves, as a foundation does a house. From the love of self and the world, a man wishes well by his body, desires food, clothing and habitation, takes thought for his household, seeks occupation to be useful, wishes also for obedience’s sake to be honored according to the dignity of the thing he does, and to be delighted and recreated by the pleasures of the world;–yet all this for the sake of the end, which must be use. By this a man is in position to serve the Lord and to serve the neighbor. But when there is no love of serving the Lord and the neighbor, but only a love of serving oneself at the world’s hands, then from being heavenly that love becomes infernal, for it causes a man to sink mind and character in his _proprium_, or what is his own, which in itself is the whole of evil.

–_Divine Love and Wisdom, n._ 396


No one can cleanse himself of evils by his own power and abilities; but neither can this be done without the power and abilities of the man, used as his own. If this strength were not to all appearance his own, no one would be able to fight against the flesh and its lusts, which, nevertheless, is enjoined upon all men. He would not think of combat. Because man is a rational being, he must resist evils from the power and the abilities given him by the Lord, which appear to him as his own; an appearance that is granted for the sake of regeneration, imputation, conjunction, and salvation.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 438


“Blessed be the Lord my strength, Who teacheth my hands to war, And my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; My high tower and my deliverer; My shield, and He in whom I trust; Who subdueth my people under me.”

–_Psalm,_ CXLIV, 1, 2


Because man is reformed by conflicts with the evils of his flesh and by victories over them, the Son of Man says to each of the seven Churches, that He will give gifts “to him that overcometh.”

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 610

Without moral struggle no one is regenerated, and many spiritual wrestlings succeed one after another. For, inasmuch as regeneration has for its end that the life of the old man may die and the new and heavenly life be implanted, there will unfailingly be combat. The life of the old man resists and is unwilling to be extinguished, and the life of the new man cannot enter, except where the life of the old has been extinguished. From this it is plain that there is combat, and ardent combat, because for life.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 8403


He who would be saved, must confess his sins, and do repentance. To confess sins is to know evils, to see them in oneself, to acknowledge them, to make oneself guilty and condemn oneself on account of them. Done before God, this is to confess sins. To do repentance is to desist from sins after one has thus confessed them and from a humble heart has besought forgiveness, and then to live a new life according to the precepts of charity and faith.

He who merely acknowledges generally that he is a sinner, making himself guilty of all evils, without examining himself,–that is, without seeing his sins,–makes a confession but not the confession of repentance. Inasmuch as he does not know his evils, he lives as before.

One who lives the life of charity and faith does repentance daily. He reflects upon the evils in him, acknowledges them, guards against them, and beseeches the Lord for help. For of oneself one continually lapses toward evil; but he is continually raised up by the Lord and led to good.

Repentance of the mouth and not of the life is not repentance. Nor are sins pardoned on repentance of the mouth, but on repentance of the life. Sins are constantly pardoned man by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but still they adhere to man, however he supposes they have been remitted. Nor are they removed from him save by a life according to the precepts of true faith. So far as he lives according to these precepts, sins are removed; and so far as they are removed, so far they are remitted.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, nn._ 159-165


When a man shuns evils as sins, he flees them because they are contrary to the Lord and to His Divine laws; and then he prays to the Lord for help and for power to resist them–a power which is never denied when it is asked. By these two means a man is cleansed of evils. He cannot be cleansed of evils if he only looks to the Lord and prays; for then, after he has prayed, he believes that he is quite without sins, or that they have been forgiven, by which he understands that they are taken away. But then he still remains in them; and to remain in them is to increase them. Nor are evils removed only by shunning them; for then the man looks to himself, and thereby strengthens the origin of evil, which was that he turned himself back from the Lord and turned to himself.

–_The Doctrine Concerning Charity, n._ 146


In temptations the hells fight against man, and the Lord for him. To every falsity which the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine. The falsities inflow into the outward man, the answer into the inward man, coming to perception scarcely otherwise than as hope, and the resulting consolation, in which, however, there is a multitude of things of which the man is unaware.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 8159

In temptations a man is left, to all appearance, to himself alone; yet he has not been left alone, for God is then most present in his inmost being, and upholds him. When anyone overcomes in temptation, therefore, he enters into closer union with God.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 126


When man is being regenerated, he is not regenerated speedily but slowly. The reason is that all things which he has thought, purposed and done since infancy, have added themselves to his life and have come to constitute it. They have also formed such a connection among themselves that no one thing can be removed unless all are at the same time. Regeneration, or the implantation of the life of heaven in man, begins in his infancy, and continues to the last of his life in the world, and is perfected to eternity.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 9334


When a man is regenerated, he becomes altogether another, and a new, man. While his appearance and his speech are the same, yet his mind is not; for his mind is then open toward heaven, and there dwell in it love for the Lord, and charity toward the neighbor, together with faith. It is the mind which makes another and a new man. The change of state cannot be perceived in man’s body, but in his spirit. When it [the body] is put off then his spirit appears, and in altogether another form, too, when he has been regenerated; for it has then a form of love and charity with inexpressible beauty, in the place of the earlier form, which was one of hatred and cruelty with a deformity also inexpressible.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 3212


“It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

–_Matthew_, XVIII, 14

Never could a man live,–certainly not as a human being,–unless he had in himself something vital, that is, some innocence, neighborly love, and mercy. This a man receives from the Lord in infancy and childhood. What he receives then is treasured up in him, and is called in the Word the remnant or _remains_, which are of the Lord alone with him, and they make it possible for him truly to be a man on reaching adult age. These states are the elements of his regeneration, and he is led into them; for the Lord works by means of them. These remains are also called “the living soul” in all flesh.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 1050

All states of innocence from infancy on, of love toward parents, brothers, teachers and friends; of charity to the neighbor, and also of mercy to the poor and needy; all states of goodness and truth, with their goods and truths, impressed on; the memory, are preserved in man by the Lord, and are stored up unconsciously to himself in his internal man, and are carefully kept from evils and falsities. They are all so preserved by the Lord that not the smallest of them is lost. Every state from infancy even to extreme old age not only remains in another life, but also returns. Returning, these states are such as they were during a man’s abode in the world. Not only the goods and truths, stored up in the memory, remain and return, but likewise all the states of innocence and charity; and when states of evil and the false, or of wickedness and phantasy recur, these latter states are attempered by the former through the Divine operation of the Lord.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 561


“O Thou who hearest prayer; Unto Thee shall all flesh come.”

–_Psalm_, LXV, 2

Prayer, in itself considered, is speech with God. There is then some inward view of the objects of the prayer, and answering to that something like an influx into the perception or thought. Thus there is a kind of opening of the man’s interiors toward God, with a difference according to the man’s state and according to the nature of the object of the prayer. If one prays out of love and faith and only about and for things heavenly and spiritual, then there appears in the prayer something like revelation, which shows itself in the affection of the suppliant, in hope, solace, or an inner gladness.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2535


“I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy; In Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy temple.”

–_Psalm_, V, 7

One should not omit the practice of external worship. Things inward are excited by external worship; and outward things are kept in holiness by external worship, so that things inward can flow in. Moreover, a man is imbued in this way with knowledge, and prepared to receive celestial things, so as to be endowed with states of holiness, though he is unaware of it. These states of holiness the Lord preserves to him for the use of eternal life; for in the other life all one’s states of life recur.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 1618


Baptism and the Holy Supper are the holiest acts of worship. Baptism and the Holy Supper are as it were two gates, through which a man is introduced into eternal life. After the first gate there is a plain, which he must traverse; and the second is the goal where the prize is, to which he directed his course; for the palm is not given until after the contest, nor the reward until after the combat.

–_True Christian Religion, nn._ 667, 721


Baptism was instituted for a sign that a man is of the Church and for a memorial that he is to be regenerated. For the washing of baptism is no other than spiritual washing, which is regeneration. All regeneration is effected by the Lord through truths of faith and a life according to them. Baptism, therefore, testifies that a man is of the Church and that he can be regenerated; for it is in the Church that the Lord is acknowledged, Who regenerates man, and there the Word is, where are truths of faith, by which is regeneration.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, nn._ 202, 203

The sign of the cross which a child receives on the forehead and breast at baptism is a sign of inauguration into the acknowledgment and worship of the Lord.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 682


The Holy Supper was instituted that by means of it there might be conjunction of the Church with heaven, and thus with the Lord. When one takes the bread, which is the Body, one is conjoined with the Lord by the good of love to Him, from Him; and when one takes the wine, which is the Blood, one is conjoined to the Lord by the good of faith in Him, from Him.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, nn._ 210, 213

In the Holy Supper the Lord is fully present, both as to His glorified Humanity, and as to the Divine. And because He is fully present, therefore the whole of His redemption is; for where the Lord the Redeemer is, there redemption is. Therefore all who observe the Holy Communion worthily, become His redeemed, and receives the fruits of redemption, namely, liberation from hell, union with the Lord, and salvation.

–_True Christian Religion, nn._ 716, 717


“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.”

–_Matthew_, XI, 29

There are those who believe that it is difficult to live the life which leads to heaven, which is called the spiritual life, because they have heard that one must renounce the world, must divest himself of the lusts called the lusts of the body and the flesh, and must live spiritually. They take this to mean that they must cast away worldly things, which are especially riches and honors; that they must go continually in pious meditation on God, salvation, and eternal life; and must spend their life in prayers and in reading the Word and pious books. But those who renounce the world and live in the spirit in this manner acquire a melancholy life, unreceptive of heavenly joy. To receive the life of heaven a man must by all means live in the world and engage in its duties and affairs and by a moral and civil life receive the spiritual life.

That it is not so difficult to live the life of heaven, as some believe, may be seen from this: when a matter presents itself to a man which he knows to be dishonest and unjust, but to which he inclines, it is only necessary for him to think that it ought not to be done because it is opposed to the Divine precepts. If a man accustoms himself to think so, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually conjoined to heaven. So far as he is conjoined to heaven the higher regions of his mind are opened; and so far as these are opened he sees whatever is dishonest and unjust; and so far as he sees these evils they can be dispersed–for no evil can be dispersed until it is seen.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 528, 533


“Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.”

–_Jeremiah_, L, 5

The conjunction of God with man, and of man with God, is taught in the two Tables which were written with the finger of God, called the Tables of the Covenant. These Tables obtain with all nations who have a religion. From the first Table they know that God is to be acknowledged, hallowed and worshipped. From the second Table they know that a man is not to steal, either openly or by trickery, nor to commit adultery, nor to kill, whether by blow or by hatred, nor to bear false witness in a court of justice, or before the world, and further that he ought not to will those evils. From this Table a man knows the evils which he must shun, and in the measure that he knows them and shuns them, God conjoins him to Himself, and in turn from His Table gives man to acknowledge, hallow and worship Him. So, also, He gives him not to meditate evils, and, in so far as he does not will them, to know truths freely.

–_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 1179

As one views the two tables, it is plain that they are so conjoined that God from His table looks to man, and that in turn man from his table looks to God. Thus the regard is reciprocal. God for His part never ceases to regard man, and to put in operation such things as are for his salvation; and if man receives and does the things in his table, reciprocal conjunction is effected, and the Lord’s words to the lawyer will have come to pass, “This do, and thou shalt live.”

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 287


“Jesus said: ‘Have ye not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.'”

–_Matthew_, XIX, 4, 5


The conjugial inclination of one man to one wife is the jewel of human life and the depository of the Christian religion.

–_Conjugial Love, n._ 457


The love in marriage is from its origin and correspondence heavenly, spiritual, holy, pure and clean above every other love which the angels of heaven or men of the Church have from the Lord. It is such from its origin, which is the marriage of good and truth; also from its correspondence with the marriage of the Lord and the Church. If it be received from its Author, Who is the Lord, sanctity from Him follows, which continually cleanses and purifies it. Then, if there be in man’s will a longing for it and an effort toward it, this love becomes continually cleaner and purer. All who are in such love shun extra-conjugial loves (which are conjunctions with others than their own conjugial partner) as they would shun the loss of the soul and the lakes of hell; and in the measure that married partners shun such conjunctions, even in respect of libidinous desires of the will and any intentions from them, so far love truly conjugial is purified with them, and becomes successively spiritual.

–_Conjugial Love, nn._ 64, 71


Conjugial love is the love at the foundation of all good loves, and is inscribed on all the least life of the human being. Its delights therefore surpass the delights of all other loves, and it also gives delight to other loves, in the measure of its presence and union with them. Into it all delights from first to last are collected, on account of the superior excellence of its use, which is the propagation of the human race, and from it of an angelic heaven. As this service was the supreme end of creation, all the beatitudes, satisfaction, delights, pleasantnesses and pleasures, which the Lord the Creator could possibly confer upon man, are gathered into this love.

–_Conjugial Love, n._ 68


The states of conjugial love are Innocence, Peace, Tranquillity, Inmost Friendship, full Confidence, and mutual desire of mind and heart to do each other every good. From all of these come blessedness, satisfaction, agreeableness and pleasure; and as the eternal fruition of them, heavenly happiness. These states can be realized only in the marriage of one man with one wife.

–_Conjugial Love, nn._ 180, 181


“They testify of Me.”

–_John_, V, 39


In its inmosts the Sacred Scripture is no other than God, that is, the Divine which proceeds from God…. In its derivatives it is accommodated to the perception of angels and men. In these it is Divine likewise, but in another form, in which this Divine is called “Celestial,” “Spiritual,” and “Natural.” These are no other than coverings of God. Still the Divine, which is inmost, and is covered with such things as are accommodated to the perceptions of angels and men, shines forth like light through crystalline forms, but variously, according to the state of mind which a man has formed for himself, either from God or from self. In the sight of the man who has formed the state of his mind from God, the Sacred Scripture is like a mirror in which he sees God, each in his own way. The truths which he learns from the Word and which become a part of him by a life according to them, compose that mirror. The Sacred Scripture is the fulness of God.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 6


The Word in its bosom is spiritual. Descending from Jehovah the Lord, and passing through the angelic heavens, the Divine (in itself ineffable and imperceptible) became level with the perception of angels and finally the perception of man. Hence the Word has a spiritual sense, which is within the natural, just as the soul is in the body, or as thought is in speech, or volition in action.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 193


The truths of the sense of the letter of the Word are in part appearances of truth, and are taken from things in nature, and thus accommodated and adapted to the grasp of the simple and also of little children. But being correspondences, they are receptacles and abodes of genuine truth; and are like enclosing and containing vessels. The naked truths themselves, which are enclosed and contained, are in the Word’s spiritual sense; and the naked goods in its celestial sense.

The doctrine of genuine truth can also be drawn in full from the literal sense of the Word; for the Word in this sense is like a man clothed, whose face and hands are bare. All that concerns man’s life, and so his salvation, is bare; the rest is clothed.

–_Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture, nn._ 40, 55


The whole natural world corresponds to the spiritual world; not only generally, but in detail. Whatever comes forth in the natural world from the spiritual, is therefore called correspondent. The world of nature comes forth and subsists from the spiritual world, just as an effect does from its efficient cause.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 89

What is Divine presents itself in the world in what corresponds. The Word is therefore written wholly in correspondence. Therefore the Lord, too, speaking as He did from the Divine, spoke in correspondence.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 201

“And behold a ladder set on the earth, and its head reaching to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold Jehovah standing above it.” The ladder set between earth and heaven, or between the lowest and the highest, signifies communication. In the original tongue the term ladder is derived from an expression which signifies a path or way, and a path or way is predicated of truth. By a ladder, therefore, one extremity of which is set on the earth, while the other reaches to heaven, is signified the communication of truth which is in the lowest place with truth which is in the highest, indeed with inmost good and truth, such as are in heaven, and from which heaven itself is an ascent as it were from what is lowest, and afterward when the order is inverted, a descent, and is the order of man’s regeneration. The arcanum which lies concealed in the internal sense of these words is, that all goods and truths descend from the Lord, and ascend to Him, for man is so created that the Divine things of the Lord may descend through him even to the ultimates of nature, and from the ultimates of nature may ascend to Him; so that man might be a medium uniting the Divine with the world of nature, and uniting the world of nature with the Divine, that thus, through man, as through the uniting medium, the very ultimate of nature might live from the Divine, which would be the case had man lived according to Divine order.

–_Arcana Coelestia, nn._ 3699-3702


Divine truth, in passing from the Lord through the three heavens to men in the world, is written and made the Word in each heaven. The Word, therefore, is the union of the heavens with one another, and of the heavens with the Church in the world. Hence there flows in from the Lord through the heavens a holy Divine with the man who acknowledges the Divine in the Lord and the holy in the Word, while he reads it. Such a man can be instructed and can draw wisdom from the Word as from the Lord Himself or from heaven itself, in the measure that he loves it, and thus can be nourished with the same food with which the angels themselves are fed, and in which there is life, according to these words of the Lord:

“The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

“The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

–_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 1074


They who, in reading the Word, look to the Lord, by acknowledging that all truth and all good are from Him, and nothing from themselves,–they are enlightened, and see truth and perceive what is good from the Word. That enlightenment is from the light of heaven.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 9405


There cannot be any conjunction with heaven unless somewhere upon the earth there is a Church where the Word is and by it the Lord is known. It is sufficient that there be a Church where the Word is, even though it should consist of few relatively. The Lord is present by it, nevertheless, in the whole world. The light is greatest where those are who have the Word. Thence it extends itself as from a centre out to the last periphery. Thence comes the enlightenment of nations and peoples outside the Church, too, by the Word.

–_Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture, nn._ 104, 106


The books of the Word are all those which have an internal sense. In the Old Testament they are the five books of Moses, the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zecharaiah, Malachi; and in the New Testament the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; and the Apocalypse.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 10,325


“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

–_Micah,_ VI, 8


Not to do evil to the neighbor is the first thing of charity, and to do good to him fills the second place…. That a man cannot do good which in itself is good before evil has been removed, the Lord teaches in many places: “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”–_Matt._ XVI, 18.

So in Isaiah: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well” (I, 16,17).

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 445


Before repentance good is not done from the Lord, but from the man. It has not, therefore, the essence of good within it, however it appears like good outwardly. Good after repentance is another thing altogether. It is a whole good, unobstructed from the Lord Himself. It is lovely; it is innocent; it is agreeable, and heavenly. The Lord is in it, and heaven. Good itself is in it. It is alive, fashioned of truths. Whatever is thus from good, in good, and toward good, is nothing less than a use to the neighbor, and hence it is a serving. It puts away self and what is one’s own, and thus evil, with every breath. Its form is like the form of a charming and beautifully colored flower, shining in the rays of the sun.

–_The Doctrine of Charity, n._ 150


Every man who looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, if he sincerely, justly and faithfully performs the work which belongs to his office and employment, becomes an embodiment of charity.

–_The Doctrine of Charity_, VII

In common belief charity is nothing else than giving to the poor, succoring the needy, caring for widows and orphans, contributing to the building of hospitals, infirmaries, asylums, orphanages, and especially churches, and to their decoration and income. But most of these things are not the proper activities of charity, but extraneous to it. A distinction is to be made between the duties of charity, and its benefactions. By the duties of charity those exercises of it are meant, which proceed directly from charity itself. These have to do primarily with one’s occupation. By the benefactions those aids are meant which are given outside of, and over and above the duties.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 425


Charity is an inward affection, moving man to do what is good, and this without recompense. So to act is his life’s delight.

The life of charity is to will well and to do well by the neighbor; in all work, and in every employment, acting out of regard to what is just and equitable, good and true. In a word, the life of charity consists in the performance of uses.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, nn._ 106, 124


Neither charity alone nor faith alone can produce good works, any more than a husband alone or a wife alone can have offspring. The truths of faith not only illuminate charity, but qualify it, too; and, moreover, they nourish it. A man, then, who has charity and not truths of faith, is like one walking in a garden in the night-time, snatching fruit from the trees without knowing whether it is of a good or evil use.

–_True Christian Religion, n. 377_


One’s country is the neighbor more than a society, for it consists of many societies, and consequently the love of it is a more extended and a higher love. Besides, to love one’s country is to love the public welfare. A man’s country is the neighbor because it is like a parent; for there he was born; it has nourished and still nourishes him; it has protected him from harm, and still protects him. From love for it he ought to do good to his country according to its needs, some of which are natural, and others spiritual. The country ought to be loved, not as a man loves himself, but more than himself. This is a law inscribed on the human heart. And from the law has issued the proposition, which has the assent of every true man, that if ruin threatens the country from an enemy or other source, it is illustrious to die for it, and glorious for a soldier to shed his blood for it. This is a common saying, because so much should one’s country be loved. Those who love their country, and from good will do good to it, after death love the Lord’s kingdom, for this is their country there; and they who love the Lord’s kingdom, love the Lord, for He is the All in all of His Kingdom.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 414


There are those who are in doubt before they deny, and there are those who are in doubt before they affirm. Those in doubt before they deny, are men who incline to a life of evil. When that life sways them, they deny things spiritual and celestial to the extent that they think of them. But those in doubt before they affirm, are men who incline to a life of good. When they suffer themselves to be turned to this life by the Lord, they then affirm things spiritual and celestial to the extent that they think of them.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2568


It is one thing to know truths, another to acknowledge them, and yet another to have faith in them. Only the faithful can have faith.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 896

The only faith that endures with man springs from heavenly love. Those without love have knowledge merely, or persuasion. Just to believe in truth and in the Word is not faith. Faith is to love truth, and to will and do it from inward affection for it.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 482

If a man thinks to himself or says to another, “Who can have that inward acknowledgment of truth which is faith? I cannot,” I will tell him how he may: “Shun evils as sins, and go to the Lord, and you will have as much as you desire.”

–_Doctrine Concerning Faith, n._ 12


Not only is the individual man the neighbor, but the collective man, too. A society, smaller or larger, is the neighbor; the Church is; the Kingdom of the Lord is; and above all the Lord Himself. These are the neighbor, to whom good is to be done from love. These are also the ascending degrees of the neighbor; for a society consisting of many is the neighbor in a higher degree than is the individual; one’s country in a still higher degree; the Church in a still higher degree than one’s country; in a degree higher still the Kingdom of the Lord; and in the highest degree the Lord Himself. These degrees of ascent are like the steps in a ladder, at the top of which is the Lord.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, n._ 91


There is an affection in every employment, which puts the mind upon the stretch and keeps it intent upon its work or study. If it is not relaxed, this becomes heavy, and its desire meaningless; as salt, when it loses its saltness, no longer stimulates, and as the bow on the stretch, unless it is unbent, loses the force it gets from its elasticity. Continuously intent upon its work, the mind wants rest; and dropping to the physical life, it seeks pleasures there that answer to its activities. As is the mind in them, such are the pleasures, pure or impure, spiritual or natural, heavenly or infernal. If it is the affection of charity which is in them, all diversions will recreate it–shows, games, instrumental and vocal music, the beauties of field and garden, social intercourse generally. There remains deep in them, being gradually renewed as it rests, the love of work and service. The longing to resume this work breaks in upon the diversions and puts an end to them. For the Lord flows into the diversions from heaven, and renews the man; and He gives the man an interior sense of pleasure in them, too, of which those know nothing who are not in the affection of charity.

–_Doctrine of Charity, nn._ 127, 128, 130


“He leadeth me.”

–_Psalm_, XXIII, 2


The Divine Providence has for an end a heaven which shall consist of men who have become angels or who are becoming angels, to whom the Lord can impart from Himself all the blessedness and felicity of love and wisdom.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 27


In all that proceeds from the Lord the Divine Providence is first. Indeed, we may say that the Lord is Providence, as we say that God is Order; for the Divine Providence is Divine Order with regard above all to the salvation of man. As order is impossible without laws, it follows that as God is order so is He the Law of His order. And as the Lord is His Providence, He is also the Law of His Providence. The Lord cannot act contrary to the laws of His Providence, for to act contrary to them would be to act contrary to Himself.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 331


The Lord provides that there shall be religion everywhere, and in each religion the two essentials of salvation, which are, to acknowledge God, and not to do evil because it is contrary to God. It is provided furthermore that all who have lived well and acknowledge God should be instructed by angels after death. Then, they who, in the world, were in the two essentials of religion, accept the truths of the Church, such as they are in the Word, and acknowledge the Lord as the God of heaven and the Church. It has also been provided by the Lord that all who die infants shall be saved, wherever they may have been born.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 328


The Divine Providence differs from all other leading and guidance in this, that it continually regards what is eternal, and continually leads to salvation, and this through various states, now glad, now sad,–states which a man cannot understand at all, and yet they all conduce to his life to eternity.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 8560


The Divine Providence is universal, that is, in the leasts of all things. They who are in the stream of Providence are borne along continually to happiness, whatsoever the appearance of the means may be. They are in the stream of Providence, who put their trust in the Divine, and ascribe all things to Him. They are not in the stream of Providence who trust themselves alone and ascribe all things to themselves. As far as one is in the stream of Providence, so far one is in a state of peace. Such alone know and believe that the Divine Providence of the Lord is in each and all things, yea, in the leasts of all things.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 8478


It is not contrary to order to look out for one’s self and one’s dependents. Those have “care for the morrow” who are not content with their lot, who do not trust in the Divine but themselves, and who regard only worldly and earthly things and not heavenly. With such there prevails universally a solicitude about things future, a desire to possess everything, and to rule over all. They grieve if they do not get what they desire, and suffer torment when they lose what they have. Then they grow angry with the Divine, rejecting it together with everything of faith, and cursing themselves. Altogether different is it with those who trust in the Divine. Though they have care for the morrow, yet they have it not; for they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety. Whether they get what they wish or not, they are composed, not lamenting over losses, but being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts upon riches. If they are exalted to honors, they do not look upon themselves as worthier than others. If they become poor, they are not cast down. If their condition be mean, they are not dejected. They know that with those who put their trust in the Divine, all things work toward a happy state to eternity.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 8478


The chief aim and effort of the Lord’s Divine Providence is that a man shall be in what is good and in what is true at the same time; for thereby man is man, since he is then an image of the Lord. But because, in his life in the world, he can be in what is good and in what is false at the same time, and also in what is evil and what is true at the same time, nay, even in evil and at the same time in good, and thus be a double man, as it were, and because this division destroys God’s image and so destroys the man, therefore the Lord’s Divine Providence in all its workings seeks to prevent this division. Furthermore, because it is better for man to be in what is evil and in the same time in what is false than to be in good and at the same time in evil, therefore the Lord permits it; not as one willing it, but as one unable to prevent it consistently with the end, which is salvation.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 16


“I laid me down and slept: I awaked: for the Lord sustained me.”

–_Psalm,_ III, 5

“Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: for He is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for to Him all are living.”

–_Luke_, XX, 37, 38


Man has been so created that as to his inward being he cannot die; for he can believe in God, and also love God, and thus be united to God in faith and love; and to be united to God is to live to eternity.

–_Heavenly Doctrine, n._ 223


When the body is no longer able to perform its functions in the natural world, a man is said to die. Still the man does not die; he is only separated from the bodily part which was of use to him in the world. The man himself lives. He lives, because he is man by virtue, not of the body, but of the spirit; for it is the spirit in man which thinks; and thought together with affection makes the man. It is plain, then, that when a man dies, he only passes from one world into the other…. The spirit of man after separation remains awhile in the body, but not after the motion of the heart has entirely ceased. This takes place with a variation according to the diseased condition of which the man dies. As soon as the motion ceases, the man is resuscitated. This is done by the Lord alone.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 445, 447


When a man passes from the natural world into the spiritual, he takes with him everything that belongs to him as a man except his earthly body. (This he leaves when he dies, nor does he ever resume it.[A]) He is in a body as he was in the natural world; and to all appearance there is no difference. But his body is spiritual, and is therefore separated or purified from things terrestrial. And when what is spiritual touches and sees what is spiritual, it is just the same as when what is natural touches and sees what is natural…. A human spirit also enjoys every sense, external and internal, which he enjoyed in the world. He sees as before, hears and speaks as before, smells and tastes as before, and feels when he is touched. He also longs, desires, craves, thinks, reflects, is stirred, loves, wills, as he did previously…. In a word, when a man passes from the one life into the other, or from the one world into the other, it is as though he had passed from one place to another; and he carries with him all that he possesses in himself as a man. It cannot, then, be said, that after death a man has lost anything that really belonged to him. He carries his natural memory with him, too; for he retains all things whatsoever which he has heard, seen, read, learned and thought in the world, from earliest infancy even to the last of life.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 461

[Footnote A: Heavenly Doctrine, n. 225.]


Every man at death comes first into the world of spirits, which is midway between heaven and hell; and there he passes through his own states, and is prepared either for heaven or for hell according to his life…. It is to be observed that the world of spirits is one thing, and the spiritual world another. The spiritual world embraces the world of spirits and heaven and hell.

–_Divine Love and Wisdom, n._ 140


After death every one goes the way of his love–he who is in a good love, to heaven, and he who is in a wicked love, to hell. Nor does he rest until he is in that society where his ruling love is. What is wonderful, every one knows the way.

Every one’s state after death is spiritual, which is such that he cannot be anywhere but in the delight of his own love, which he has acquired for himself by his life in the natural world. From this it appears plainly that no one can be let into the delight of heaven who is in the delight of hell…. This may be still more certainly concluded from the fact that no one is forbidden after death to ascend to heaven. The way is shown him, opportunity is given him, and he is let in. But when one who is in the delight of evil comes into heaven, and breathes in its delight, he begins to be oppressed, and racked at heart, and to feel in a swoon, in which he writhes like a snake put near a fire; and with his face turned away from heaven and toward hell, he flees headlong, nor does he rest until he is in the society of his own love.

–_Divine Providence, nn._ 319, 338

It is an abiding truth that every man rises again after death into another life, and presents himself for judgment. This judgment, however, is circumstanced as follows: As soon as his bodily parts grow cold, which takes place after a few days, he is raised by the Lord at the hands of celestial angels who first are with him. If he is such that he cannot be with them, he is received by spiritual angels, and in turn afterwards by good spirits. For all who come into the other life, whoever they may be, are grateful and welcome new-comers. But as every one’s desires follow him, he who has led a bad life cannot remain long with angels or good spirits, but in turn separates himself from them, until at length he comes to spirits of a life conforming with the life he had in the world. Then it seems to him as if he were back in the life of the body; his present life being, in fact, a continuation of his past life. With this life his judgment commences. They who have led a bad life in process of time descend into hell; they who have led a good life, are by degrees raised by the Lord into heaven.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2119


“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.”

–Rev., XXII, 11


There are three states through which a man passes after death, before he enters either heaven or hell. The first state is that of his outward nature and life; the second, that of his inward nature and life; and the third, one of preparation. A man passes through these states in the world of spirits.

The first state of a man after death is like his state in the world, because he is then similarly in things outward. His appearance is similar, and so are his speech, his mental habit, and his moral and civil life. As a result he does not know but that he is still in the world, unless he pays attention to things that meet his eye, and to what the angels told him at his resuscitation, that now he is a spirit. Thus one life is carried on into the other, and death is only the transition.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 491, 493


After the first state is past, which is the state of the outward nature and life, a spirit is admitted into the state of his inward will and thought, in which, on being left to himself to think freely and unchecked, he had been in the world. He slips unawares into this state, just as he did in the world. When he is in this state, he is in himself, and in his very life; for to think freely from the affection properly one’s own, is the very life of man, and is the man.

When a spirit is in the state of his inward nature and life, it appears plainly what manner of man he was in the world; for then he acts from his very self. A man who was inwardly in good in the world, then acts rationally and wisely–more wisely, in fact, than he did in the world; for he has been loosed from connection with the body, and so with worldly things, which caused obscurity and, as it were, interposed a cloud. But a man who was in evil in the world, then acts foolishly and insanely–more insanely, in fact, than he did in the world, for now he is in freedom and not coerced. For when he lived in the world, he was sane in his outward life, for so he assumed the appearance of a rational man. When, therefore, his outward life is laid off, his insanities reveal themselves.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 502, 505


The third state of a man after death is a state of instruction. This is a state in the experience of those who enter heaven and become angels.

Instruction in heaven differs from instruction on earth, in that knowledge is not committed to memory, but to life; for the memory of spirits is in their life, inasmuch as they receive and become imbued with everything that agrees with their life, and they do not receive, still less do they become imbued with, anything that disagrees with it; for spirits are affections, and are in a human form like their affections. Being such, they have inspired in them continually an affection for truth for the sake of the uses of life; for the Lord provides that every one may love the uses which suit his genius, a love that is exalted, too, by the hope of becoming an angel…. With every one, therefore, the affection of truth is united to the affection of use, so fully that they act as one. Thereby truth is planted in service, so much so that the truths which angelic spirits learn, are truths of use. Thus are they instructed and prepared for heaven.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 512, 517


“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life; and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

–Rev., XXII, 14

“Thou wilt show me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; At Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

–_Psalm_, XVI, 11


Heaven is in a man; and they who have heaven within themselves, come into heaven. Heaven in a man is to acknowledge the Divine, and to be led by the Divine.

Every angel receives the heaven which is around him according to the heaven which is within him. Unless heaven is within a man, none of the heaven around him flows in and is received.

Love to the Lord is the love regnant in the heavens; for there the Lord is loved above all things. Thus the Lord is All in all there. He flows into all the angels, and into each of them. He disposes them; He induces a likeness of Himself on them, and causes Heaven to be where He is. Hence an angel is heaven in the least form; a society is heaven in a greater form; and all the societies together are heaven in the greatest form.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 319, 54, 58


In general, what appears in heaven, appears the same as it does in our material world of three kingdoms. Things appear before the eyes of angels just as objects of the three kingdoms do before the eyes of men in the world. Still there is this difference: the things which appear in heaven, have a spiritual origin, and those which appear in our world a material origin. Objects of a spiritual origin affect the senses of angels because these senses are spiritual, as those of a material origin affect the senses of men, inasmuch as their senses are material. Heavenly objects are said to have a spiritual origin, because they exist from the Divine which proceeds from the Lord as a Sun; and the Divine that proceeds from the Lord as a Sun is spiritual. For there the Sun is not fire, but Divine Love, appearing before the eyes of the angels as the sun of the world does before the eyes of men; and whatever proceeds from the Divine Love is Divine and is spiritual. Of this origin are all things which exist in the heavens, and they appear in forms like those in our world. It is due to the order of creation that they appear in such forms. According to that order, things which are of love and wisdom with the angels, on descending into the lower sphere in which angels are in respect of their bodies and of their sensation, present themselves in such forms and under such types. These are correspondences.

–_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 926


All heaven’s delights are united to uses and inhere in them, because uses are the goods of love and charity, in which the angels are. The angels find all their happiness in use, from use, and according to use. There is the highest freedom in this because it proceeds from interior affection, and is conjoined with ineffable delight. Uses exist in the heavens in all variety and diversity. Never is the use of one angel quite the same as that of another; nor the delight. What is more, the delights of any one person’s use are countless. These countless and various delights are nevertheless united in an order so that they mutually regard one another, as do the uses of every member, organ and inner part of the body. They are even more like the uses of each vessel and fibre in every member, organ and vital part; each and all of which are so related that they regard each of its own good in the other, and thus in all, and all in each. As a result of this general and several regard they act as one.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 402, 403, 404, 405


Every little child, wheresoever born, whether within the Church or out of it, whether of pious parents or of impious, is received by the Lord at death; is educated in heaven; is taught and imbued with affections of good and by these with knowledges of truth; and then, as he is perfected in intelligence and wisdom, is introduced into heaven and becomes an angel.

When children die, they are still children in the other life. They have the same infantile mind, the same innocence in ignorance, and the same tenderness in all things. They have only the rudimentary capacity of becoming angels; for children are not yet angels, but are to become angels. The state of children in the other life far surpasses that of children in the world; for they are not clothed with an earthly body, but with a body like that of the angels. The earthly body is in itself heavy, and does not receive its first sensations and impulses from the interior or spiritual world, but from the exterior or natural world. In this world, therefore, infants must learn to walk, to control the body’s motions, and to talk. Even their senses, like sight and hearing, must be developed by use. It is quite otherwise with children in the other life. Being spirits, they act at once in expression of their inner being, walking without practice, and also talking, but at first from general affections not yet distinguished into ideas of thought. They are quickly initiated into these, too, however; and this for the reason that outer and inner are homogeneous with them.

The Lord flows into the ideas of children chiefly from their inmost soul, for nothing has closed their ideas, as with adults. No false principles have closed them to the understanding of truth, nor any evil life to the reception of good, nor to becoming wise.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 416, 330, 331, 836


The Lord is present with every human being, urgent and instant to be received; and when a man receives Him, as he does when he acknowledges Him as his God, Creator, Redeemer and Saviour, then is His first Coming, which is called the dawn. From this time the man begins to be enlightened, as to understanding in things spiritual, and to advance into a more and more interior wisdom. As he receives this wisdom from the Lord, so he advances through morning into day, and this day lasts with him into old age, even to death; and after death he passes into heaven to the Lord Himself, and there, though he died an old man, he is restored to the morning of his life, and to eternity he develops the beginnings of the wisdom that was implanted in the natural world.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 766

The people of heaven are continually advancing towards the spring-time of life; and the more thousands of years they live, the more delightful and happy is the spring to which they attain. Women who have died old and worn out with age, and have lived in faith in the Lord and in charity to the neighbor, come, with the succession of years, more and more into the flower of youth and early womanhood, and into a beauty exceeding every idea of beauty ever formed through the sight. In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 414


“If I make my bed in hell; behold, Thou art there.”

–_Psalm_, CXXXIX, 8


Evil with man is hell with him; for it is the same thing whether we say evil or hell. And as a man is the cause of his own evil, therefore he, and not the Lord, also leads himself into hell. So far is the Lord from leading man into hell, that He delivers him from it as far as a man does not will and love to be in his own evil.

All a man’s will and love remains with him after death. He who wills and loves evil in the world, wills and loves the same evil in the other life; and then he no longer suffers himself to be withdrawn from it. This is the reason that a man who is in evil is bound fast to hell and is actually there, too, in spirit, and after death he desires nothing more than to be where his evil is. After death, therefore, a man casts himself into hell, and not the Lord.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 547


All evil bears its punishment with it. Evil spirits are punished because the fear of punishment is the one means of subduing evils in this state. Exhortation no longer avails, nor instruction, nor fear of the law nor fear for one’s reputation; for now the spirit acts from a nature which cannot be coerced or broken except by punishment.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 509

It is a law in the other life that no one shall become worse than he had been in the world.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 6559


If men could be saved by immediate mercy, all would be saved, even those in hell; and indeed there would be no hell, because the Lord is mercy itself and good itself. Therefore it is contrary to His Divine Nature to say that He can save all immediately, and does not save them. We know from the Word that the Lord wills the salvation of all and the damnation of none.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 524


Love of self and love of the world rule in the hells and also constitute them. Love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor rule in the heavens and also constitute them. These loves are diametrically opposite. Love of self consists in wishing well to oneself alone, and not to others except for the sake of oneself, not even to the Church, to one’s country, or to any human society; also in doing good to them, but for the sake of one’s reputation, honor and glory. Unless he sees these in the services he renders them, he says in his heart, “Of what use is it? Why should I do it? Of what advantage will it be to me?”, and he leaves it undone. His delight is only that of self-love. And because the delight which springs from his love makes the life of a man, therefore his life is the life of self; and the life of self is life from man’s _proprium_; and the proprium of man, viewed in itself, is nothing but evil. Love of self is of such a quality, too, that, as far as the reins are given it, it rushes on until at length it desires to rule not only over the whole earth, but over the whole heaven, too, and over the Divine Himself.

–_Heaven and Hell, nn._ 554, 556, 559


Men have believed hitherto that there is some one devil who is over the hells, and that he was created an angel of light; but that after he turned rebel, he was cast down with his crew into hell. Men have had this belief because the Devil is named in the Word, and Satan, and also Lucifer, and in these passages the Word has been understood according to the sense of the letter, when yet hell is meant in them by the Devil and Satan…. That there is no single Devil to whom the hells are subject, is also evident from this fact, that all who are in the hells, like all who are in the heavens, are from the human race; and that from the beginning of the creation to this time they amount to myriads of myriads, every one of whom is a devil of a sort according with his opposition to the Divine in the world.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 544


“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.”

–_Psalm_, I, 1, 2


The mind of a man is his spirit which lives after death; and a man’s spirit is constantly in company with spirits like himself in the spiritual world. Man does not know that in respect to his mind he is in the midst of spirits because the spirits with whom he is in company in that world, think and speak spiritually. The spirit of man, however, while in the material body, thinks and speaks naturally; and spiritual thought and speech cannot be understood, nor perceived, by the natural human being; nor the reverse. Hence, too, it is that spirits cannot be seen. Yet when a man’s spirit is in society with spirits in their world, then he is in spiritual thought and speech with them, too, because his inner mind is spiritual, but the outer natural; wherefore by his inner nature he communicates with them, and by his outer being with men. By this communication a man perceives and thinks analytically. If there were no such communication, man would no more think than a beast, nor any differently from a beast. Indeed, were all commerce with spirits cut off, a man would instantly die.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 475


Man is quite ignorant that he is governed by the Lord through angels and spirits, and that there are at least two spirits with a man and two angels. Through the spirits a communication of the man with the world of spirits is effected; and through the angels, with heaven. As long as a man is not regenerated, he is governed quite otherwise than when he is regenerated. While unregenerated, there are evil spirits with him, who dominate him so fully that the angels, though present, can scarcely do more than guide him, so that he shall not hurl himself into the lowest evil, and bend him to some good–to some good by means of his own desires, indeed, and to some truth through even fallacies of sense. Then, through the spirits who are with him, he has communication with the world of spirits, but not so much with heaven, for the evil spirits rule with him, and the angels only avert their rule. When, however, a man is regenerated, then the angels rule and inspire in him all good and truth, and a horror and dread of evil and falsity. The angels lead the man indeed, but serve only as ministers, for it is the Lord alone, Who, by angels and spirits, governs man.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 50

It is an office of the angels to inspire charity and faith in a man, to observe the direction his enjoyments take, and to restrain and bend them to good, as far as they can in man’s free choice. They are forbidden to act violently, and so to break a man’s cupidities and principles; but are bidden to act gently. It is also an office of theirs to govern evil spirits who are from hell. When evil spirits infuse evils and what is false, the angels instill what is true and good, by which they at least temper an evil. Infernal spirits are continually assaulting, and angels constantly giving protection. Especially do the angels call forth goods and truths which are with a man, and oppose them to the evils and falsities which the evil spirits excite. Hence a man is in the midst, nor does he apperceive the evil or the good; and being in the midst, is free to turn himself to the one or to the other. By such means angels from the Lord lead and protect a man, and this every moment, and every moment of a moment. For, should the angels intermit their care a single instant, man would be plunged into evil from which he could never afterward be led forth. These offices the angels do from a love which they have from the Lord; for they know nothing pleasanter and happier than to remove evils from a man, and to lead him to heaven. That this is their joy, see _Luke_, XV, 7. Scarcely any man believes that the Lord has such a care for man, and this continually, from the first thread of his life to the last, and on to eternity.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 5992


Many believe that a man can be taught by the Lord through spirits who speak with him. They who believe so, and will this communication, do not know, however, that it is attended with danger to their souls. While a man is living in the world, he is in the midst of spirits as to his spirit; nevertheless spirits do not know they are with man, nor a man that he is with spirits. But as soon as spirits begin to speak with a man, they come out of their spiritual state into the man’s natural state; and then they know that they are with man, and they unite themselves to the thoughts of his affection, and they speak with him from those thoughts. Thence it is that the spirit speaking is in the same principles as the man, whether these be true or false. These he stirs up, and through his affection, united to the man’s, strongly confirms them. All this shows the danger in which a man is who speaks with spirits, or who manifestly perceives their operation. Of the nature of his affection, good or bad, a man is ignorant, also with what others he is associated. If his is a pride of self-intelligence, the spirit favors every thought from that source. Likewise there is the favoring of principles which are inflamed from the fire which those have who are not in truths from any genuine affection for them. Whenever from a like affection a spirit favors a man’s thoughts or principles, then the former leads the latter, as the blind lead the blind, until both fall into the ditch.

It is otherwise with those whom the Lord leads. He leads those who love and will truths from Him. Such are enlightened when they read the Word, for there the Lord is, and He speaks with every one according to the latter’s apprehension. When these hear speech from spirits, as they do sometimes, they are not taught, but are led, and this so prudently that the man is still left to himself. For every man is led through the affections by the Lord, and he thinks from these freely as if of himself. Were it otherwise, a man could not be reformed, nor could he be enlightened.

–_Apocalypse Explained, nn._ 1182, 1183


Married partners, who have lived in truly conjugial love, are not separated in the death of one of them. For the spirit of the deceased partner lives continually with the spirit of the other, not yet deceased, and this even to the death of the other, when they meet again and reunite, and love each other more tenderly than before; for now they are in the spiritual world.

–_Conjugial Love, n._ 321


“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

–Rev., XXI, 3


The Church is in man, and not outside of him; and the Church at large consists of the men who have the Church in them.–The Church consists of those who from the heart acknowledge the Divine of the Lord, who learn truths from Him by the Word, and do them.–Every one who lives in the good of charity and of faith is a Church and a Kingdom of the Lord.–The Church in general is constituted of those who are severally Churches, however remote they are from one another.–The Church of the Lord is scattered throughout the whole world.

–_Heaven and Hell, n._ 57 –_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 388 –_Arcana Coelestia_, n. 6637; ib., n. 9256


There have been four Churches on this earth since the day of creation; a first, to be called the Adamic, a second, to be called the Noachic; a third, the Israelitish; and a fourth, the Christian. After these four Churches, a new one will arise, which is to be truly Christian, foretold in Daniel and in the _Apocalypse_, and by the Lord Himself in the Evangelists, and looked for by the Apostles.

–_Coronis_, Summary, I, VIII


When a Church is raised up by the Lord, it is in the beginning blameless; and one then loves the other as his brother, as we know of the primitive Church after the Lord’s advent. At that time, all the sons of the Church lived together like brothers, and also called one another brother, and mutually loved each other. But in the course of time charity diminished, and vanished; and as it vanished, evils succeeded; and together with evils falsities insinuated themselves. Hence came schisms and heresies, which would never come to be, were charity regnant and alive.

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 1834


Now is the Lord’s Second Coming, and a New Church is to be instituted. The Second Coming of the Lord is not a coming in Person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself. We read in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven. The “clouds of heaven” mean the Word in its natural sense, and “glory” the Word in its spiritual sense, and “power” the Lord’s power by means of the Word. So the Lord is now to appear in the Word. He is not to appear in Person because, since His ascension into heaven, He is in the Glorified Humanity, in which He cannot appear to any man, unless He opens the eyes of his spirit first, and this cannot be done with any one who is in evils and thence in falsities. It is vain, therefore, to believe that the Lord will appear in a cloud of heaven in Person; but He will appear in the Word, which is from Him, and so is Himself.

–_True Christian Religion, nn._ 115, 776, 777

What occurred at the end of the Jewish Church has occurred similarly now; for at the end of that Church, which was when the Lord came into the world, the Word was interiorly opened. Interior Divine truths were revealed by the Lord, which were to serve the New Church to be established by Him, and did serve it, too. To-day, again, for similar reasons, the Word has been interiorly opened, and divine truths still more interior have been revealed, which are to serve a New Church, which will be called the New Jerusalem.

–_Apocalypse Explained, n._ 948


It was foretold in the Apocalypse (XXI, XXII) that at the end of the former Church a New Church was to be instituted, in which this would be the chief teaching: that God is One in Person as well as in Essence, in Whom is the Trinity, and that that God is the Lord. This Church is what is there meant by the New Jerusalem, into which only he can enter who acknowledges the Lord alone as God of Heaven and earth.

–_Divine Providence, n._ 263

The descent of the New Jerusalem cannot take place in a moment, but becomes a fact as the falsities of the former Church are removed. For what is new cannot enter where falsities have previously been engendered, unless these are eradicated; which will take place with the clergy, and so with the laity.

–_True Christian Religion, n._ 784


Were it received as a principle, that love to the Lord and charity to the neighbor are what the whole Law hangs on and are what all the Prophets speak of, and thus are the essentials of all doctrine and worship, then the mind would be enlightened in innumerable things in the Word, which otherwise lie hidden in the obscurity of a false principle. In fact, heresies would be scattered then, and out of many one Church would come to be, however the doctrines flowing therefrom or leading thereto, and the rituals, might differ. Were the case so, all men would be governed as a single human being by the Lord; for all would be as members and organs of one body, which, dissimilar in form and function though they are, still have relation to one heart only, whereon they each and all depend. Then, in whatever doctrine or outward worship one might be, he would say of another, “This man is my brother. I see that he worships the Lord, and that he is a good man.”

–_Arcana Coelestia, n._ 2385



All religion has relation to life; and the life of religion is to do good.

Love in act is work and deed.

Heaven is a kingdom of uses.

No one who believes in God and lives well is condemned.

Shunning evils as sins is the mark of faith.

To resist one evil is to resist many; for every evil is united with countless evils.

If you wish to be led by the Divine Providence, employ prudence as a servant and attendant who faithfully dispenses his Lord’s goods.

Where men know doctrine and think according to it, there the Church _may be_; but where men act according to doctrine, there alone the Church is.

It is not the desire of an intelligent man to be able to confirm whatever he pleases; but to be able to see truth as truth, and falsity as falsity, and to confirm his insight, is the way of an intelligent man.

To reason only whether a thing is so or not, is like reasoning about the fit of a cap or a shoe without ever putting it on.

It is the essence of God’s love to love others outside Himself, to desire to be one with them, and from Himself to render them blessed.

The absence of God from man is no more possible than the absence of the sun from the earth through its heat and light.

Truths perish with those who do not desire good.

Peace has in it confidence in the Lord–that He governs all things, and provides all things, and leads to a good end.

The Lord powerfully influences the humble.

Innocence is willingness to be led by the Lord.

One’s distance from heaven is in proportion to the measure of one’s self-love.

Peace in the heavens is like spring in the world, gladdening all things.

No two things mutually love each other more than do truth and good.

Love consists in desiring to give our own to another and in feeling as our own his delight.

A wicked man may shun evils as _hurtful_; none but a Christian can shun them as sins.

If a man studies the neighbor and the Lord more than himself, he is in a state of regeneration.

The Lord acts mediately through heaven, not because he needs the aid of the angels, but that they may have functions and offices, life and happiness.

Good is like a little flame which gives light, and causes man to see, perceive and believe.

Evil itself is disunion.

To serve the Lord is to be free.

Who is the God of Heaven?

#1 Who is the God of Heaven? 

Two hundred and forty years ago, a remarkable book appeared in the book stores in England.  Heaven and its wonders and Hell from things heard and seen, by Emanuel Swedenborg, London, 1758. It was published anonymously, in Latin, the international language of the day. No one knew who the author was or even his nationality (Swedish).  This book has remained in continuous print ever since.  It has been translated into many different languages, and is the best known of Swedenborg’s works.  This is a series of reflections on some of the key concepts in this amazing book.   

Swedenborg traveled extensively during his life, visiting Norway, Russia, Denmark, England, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, and many other countries.  He took many different trips, sometimes staying away from home for years. He knew how important it was to understand the kind of government he would have to deal with in these different countries.   

Thirteen years before publishing this book, he began to have spiritual experiences which enabled him to go from a consciousness of this natural world, to that of the spiritual world.  This is why the title includes the words: “from things heard and seen.”  He visited heaven and was very interested to know about the government there.  One of the first things to strike him was that wherever he went in heaven, only one God was acknowledged and worshiped, and that God was the Lord.  This fits in with the words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)   The first chapter of Heaven and Hell announces that the God of heaven is the Lord. 

“The first essential is to know who the God of heaven is, since everything else depends upon that.  Throughout the whole of heaven no other than the Lord is acknowledged as the God of heaven.”  Heaven and Hell #2

Swedenborg knew that there is really only one God, though that God might be known by many different names.  When He said that Jesus, or “The Lord” is that God, he was saying that when Jesus rose in glory He became “one with the Father.”  He was the manifestation in human form of that Great Spirit, Allah, the Almighty, worshiped in all religions.   

The government of heaven is the government of love.  It is also infinitely wise and has a human face.   Jesus said that we need to “abide in Him and He in us.” (John 15), the way branches are connected to the vine.  He even said that He went to prepare a place in heaven for us (John 14:1) “that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)   Many people think of heaven in terms of being “with Jesus” for that reason.  Swedenborg confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ is the God of heaven.

#2 – What makes heaven? 

“The angels taken collectively are called heaven because they constitute heaven.  But yet it is the divine proceeding from the Lord which inflows with the angels and is received by them.  This is what makes heaven in general and in particular.”    Heaven and Hell #7 

A woman was talking about her favorite school, said: “Of course, it’s not the buildings, or the organizational structure that makes the school – it’s the people.” Her friend asked: “What is it about the people that you like so much?” 

She replied, “It’s their dedication to their work and to their students. It’s their spirit of compassion and integrity.  This is a fine group of people – that’s what the school is to me.”

This is true of all human organizations.  What we like about them, or dislike, is the people, and their attitudes.  If we were to visit a society of angels we would be deeply impressed by the people – the angels.  We might even say – “Now I know why heaven is such a delightful place.  You angels are wonderful. I love your spirit of kindness, your intelligence, your devotion.  I love everything about you.” 

The angels might  respond:  “Don’t give us the credit.  What you are noticing is the Lord’s spirit that works in us and through us.  The divine life fills our hearts with love, and so we are compassionate and kind.  The divine light fills our minds and so we have intelligence and wisdom.  The divine energy moves us to act, and so we are useful.  Without these divine qualities flowing into us, we would be nothing.  We merely receive those qualities.  What makes heaven is not something special about us, but the Lord’s own life flowing into us.” 

A beautiful painting consists of dabs of paint on a surface.  These dabs become a work of art when organized by the artist.  It is the vision, emotions and thoughts of the artist that make the painting.  The dabs of paint merely constitute it.  Love is a spiritual bonding.  It is a connecting force.  Love is the essential life of every person, as it is also the essence of God.  When the divine love fills the heart of an angel, the angel is said to be “in heaven” because heaven is in the angel.

#3 – The levels of heaven  

It is fascinating to watch look-alike competitions.  A parade of people appear on the stage, and judges are there to see which one looks most like some famous person.  As I watch them, it strikes me how little they look like each other, and how none of them really looks like the famous person.  One of the most fascinating things about life is the endless variety of faces in this world.  Considering the fact that the human face consists of very few basic elements – eyes, nose, mouth, chin, etc., you might think that we would all look pretty much the same.  But we are all totally different, and there never will be two faces that are completely identical, even with so-called “identical twins.”  And that is just comparing one external aspect of a person – what his or her face looks like!  Looking more deeply, the minds of people are even more strikingly different.   

There is only one life in the universe, and that Life is infinite.  Each human being receives that one life in a special way.   

In general we can say that some people are more into their feelings, while others are more into their thoughts.  Some people are deep thinkers.  Others are much more interested in action. 

It is no wonder that heaven, consisting as it does of angels, each of whom receives life in a unique way, is varied.  There are levels of heaven, because some of the angels receive the life of God more deeply than others.   

In general, there are angels who are very much in touch with the love of God, and open their hearts fully to that love.  Other angels are more concerned about their love for other people.  Still others are most interested in living a good moral and practical life.  These are the three main levels of heaven. 

            The highest is called “Celestial” (or “Heavenly”) and consists of angels whose main love is love to the Lord.

            The second is called “Spiritual” and the angels there are primarily in the love of other people.

            The third and lowest, is called “Natural” and the angels on that level live a good moral life. 

Angels on the different heavens are invisible to each other.  When you look at the various human groupings in a typical large city, you find the same thing.  There are people whose lives revolve around sports.  Others are into business and high finance.  Still others are doing jobs of very little interest to them, and they divert themselves by watching endless hours of television.  Then there are those who know every local band and music group, and love to spend their time going to listen to them. there are bird-watchers, artists, stamp collectors, people who go to garage sales, gamblers, and so on and on. It would be practically impossible to list all of the groups and subgroups in a large city.  And most of us are aware only of the people in a few of these groups.  The others are virtually invisible to us.  And yet, somehow, they all make one city, just as all of the various levels and societies of heaven make one.  God is the unifying element in all these various groups and levels of life.  Out of this enormous variety, and these many levels, God creates one single entity – the realm of God.   

“There are infinite varieties in heaven, and no one society nor even any one angel is exactly like any other.”  Heaven and Hell #20

#4 – The communities of heaven  

Two people were talking about the frustration of having family and friends so widely separated in this world.   

“I hate having our family so scattered.  The older ones have moved south, the young ones are in the growing cities, the grandparents still live in the old country.  I wish we could all be together.” 

“Well, at least when we die and go to heaven we will all be together” one said.   

“No we won’t.  We might be even farther apart there than we are here!” 

In this world, time and space determine whether people are together or not.  They have to be in the same place at the same time.  But after death “time is no more” and neither is space.  Rather, time and space are spiritual qualities.  This means that in heaven people are together if they are spiritually similar.  If the things they are interested in are vastly different they will not be in the same part of heaven.   

Heaven does not consist of one vast, endless expanse.  The angels live in communities, much as we do on earth, some large, some small.  The difference is that angelic communities consists of people who are spiritually close to each other – not those who are physically close.  Furthermore, because they are similar in their thoughts and feelings, they even look like each other.  This was the condition in this world in ancient times when people rarely moved out of their village or town.  Our modern cities are described as “melting pots” though that description is not very accurate.  Even in the vast metropolitan areas there are cluster communities, united by various factors such as ethnic origin, social class, occupation, wealth and so on.   

Swedenborg reveals that when a person enters their heavenly community for the first time, they feel totally at home, and when they meet people, it is as if they have always known and loved them. 

Wouldn’t it be heaven to live in a community in which you knew everyone, and everyone knew you?  Wouldn’t it be relaxing to feel that you share similar interests with those around you?   

Does this mean that heavenly communities are uniform?  Not at all.  Within each community there is still plenty of room for variety, enough variety, in fact, for each community to be like a miniature of the whole of heaven.   

The Lord’s life flows into every community of heaven, and is received differently by each one.  Since there is only one life flowing in, these many different heavenly towns, villages and cities, are unified into a perfect harmony, like one great organic whole.  The unifying factor in all of this is the fact that each angel is a heaven in miniature.  In that sense you could say that heaven is not outside of the angels but within them, as Jesus said – “the kingdom of God is within you.” 

“It can in no way be said that heaven is outside anyone.  It is within them.  For it is according to the heaven that is within, that every angel receives the heaven that is outside. . . . Unless heaven is within anyone, nothing of the heaven that is outside flows in and is received.”          Heaven and Hell #54.

#5 – The human form of heaven  

What do angels look like?  

Just like people on earth only more beautiful. 

The reason our bodies are like they are is so that we can function in the world.  Why would angels need eyes?  They don’t live in the light of the natural sun. 

True – and this is why they don’t have physical, or material eyes.  They have spiritual eyes. 

What are spiritual eyes? 

That is the part of the mind that “sees” or understands.  Every part of the body has some counterpart in the mind.  That is why people speak of having a “backbone” when they mean having courage, not being able to “digest” an idea, “smelling” a rat, and so on.   The body is an image of the mind.  The many organs of the body are like the many faculties of the mind.  Indeed, there is no part of the human body that does not have some corresponding part in the spirit.  This is why angels look like people.  The difference is that angels are seen, not in the light of the world, but in the light of heaven, and not with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the spirit. 

In a fascinating way, every community of heaven is also in a similar form.  There are many functions in any human community.  We even talk about the nerves and arteries of a city.  We talk about its heart.  The human body has an  infrastructure (its bones and sinews) much the way a city has. 

Small towns and villages have relatively simple systems – one school, a couple of supermarkets, maybe a bank, post-office, and so on.  As a town grows, so does the complexity and perfection of its systems grow.  Large cities can have a tremendous choice of shops, schools, entertainment centers, legal systems, clubs and activities.   

The communities, or societies of heaven are similar.  And since the different functions of the society, like parts of the body, can best be performed when there are plenty of angels, so angels love nothing more than having angel guests come to them.   

Although it is difficult to imagine the scale involved, the whole of heaven is like a single human organism, with each community of heaven making its own unique contribution.   The angels even know what part of this grand, organic whole they serve.  Some are in the province of the eye, some in the province of the lips, and so on.   

This whole incredibly complex organism is like a single person – the individual on the greatest possible scale.   The angels form the body of that person, and the Lord is the soul.   

“The whole of heaven resembles a single person”
Heaven and Hell #59

 “The more there are in one community of heaven, all acting as one, the more perfect is its human form, for variety arranged in a heavenly form is what makes perfection. . . Besides every community of heaven increases numerically from day to day and as it increases it becomes more perfect.  In this way not only does the community become more perfect, but also heaven in general because it is made up of communities.  Since heaven gains in perfection by numerical increase, it is evident how mistaken those are who believe that heaven may be closed by becoming full.  The opposite is true.  It is never closed but is perfected by greater and greater fullness.  This is why the angels want nothing more than to have new angel guests come to them.”      Heaven and Hell #71

#7 Correspondences in Nature 

When people look at beautiful and remarkable things in nature they have a sense that they are seeing something beyond the physical plane. It is as if the whole of nature is like a theater in which heaven is presented to us in the forms and processes of nature. 

The first Psalm compares a goodly person to a “Tree planted by the rivers of water” (Psalm 1:3).

The river is the river of life, consisting not of water, but of the truth that flows out from God.

The leaves of the tree are the aspects of a person’s faith. The fruit consists in the good and kind things done by the person as an expression of faith, Jesus confirmed this idea when He said that a “tree is known by its fruits.” The structure and life of a tree corresponds to the spiritual life of a person. This is an example of a process is nature that presents a picture of a development of the mind and spirit. 

There are many other examples, some of them so common that people take them for granted, like the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly as presenting a picture of two phases of human life, the natural and the spiritual. In the natural phase the caterpillar crawls along the earth, eating leaves. This provides a picture of a person who is very earthbound in thoughts and feelings, and feeds on information and knowledge. The butterfly lives in a different element, the air or the sky (the ancients called the sky “heaven”), and they feed off of nectar. It is only in this second phase of the life cycle that they mate, a wonderful picture of the fact that our spiritual progression leads us from an interest in facts, to an interest in the sweetness of the understanding. In this higher state there is a marriage between our beliefs and our feelings, and that marriage produces many new developments in our spirituality. 

The relationship between something in nature and its counterpart in heaven is called “correspondences,” because the two correspond to each other. These correspondences are found in every aspect of nature, and are also throughout the Bible. Whenever we read about water we can know that it conveys a message about the corresponding spiritual quality. 

Many animals are mentioned in the Bible, and they are also an important part of human life. Our fascination with animals is partly because animals represent something spiritual for us. This helps

to explain how attached people become to their pets. They see in them an expression of unconditional love and devotion. Different animals correspond to different characteristics, and so we speak of being “sly as a fox,” “stubborn as a mule,” “wise as an owl,” and so on and on. Imagine looking at any mineral, plant, animal fish o bird and thinking that its form provides us a picture of something of heaven! 

“Not one thing of beauty and delight ever exists in the sky above or on earth beneath that is not in some respect representative of the Lord’s kingdom.”             Arcana Caelestia # 1807:2 

“When people are in the knowledge of correspondences, they are able, in regard to the thoughts of their mind, to be together with the angels.”         Heaven and Hell # 114

#8 The Spiritual Sun and its Heat 

As we hike through the desert we come across all kinds of vegetation-the giant saguaro, the tiny pincushion cacti, the flame tipped ocotillo, prickly pear, and, at this time of the year, a host of beautiful dessert flowers. The California poppies wait until the sun is full in the sky before opening, as if in worship. It seems that all plants are conscious of the sun. On those rare overcast days, you can always know which way is South by the great barrel cactus leaning in the direction of the sun.

Of course all plants depend on the heat and light of the sun for their survival, and so do all living things. When Swedenborg was given the privilege of visiting the spiritual world even while living on earth, he noticed that there is heat and light in heaven, as there is a source of that heat and light-not some atomic furnace 93 million miles away, but a golden disc in the sky, looking like our sun but of a totally different essence. 

We know that heat is related to love, as when we talk of a heartwarming experience, or being all fired up. We also talk about light and darkness when referring to the mind-as when we say” I was in the dark about that, or I thought about it for a long time and then a light went on in my head. In

heaven, the angels feel the warmth of the spiritual sun, and they see by its light. And what is that sun? It is the Lord! The New Testament describes a time when a few of the disciples saw the Lord transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and His garments were white as light.  (Matthew 17) 

Just as our physical life depends on the energy that comes from the sun, so too our spiritual life depends on the sun, but it is the sun of heaven, ir the Lord. 

“When the Lord appears in heaven, which often happens, He does not appear encompassed with a Sun but in angelic form, yet distinguished from angels by the divine shining from His face… or in the midst of angels as a flame-like brightness.”                                                                                                           Heaven and Hell # 121

#9 Directions in heaven A man was talking to his son, The mood was tense. The father was convinced that his boy was going in a bad direction. “Son,” he said, “you need to do a one eighty,” The son knew exactly what he meant. A full circle is 360 degrees, so a 180 is half a circle.  In effect he knew he was being told that he had to turn his life around.   This is a little lesson in spiritual geography.  Just as the surface of the earth is divided into various regions and zones, so there are various areas of spiritual life, some of them beautiful, and others extremely dangerous.  Spiritual growth involves going through different landscapes of this spiritual world. Children start out in a kind of paradise – “East in Eden.”  As they grow up they lose something of that innocence and begin exploring worlds opened up to them through education and experience.  This is like a journey to the South. 

When people have a spiritual awakening in their adult years they might find themselves far from the kind of spiritual place they want to be in, and so they begin to try to orient themselves.  This spiritual journey often requires a new direction. They want to know where to look for the source of their growth. They journey back to the East. 

When we talk of  “orienting ourselves” we are using the word for the East (the Orient).  As far as the angels are concerned, the Lord is in the East, like the rising sun, and so, whate4ver direction they turn, the angels are always facing East.  This is another way of saying that whatever they are doing, they are always looking to the Lord. 

It is useful to stop and ask ourselves how we feel about where we are spiritually. What is our spiritual geography like?  Where should we turn if we want to find a better spiritual place? 

“In heaven the East is what determines all the quarters.  The East is where the Lord is seen as a Sun because all origin of life is from Him as a Sun. Moreover to the extent that angels receive heat and light or love and intelligence from Him, the Lord is said to arise upon them.  For the same reason, in the Word the Lord is said to be the East.” Heaven and Hell #141


#10 Time and Space in Heaven 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we did not have to live with the limitations of space and time!  Sometimes it seems as if these are two big enemies.  How often do we hear people say: “There are not enough hours in the day,” “I just haven’t got time,” and even, “I have to much time, it’s driving me crazy.” And then there are all the complaints about space – “My children live too far away,” “I’m not able to be with you physically, but I am certainly there in spirit.” 

What would life be like without these limitations?  The answer is simple. It would be heaven!  When people pass from this world to the next, they leave behind all concerns about these external things.  There are no clocks or calendars in heaven. This does not mean that eternal life is always the same. It is constantly changing.  It has a flow and a direction to it, the way time does in this world, but it is not measure. The angels simply go through the various phases of their life corresponding to our morning afternoon and evening, without having to be told by the clock what to do and when. Imagine what your life would be like if you just finished whatever you were doing and then went on to do the next thing, not because THE CLOCK told you to, but because you were ready.  This is what heaven is like.  Many people enjoy retirement because it has a similar quality.  It is interesting how our vacation time and our time off, begin to imitate the time of heaven, which is just a natural flow from one state of mind to another, and one activity to another 

And what about space?  Here we find even greater rewards.  On earth we can be physically separated from those we care about, but after death we are always with the people we love. Just as they are near to us in heart, so we seem them as being near to us in fact.  If we think of someone, they are instantly present. Modern technology helps us to come a little closer to this. We can call or e-mail someone, and get a reply in a matter of seconds.  We can fly around the world in a few days. 

As we grow spiritually, we learn how to honor the fact that our spirit, even as we live in this world, operates beyond the time-space framework. And it is interesting to note that many human inventions are designed to make the world more like the spiritual world by overcoming, at least to some extent, the limitations of space and time.

#11 How things appear in heaven 

Heaven is a state of mind, but it looks like a place.  There are trees, flowers, fields, streams, mountains, sky, sun, moon and stars.  There are homes, and the homes have walls with furniture and works of art.  In short, the spiritual world looks a lot like the natural world.  And so what is the difference between the two? 

The main difference is that the things seen in heaven are the result of the inner states of the Angels.  Their homes are a reflection of their loves and thoughts.  The scenery around them expresses the quality of their inner world.   

We do not often experience this perfect harmony with our environment in the natural world.  There are times when our spirits are bright, and the weather is dull and dreary.  At other times the weather is cheerful, but we are not.  Beautiful things can happen in very ordinary surroundings in this world, and ugliness can exist inside a person whose external possessions are beautiful.  This lack of harmony can give this planet an unreal feeling at times.  That could not happen in heaven, where the things around the angels correspond perfectly with the thoughts and feelings within them.   

The faces of angels are a perfect expression of their inner selves.  The decorations in their homes all tell a story about the quality of their wisdom and love.  All of this makes the spiritual world feel more real to the angels than our natural world feels to us. 

Of course we can strive to make our external world correspond to the world inside of us.  We can work to make our life on earth approximate the life of heaven.  We begin by striving for unselfish love of others, inner harmony and peace.  And then we do what we can to express those spiritual qualities in the world around us.

#12 The Form of heaven  
The human brain has been described as the most highly organized substance in the universe.  It contains more cells than there are people in the world, each of them linked in such a way as to enable them to communicate with each other.  Through the brain stem, these cells are connected to all parts of the body.  The heart also connects with different parts of the body through its network of blood vessels.  This marvelous order enables the body with all of its different parts and organs, to function as a single unit.  

It is similar with heaven.  The angels are interconnected.  This enables an angel to make a contribution to the welfare of the whole of heaven, and to benefit from the gifts of all the other angels.  In a remarkable way, each angel is like a focal point for all of the love and inspiration of all other angels.  Heaven is certainly marvelously constructed. 

We have our own systems in this world, and they become more complex with every passing year.  I can remember visiting a telephone exchange office about fifty years ago, and being told that every phone in the country could have a direct connection to any other phone in the country through switchboards.  The system did not work overseas except through a clumsy and far from perfect radio system.  Now the telephone system is not only more complex, but we have the whole Internet system enabling a person with a home computer and a telephone connection to send messages over the world wide web.   

These technological systems enable us to keep in touch with people in this world.  On an emotional and spiritual level, our minds and hearts are part of the heavenly communication system made possible by the marvelous form of heaven.  We can be in touch with the whole range of heaven because of the spiritual connections we have with that higher plane of existence.  And without these connections, we simply could not function.  (See Heaven and Hell #200-212)


#13 Worship in heaven  

For people who know the Lord and adore Him in their hearts, every day is a day of worship.  They lift up their minds in prayer as they greet each new day.  Before they go to sleep, they close the day with a prayer. When facing difficulties they turn to God.  When joyful about good news, they are grateful.  They see all of the different aspects of the day as part of their life of worship.  They accept their responsibilities as an expression of devotion to God and to others.  In their caring for other people, they show how much they care about God.  All of the elements of worship are in their day to day interactions with other people – joy, gratitude, humility, a willingness to learn and a desire to serve.   

When worship is a part of daily life, coming together with others in a formal worship service, has special meaning and depth.  It feels like a privilege, and not at all like an obligation, and is more like recreation than work.  This is why there is worship in heaven.  In a sense, every day in heaven is a day of worship, because worship is the whole of the life of angels.   Having an attitude of reverence to every aspect of life, their spirts soar when they hear the message: “Today is the Sabbath.”  They love to continue to learn from the depths of the Word, and they enjoy doing so with their deeply loved friends.   

What a difference it makes to our earthly life when we experience this ongoing worship during the week, and how wonderful it is to have a worship service to begin a new week.  Thank You Lord. (See Heaven and Hell #221-227)

#14 The Power of the Angels  

Occasionally I hear people expressing concern about the state of the world, and the negative forces that seem, at times, to be overwhelming.  Fortunately, evil does not really have any power.  The only power in the universe is the power of God, which is also the power of good.   

The Hebrew word for God is a !- (El), a word which also means strong, mighty, a mighty one, power.  Since angels are messengers of God, they also have power.  The power of God through angels affects every moment of our life, and is an important factor in our spiritual protection.   

Jesus talks about the “power of darkness” (Luke 22:53) but this power is very limited.  In a sense you could say that darkness has no power at all.  If you have a box with a partition in the middle, one side of the partition being full of light and the other side full of darkness, what happens when the partition is removed?  The light simply fills both sections. The darkness has no power to extinguish the light.  Why then should the Bible talk about “the power of darkness?”  Isn’t it because people are deceived into ascribing power to the darkness, a power that does not really exist?  For example, lies only  have power when people believe them to be true!  The power is in the light of truth.  That is why it says in John, the “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5) 

This is speaking of the power of light, or the power of truth. What about the power of love?  In a sense you could say that it is the only power in the universe.  The angels have this power in great abundance for the simple reason that they are happy to acknowledge the Lord God as the real source of the love that fills their hearts.   

All of the various machines and appliances in our life run because of an influx of power.  When that power is cut off, as in a power failure, the machines are useless.  On a spiritual level if the power of love were ever removed from our lives, we would become as limp as rags.  We can be grateful for the way in which this spiritual power constantly renews itself.  Like energy, which cannot be destroyed but only changes its form, the power of love is a constant that in various ways supports our being and our life.  (See Heaven and Hell #228-233)

#15 Angelic Communication  

As I write this I am preparing for a trip to Sweden. I am studying a few Swedish phrases to add to the enjoyment of my trip.  It is not my intention to learn to speak it well.  I have tried that with French and Dutch, and never got to the point where I was fluent.  It is extremely difficult to learn another language.  It is relatively easy to pick up a few words and phrases, and I am sure that it will add a richness to the experience of traveling in Sweden. 

How sad it is that we are so divided on this natural plane by so many different languages.  This is one of the problems that is solved by death. After we die we lose nothing that belongs to us as human beings, but we do lose our earthly languages.  They are of no use to us in the spiritual world where there is a different language – one that is learned spontaneously and without effort, one that is universal.  It is the language of thought.  In a sense you could say that we already know this language. All we have to do is think, and our minds are speaking this language.   

Of course language requires feelings as well.  Swedenborg found that the angelic language is a perfect expression of both the feelings and the thoughts of the speakers.  It involves facial expressions, inflections, tones as well as words.  It is full of wisdom since it comes from their deepest thoughts, and it is full of love because it always comes from the heart. 

There are stories in the Bible of angels speaking to people on earth.   There is never a need for an interpreter, since the angel communicates by ideas which are translated in the mind of the listeners into their own language.  It sounds to the human as if the angel is speaking Hebrew, or Swedish, or whatever their own language might be.  It would be more accurate to say that the angels are sharing ideas which come into the listeners’ awareness in the human languages that they know. (See Heaven and Hell #234-257)

#16 Angelic writing  

Anyone who has attempted to write a book knows that it requires a special kind of effort to put things in writing, quite different from the process of speaking.  By putting something in writing, the author provides a gift for the world.  In some cases the books continue to enrich people’s lives over hundreds and even thousands of years.  For many people books are among life’s greatest treasurers.   

I was visiting a friend recently and I couldn’t help noticing the great quantity of books in his home.  There were bookcases everywhere, crammed with books on a wide variety of subjects, like languages ancient and modern, history, and science.  There were dictionaries, encyclopedias, and all kinds of reference works.  I could have spent weeks just browsing through those fascinating tomes.   

Since when we die we take with us everything that is special to us, it follows that our love of reading will still be with us in the next life. Do the angels have bookcases?  Are their homes full of reading matter?  It would certainly seem so.  

There are stories in the Word where a person on earth sees into heaven.  The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of heaven, and in that vision he saw an angel with the scroll of a book, written on both sides.  (Ezekiel 2:9,10)   Ezekiel was commanded to eat the book.  He found that it was sweet in his mouth.  The same thing happened to John on the Isle of Patmos.  He writes about taking a book from an angel, eating it, and finding it sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach.   (Revelation 10:9,10)   

The main reason for writing in heaven, is so that the Word of God can exist there – the Bible.  When angels read the Bible do they see the same stories that we see when we read it?  Yes, but from a totally different point of view, not as earthly stories, but as expressions of the infinite love and wisdom of God.  (See Heaven and Hell #258-264)

#17 Angelic wisdom  

One of the great tasks in life is to seek for wisdom.  The process begins early in life, and continues forever!   

I can remember being in situations where older and wiser people than myself were having a discussion.  They were tossing ideas back and forth like bean bags.  I was impressed by these people.  In addition, I seemed to myself to become wiser just by being in the discussion.  It was as if their brilliance illuminated me and made me a little smarter than I was. 

Wisdom is spiritual light.  When we think of the light of heaven shining so much brighter than light in this world, we can get some idea of the wisdom of the angels.  They live in a light that is to some extent inaccessible to us on earth.  

There are five main ingredients.

1.  Because of their integrity, the higher levels of their minds are open and transparent.  The angels do not put any effort into trying to deceive, or trying to impress one another.

2.  They have so much light because of the warmth of their love.  Just as in this world, heat brings light, so in heaven the love of the angels makes them wise.

3.  They are without ego.  They love truth because it is true, and not for any credit to themselves or personal gain. 

4.  They openly and gladly share their wisdom with others.  This means that when an angel joins a group of other angels, he or she immediately shares the ideas and perceptions of all the others.  In this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Through this sharing, each angel becomes wiser. 

5.  They long for truth the way a starving person hungers for food.  Because of this hunger they continue growing in wisdom forever. 

(See Heaven and Hell #265-275)

#18 Angelic innocence  

There is a wonderful scene in the movie, Star Wars where Luke first meets Yoda. He was looking for a powerful and wise being, and thought, at first, that Yoda was just a child.  He found that Yoda was incredibly ancient, wise and strong. There is a similar encounter in the movie, E.T. where an alien being seems to be very young and ineffective but proves to be very different.  Both speak a profound truth about the angels of heaven, namely, that they are completely innocent and exceptionally wise.   

With little children, innocence comes from the fact that they know very little and have so little power. This makes them dependent on their parents. As they grow, they be come more independent and less innocent. 

Jesus said that we have to have the innocence of little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 10:14,15).  As people age, they sem to return to this quality of childhood, but with the added element of wisdom. 

So what is the innocence of heaven like? The angels do not have an exaggerated idea of their own importance, but attribute what is good to the Lord. They know how dangerous it is to be led by self-will and prefer to be led by God. They love goodness and delight in the truth. They are content with their lot, and are not the least bit worried about the future.  They do not act deceitfully with others, or try to use cunning to get their own way. When they hear something true they immediately apply it to their lives. They know that their knowledge, vast as it is compared to our own, is nothing. The little that they know is like a drop of water compared to the whole ocean. 

This innocence is the essence of the goodness of heaven.  It is also the heart of the marriage relationship, which is why partners who deeply love each other are playful, almost like little children. 

Innocence is a willingness to be led by the Lord.  To become innocent is to become like an angel. To be innocent is to be in heaven.  (See Heaven and Hell #276-283)

#19 Peace in Heaven

I was once visiting an older woman, living alone in the remote mountains of Wales. She had something about her that was truly amazing – a kind of contentment. This did not seem to come from her circumstances. She had her share of challenges.  It was more something that came from deep inside. This inner quality brought a glow to everything in her life.  I had a strong feeling that she had found the secret of happiness. She was at peace. 

Innocence and peace are the deepest aspects of heaven.  Innocence is the source of all the goodness of heaven and peace is the source of joy. 

People who return from a near death experience sometimes describe having had a most peaceful and delightful time, so much so that they were extremely reluctant to return to their usual state in this world. Some manage to hold on to that inner peace when they do return and it changes the whole quality of their life. 

Some look for peace in external ways – as if it could come from the absence of strive, or from overcoming problems. But peace is the love of God touching us on the deepest level of our being, which means that peace essentially is a divine quality. The Creator of the universe is at peace, and those who connect with the Creator through love, experience that peace.  Although I cannot judge, it seems that that was what I sensed with the woman in Wales. 

So long as we live on this natural plane, it is inevitable that we are tossed about in various ways, and we long for peace. The nearest we might get is contentment in God. To work toward achieving greater peace, we can work on our connection with the Prince of Peace. When we feel the joy of God in our hearts, we are experiencing something of that peace of heaven, peace that passes all understanding, peace that is the ultimate goal of all human striving. (See Heaven and Hell #284-290)

#20 The Connection between Heaven and Earth  

A person was hiking alone in the mountains, and stopped to rest.  For a moment she felt quite alone, and began thinking how small she was in a remote area of this tiny planet, and its medium sized sun, average galaxy, all in an unimaginably large universe.  But the feeling soon passed as she stopped to think of her connections with that other world – the more real world of the spirit.  She knew that God was directly present with her as her very life.  She also knew that the angels of God were always present – not seen, but sensed in a feeling of peace and contentment.   

Then she began to have doubts and fears.  Her mind was chilled by anxieties that robbed her of her peace.  At first she was alarmed by this.  It seemed to wipe away all of the good feelings of the previous state.  But then she remembered that we also have devils with us.  We do not see them, but we can tell that they are present by the anxiety we feel, and the dark and negative thinking they bring.  Remembering this was very helpful. She found that she could tell those evil spirits to get behind her, as she raised her mind to heavenly thoughts and feelings.   

After some time of vacillation between the positive and the negative, she remembered another important principle.  The Lord and heaven, communicate with us through the Word.  So she took out her Bible, and began to read: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”  (Psalm 46:1,2)   This reading brought an immediate change of mood.  She felt connected to heaven again.   

Yes, we live in a physical world, and we are connected with the spiritual one.  There are angels present with us at all times, and the Lord, God, never leaves us. We can strengthen that connection by reading the Word, whose stories seem to be concerned about events in the world, but whose deeper meanings connect with heaven itself. (See Heaven and Hell #291-310)

#21 Heaven and Hell are from the Human race  

What are angels, and where do they come from?  For years there has been a belief that, before God created the world, He created angels, and that human beings are a totally separate race.  In contrast to that, we often hear people talk about a loved one in terms that suggest that having died, the loved-one is now an angel.   

So who are angels?   Swedenborg’s long experiences of the spiritual realm taught him a very simple principle.  All angels began life as people on this or some other planet.  Angels are not a separate creation of God, but people just like the ones we know on earth.  Popular shows like “Touched by an Angel,” support this idea.  The angels in the show look so much like ordinary people that through most of each episode they are thought to be humans.  And so the general impression, that good people become angels after death, proves to be the truth!    The point is that each one of us is intended to become an angel after we die. 

Many people believe this instinctively.  Many also have a strong sense that people they know in this world have angelic qualities – “you are such an angel.”  Once again, the general impression proves to be the truth.  This is the training ground for us to begin to learn what angelic life is like.  There are two main qualifications: a love of God, and a love of other people.  When we act lovingly, and speak wisely, we are all angels,  messengers of God. (See Heaven and Hell #311-317)

#22 The Gentiles  

There are many words used by Christians to describe non-Christians.  Most of them have come to have a strongly negative connotation.  Looking up the root meanings in “the Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language” we find some of the reasons for this negativity. 

ALIEN – Someone “other than” us.
BARBARIAN – A “stammerer,” someone whose language sounds to us like babble.
FOREIGN – “Out of doors,” someone not within our little world
GENTILE – “Belonging to the same Clan or Tribe.”  Related to the word “Genteel!”
HEATHEN – “Wild.”
INFIDEL – A person “without faith.”
PAGAN  – A “villager or person who lives in the country,” (people who are the slowest to accept new ideas.)
PRIMITIVE – The “first people, the earliest ones.”
SAVAGE – “Belonging to the forest.”
STRANGE – “Someone on the outside” (compare the word: extraneous from which our word stranger comes.) 

I guess we are all a little wary of “strangers” but in the Christian world this fear has turned into the doctrine that only Christians can be saved.  Many of us have had the experience of meeting someone from a totally different culture and religious background only to find them in some ways more spiritual than the Christians we have known!   

Isn’t it strange that not only do many Christians deny the possibility of heaven to pagans, but they even deny it to other branches of Christianity and, more sadly, even to members of their own faith community, as in the old adage: “No one is really Christian but me and thee . . . and sometimes I wonder about thee!” 

The reality is that the mercy of the Lord is far greater than our own, that in His sight everyone on the planet has been born for heaven, and that even though there are many false concepts in the seemingly endless forms that religion takes, to get into heaven you need only two:

            1.  A belief in God – or at least a belief in something higher than yourself, and . . .

            2.  A desire to live a good life according to what you believe. 

Any deficit in knowledge can easily be made up for in the other life.
(See Heaven and Hell #318-328)

#23 Little Children in Heaven  

One of the saddest of all human experiences is the death of little children.  We cannot believe that a merciful God would let one of these little ones perish.  If we could see the other side of their transition we would not be so horrified.  We would notice angels tenderly watching over them, angel mothers welcoming them.  We would see their bright, innocent eyes full of wonder as they explore their new world.  We would enjoy watching them learning in a spontaneous and imaginative way all of the things they need to know.  We would see them dancing through the meadows, with garlands of flowers and beauty all around.  We would see their new families as they are adopted into angelic foster homes, with perfect care to their every need. 

It would be exciting to watch them learn to walk, speak and read without effort.  It would be thrilling to see the eagerness with which they drink in the teachings of the Word.  We would enjoy being with them as they are taught by pageants and plays, each one designed to communicate some important truth and some deep feeling.   

We would watch them grow “physically” as they grew in wisdom and love, their growing bodies perfectly reflecting their spiritual growth.  We would eventually see them attain young womanhood and young manhood, the age that they would stay at forever. 

We might even see them, pairing off, finding themselves led by the Lord to a perfect married partner, with whom they would then live to eternity.   

Would we see the tantrums and selfishness that children on earth experience?  Yes – at least to some extent, and this because it is important for them to know the difference between their hereditary instincts and their spiritual life.   

And what of non-Christian children?  Would they be there?  Yes indeed.  A merciful God would not exclude a child from heaven simply because the parents were not Christians.  God does not require the external ceremony of baptism as a gateway to heaven, but the spiritual process which it represents. In short, if we saw these children, we might still feel sad at our own loss, but would rejoice at their gain.  (See Heaven and Hell #329-345)

#24 The Wise and the Simple  

In this world of IQ testing, SAT scores and numerous other measurements of intelligence most of us can’t help feeling rather dull.  I have been in situations where the conversation was so far above my head that I was struggling for air.  Not normally shy, I found that I did not dare to open my mouth for fear of sounding stupid.   

Reading about the wisdom of angels, the question naturally arises, is that situation likely to happen in heaven?   Angels are so much wiser than we are.   

And then I remember times when I have been talking with a farmer, leaning over the back fence, feeling totally comfortable, not feeling stupid at all, and at the same time having a wonderful sense that I was in the presence of real wisdom.  I have had the same experience talking with a grandmother whose education did not reach past High School, but whose words were very profound.   

What is it that produces wisdom?  It is certainly not intelligence.  There are very intelligent people who are not wise at all.  It is not from education.  There are many highly educated people who lack common sense.  Wisdom comes from a love of truth, not for glory, but just because it is true.  There are people who have this delight in truth that makes them seekers.  They are not content with sham, and are deeply affected and delighted with truth when they find it. 

They are not interested in accumulating knowledge.  What they learn they translate directly into their lives.  They do not understand what it is to learn just for the sake of learning.  To them truth is a support for love and living a good life.  This is what the wisdom of angels is like. 

We can increase our capacity for wisdom by getting in touch with our own love of truth, and by looking especially for those ideas that will make us better citizens of this world and the next.  This is how we can approach the wisdom of the angels.  

“The human mind is like soil.  Its quality is according to the way it is  cultivated.” Heaven and Hell #356
(See Heaven and Hell #346-356)

#25 The Rich and the Poor in Heaven  

Is having material wealth good or bad for our spiritual state?  Jesus said: “It is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23)   Some Christians have deliberately made themselves poor because of this saying.  But most of us live with the idea that material wealth is a good thing (why else would there be such a fervor over Lotteries?).  The fact is that Jesus was talking about being poor “in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).  He was talking about humility. 

Are worldly riches curses or blessings?  There is a very simple answer.  If your eternal lot is heaven, then whatever wealth or poverty you had in this world must have been all right.   

“Heaven is for all who live a life of faith and love, whether rich or poor. . . . The rich enter heaven just as easily as the poor.  People are not shut out of heaven on account of their wealth, nor received into heaven on account of their poverty.” (Heaven and Hell #357) 

We have been born into this world, and need to come to terms with it.  It is perfectly all right to seek to be financially successful, provided it is not achieved by fraud or deceit.  We are allowed to enjoy the good things of life provided we do not make them more important than spiritual things.   

As far as our own spiritual life is concerned, so long as we watch out for greed and materialism, it is good for us to be successful.  And as far as our judgments of others are concerned, we need to be careful not to make judgments about people’s spiritual state on the basis of how much money they have, whether it is great or small.  Money itself is totally neutral.  By our handling of money we can make it good or evil.   

Our spiritual state is more important than our bank account and the degree of usefulness to others is more important than our salary.  It is a matter of keeping things in balance. (See Heaven and Hell #357-365)

#26 Marriages in Heaven  

I love helping couples prepare for their wedding.  For many of them it is the most significant event of their entire life.  We talk about various aspects of marriage, especially the fact that it is a partnership of people who are equal and different.   

Naturally we think of love as being the most important ingredient, but I like to point out that love is not a feeling.  It lies deeper than our feelings and gives rise to them.  Love is a kind of inner consent that says “YES” to this other person, and says “YES” to working with that person to create a lifelong bond of friendship, cooperation, respect and love.  Love is a commitment, and a decision.   

Many couples agree that falling in love was a spiritual event for them.  And many of them select passages for their wedding service that talk about the eternity of marriage.  This is of special interest considering that many of them belong to churches that do not believe in the eternity of marriage.  It seems that love creates its own perception and its own wisdom.  The feeling of love is “this is forever.” 

There is a song from “West Side Story” that some couples choose to have sung at their wedding.  It is called “One hand, one heart” and includes the refrain: “Only death will part us now.”  Just as I am beginning to feel uncomfortable about this refrain it shifts, and on the last verse says: “Even death won’t part us now.”    

There is marriage after death.  It is between one man and one woman – possibly people who had been married to each other on earth, but only if they truly loved each other on a spiritual level.  The force that binds them together is the force of the divine love that joins them into a oneness that is full of tenderness and delight.   

I do believe that people who marry for love, marry in the hope that their love will last, not just for a few years on earth, but forever.
(See Heaven and Hell #366-386)

#27 The jobs of the Angels  

Which would you rather have, eternal idleness, or ongoing useful activity?  Swedenborg found that the joy of heaven is the satisfaction that comes from doing something useful for yourself or for others.  He noted that just as every organ and cell in the body has to make a contribution to the welfare of the whole system, so every angel, and every community of angels is involved in usefulness,.  Indeed, this usefulness is the real source of heavenly joy and happiness!  The angels have jobs, and they love their work. 

But what do they do?  We know that there are guardian angels.  There are angels who are with people as they die, and other angels that help them as they wake up in the spiritual world.  Some angels have the work of welcoming people who died in their infancy and raising them in heaven.  Others are sent to protect people on earth from harm. 

But the majority of the jobs of the angels would be a total mystery to us.  They have a thousand times as many occupations available to them as we do on earth, and most of them are beyond our present understanding.  To get some idea of this, imagine visiting a hunter-gatherer community.  The community is self-contained, and the needs of everyone are provided for, but the jobs are very limited.  Some are employed in making tools, others in finding game, some in preparing food, building shelter, possibly making utensils, clothing and fabrics,  and so on.  It would not take you long to list all of the jobs open in such a community.  You would also find that each individual might have several different things to do to help the group survive.  Could you explain to them the various jobs in our modern cities?  How many of them do you understand yourself?   

Project your imagination into the future of life on this planet.  If you could be transported to the year 3000 A.D., and look at the jobs people would be doing more than a thousand years from now, how many of their jobs could you understand? 

One more leap of imagination takes you to the spiritual world, to heaven and the uses of the angels.  They are far more numerous than jobs on earth, far more satisfying (because each person does what he or she loves to do), and far more valuable.  The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of useful activities, and it is through these activities that the angels find their deepest satisfactions.
(See Heaven and Hell #387-394)

#28 Angelic Happiness      

A person was searching for the truth.  On hearing that there was a wise Guru sitting on a mountain, he made the arduous journey up the mountain so that he could put a burning question:  “What is the purpose of life?” 

Without a moment’s hesitation, the Guru said: “To be happy.” 

The man looked very puzzled and a little disappointed at the answer.  “Does this mean that I can do whatever I like?” 

The Guru replied, “The purpose of life is to have the deepest satisfaction and the greatest happiness.  You probably have no idea how to be really happy.  Try to find happiness.  If you need to learn more, you can always come back and ask again.”  

The man descended the mountain feeling relieved.   He thought that his own happiness was the most important thing in the world.  He got a job, but only went to work when it made him feel good.  He got into a relationship, but thought only about his own happiness, taking no interest in the happiness of the other person.  After years of self-indulgence and deep disappointment, he decided that he needed to talk to the Guru again. So he made the journey back up the mountain. 

“What is the purpose of life?” he asked again, as if he had never asked the question before. 

“To be happy” said the Guru.  “I told you that years ago.” 

“But it doesn’t work.  I tried it.  I lost my job and my friends and didn’t have that much fun.” 

“I told you that you did not know how to be happy.  How do you feel about your life so far?” 

“It has been miserable.” 

“Do you feel that misery is the purpose of life?” 

“No, something is wrong.” 

“Then you need to learn how to be happy.  I will give you a few clues.  You will never be truly happy if you live only for yourself, or simply indulge your cravings.  To be happy you have to find out some way of giving happiness to others, and being in meaningful and loving relationships with others.  When you learn that you will know what heaven is, because you will know what heavenly joy is.  Whether you say heaven or heavenly joy it amounts to the same thing.  What would heaven be like if it were not joyful?” 

“Why does it have to be so complicated?’ 

“It is not really complicated at all, but for some reason, many people have great difficulty finding real happiness.  Please do not settle for some passing pleasure.  Eternal happiness is so much better than that.” 

The man went down the mountain, continued his life in search of true happiness and eventually died.  In heaven he happened to meet the Guru.   

“Well,” said the Guru, “what do you think now?” 

“I have never known such bliss.  This happiness far surpasses any idea of joy I had before, and all the struggles to achieve it were completely worthwhile.  This really is the purpose of life!”
(See Heaven and Hell #395-414)

#29 The immensity of heaven.     

A parent was having one of those deep conversations with a ten year old child.   

“I want to die,” says the child. 

“Why, are you feeling depressed?” 

“No, I’m feeling great, but I think I’d better die before it is too late.” 

“Too late for what?” 

“You might think this is stupid, but I want to die before heaven gets filled up.” 

“That would be sad, but what makes you think heaven is getting filled up?” 

“We learned in school that the world population is growing, and even now millions of people die every year.  They talk about the world getting overpopulated, well, what about heaven?” 

“The fear about overpopulation is because the earth has limited resources.  People don’t take up much room in this world.  In fact you could put the whole population of the world in the Tucson valley.  Now since angels don’t need physical food and don’t use up natural resources, there isn’t the same problem.  Besides, angels don’t take up any room at all, they are spiritual, not physical.   They don’t take up space.  The Lord’s heart is large enough to love everyone, from all places in the universe, over all time, so heaven will never be full.  So please don’t be in a hurry to get to heaven.  There is no rush.  And there is plenty for you to do in this world before you go on to the next one.  You are so precious in this world, that you should stay here as long as you can, leaving it to the Lord to decide when to call you to heaven. ” (See Heaven and Hell #415-420)

#30 Between Heaven and Hell 

Uncle Fred died. The family was gathered for the resurrection service, and people were saying how wonderful it was that Uncle Fred was now an angel in heaven.  Some people looked a little bit askance.  They knew too much about Uncle Fred to think that all he had to do was to die and go to heaven.  It is not that he was such a bad man either.  Like most of us he was a mixture – a little of this, and a little of that.  You couldn’t really call him an angel, and you wouldn’t  think of calling him a devil.  He was “between heaven and hell.”   

Swedenborg discovered that very few people are totally ready for heaven or hell when they die.  They have work to do.  It is reassuring to think that Uncle Fred will have time to continue his spiritual journey after death, and that we will all have time to go through whatever process we need to experience in order to have an undivided mind.   

In many ways our life in this world is “between heaven and hell.”  We have our good moments.  We know the joy of really caring for other people, and have had times of genuine peace.  We have also known the frustration of dealing with our own cravings, our weaknesses and our selfishness.  We have already begun the process of sorting out our spiritual values, and finding our direction.  The more work we do on this as we live our life on earth, the more ready we will be for the heaven the Lord has provided for us after death. (See Heaven and Hell #421-431)

#31 Every person is a Spirit         

Two people were taking a stroll through a beautiful city park.  They were very intent on their conversation.  They walked alongside the lake, under the great trees, over the bridges, by the fields, talking as they went.  After a couple of hours one of them noticed that the sun was setting.  They stopped, looked at each other, and wondered where they were.  They had no idea how far they had walked or how long.  It was as if their bodies had been moving through physical space and time while their minds and hearts were on their own journey, so interesting that it blocked out an awareness of the other. 

This is a reminder that we are spiritual beings.  We have a physical life, and to some extent we live in a world of space and time, but the real world we inhabit consists of feelings and thoughts.  Our mind (or spirit) even has its own sense of time, which explains why we can feel that an hour passes as quickly as a minute, and minutes can drag on like hours. 

Our internal world is really a spiritual world.  It is not material.  It has no weight, and no time-space dimension.  As someone said, we are not physical beings with a spiritual life, we are spiritual beings with a physical life.  This is good news because it means that our real life, the life that we truly call our own, does not depend on time and space, and so can survive death!   

Those two people walking in the park were communicating on a spiritual level, and their bodies were like machines going through their normal activities.  If through some tragic accident they were to be killed simultaneously, they would probably continue walking and talking, scarcely aware that anything had happened! 

We are on this earthly plane just for a time, to learn lessons that will stay with us forever. (See Heaven and Hell #432-444)

#32 What it is like to die     

A woman was talking about her own death.  “I’m not afraid of being dead.  I know that we must all die, and I know that God has a place for me in heaven.” 

“Well what are you afraid of?” came the response.   

“I’m afraid of the process of dying.  I see these people who lose their memory, can’t walk anymore, have great pain, – the process seems to be horrible.  That is what I am afraid of.” 

About twenty years later the woman died.  She was almost 90 years old, and still living alone without assistance.  Her mind was alert, and she had no significant pain.  She stood up to go and take a nap, an aneurism burst, and within minutes she was gone.  What was it like for her to die?  It seemed as if it was a pleasant process!  

Many people who have near death experiences report going through a time of great peace and inner calm, even those whose bodies have been writhing in agony.  The love and beauty that surround them in this near death experience are so great that they hesitate to return to this world.  Evidently dying is very enjoyable.  

Swedenborg was permitted to go through the process as if he was dying, so that he could describe it in some detail.  He found that the connection between body and spirit was related to the motions of the heart and lungs, and that when those motions ceased, the spirit was gently withdrawn from the body, and seemed to be lifted up.  He noticed that there were celestial angels present with him, sitting silently, and holding his mind in thoughts of eternal life.  At this time he was soothed by a most beautiful fragrance. After a while these celestial angels withdrew, and spiritual angels were present, eventually giving him the use of sight by rolling something like a veil from his eyes.   At first the light was a dim blue color.  When the light increased to the point where he could see again, he noticed these angels, and they told him that he was a spirit – a person living in the spiritual world.   

In his case, of course, he had not actually died, but went through the process so that he could tell us about it.  What he reported fits well into the near death experience reported by so many.  The main point is that the transition between the two world is very pleasant, a very sweet journey to continuing life. (See Heaven and Hell #445-452)

#33 After death we are in a perfect human form.        

When we look at another human being, do we just see a physical object?  Are we not seeing an expression of feelings and thoughts, purpose and meaning?  Are we not seeing something spiritual? 

Looking into a person’s eyes is like looking into their soul.  The eyes communicate so many things that are well beyond the merely physical level.  We see feelings, determination and intelligence and these are all spiritual qualities.  The whole face is an index of the mind, each part communicating something about the person.  The physical senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell all have a spiritual counterpart.   

So many parts of  the human body have become symbols for parts of the spirit – and so we have expressions like: a warm heart, being clear sighted, being deaf to what others say, not having much backbone, not being able to stomach something, being thick skinned, being able to stand on our own two feet, and so on.  

Swedenborg found that when people die they cast off the physical body, but then appear in a body in the spiritual world!  This body looks physical, but it is spiritual and obeys spiritual laws.  The body we seem to have in dreams is something like this.  But the spiritual body we have after death is much more real than anything we experience in dreams.  Its reality comes from the fact that it expresses who we really are.   We need not worry that after death we will be like wisps of smoke – insubstantial beings.  We will have a body that feels to us just as solid and real as our physical body does on earth.  Unlike the physical body, it grows stronger, more vibrant and younger over time, and it never dies. (See Heaven and Hell #453-460)

#34 The memory after death            

A woman was telling her friend about her life, and the friend, deeply moved by the story, said: “You ought to write a book.”   

In a way she was writing a book – it is called the Book of Life, and it is inscribed on the pages of our memory.  We all have such a book.  And it is written in indelible ink!   There are times, of course, when we would like to erase a page or two, but, in computer terms, this is a read-only file.  If we could change our memory, we would be in danger of losing the good memories along with the bad.  But what are the bad memories?  Often they involve events that have been some of our greatest teachers.  I have heard people describe horrendous chapters in their book of life, and then say, “and I wouldn’t change it.”  Why not?  Because it was part of their story, and contributed to their life in a significant way. 

As we age, our memory can become less reliable.  This might indicate that after death we would have no memory at all, but the fact is that although we lose our material possessions when we die, and though we lose our physical bodies, we do not lose our memories.   

Does this mean that we will forever know our telephone number, social security number, address and a thousand details that have no use after death?  The external facts are filed away and forgotten.  The quality of our life as built up through our earthly experiences is another level of memory, and this remains.  Will we be haunted by some memories we would rather forget? No, because in heaven we will live in the present, not in the past or the future.  Any time it is of value to have some fact of our life brought back, these memories can be accessed.  They are like items in a scrapbook, carefully filed away, and rarely looked at.   

All of this is according to the principle that nothing of importance is ever wasted, especially that unique story which is called our book of life.  (See Heaven and Hell #461-469)

#35 Who are we after death?       

A person was talking to her friend: “I know that I am going to die one day.  I feel healthy now, but I know that our life in this world is limited.  I wonder what I will be like after death.” 

“That’s easy” answered the friend.  “You will be the same person that you are now!  When you die you won’t change very much.” 

“How can you say that? Maybe I’ll be completely different.” 

“Some things may change, but your dominant interests and loves will not change.  If they did, you wouldn’t be you any more.  You would be someone else.  What makes you unique are the things you care about, especially that main love in your heart.  That is what makes you to be the person you are, and that does not change after death.” 

“Do you mean that I am stuck with my faults and imperfections?” 

“No, it simply means that the strongest love in your heart is what you really are.  After you put off the earthly body and its imperfections, you can also put off anything that does not fit with who you really are.” 

“So who will I be after I die?” 

“You will be yourself, only more so.” 

“So what kind of life is waiting for me after I die?” 

“The life that is waiting for you is your life – the life you are leading here and the life you want to continue to live once you get there.” (See Heaven and Hell #470-484)

#36 Our environment after death  

We can’t help wondering what heaven looks like.  The amazing thing is that people in a sense create their own environment in heaven.  What they see around them reflects what is going on inside them. This is somewhat true in the natural world.  Obviously we don’t create mountains just by thinking about them, or sunny weather, but we do create sunny moods in our heart.  Remember the cartoon where a particularly gloomy person walks around with a cloud over his head. Rain is pouring down directly on him and on no one else.  There are people who create that kind of atmosphere for themselves.   

Swedenborg gives some particular instances.  He says that in heaven people who have had a deep love of divine truth live on mountains with their homes sparkling with precious stones.  Those who love to keep on learning and developing their minds have homes surrounded by the most beautiful gardens whose plants are constantly changing.  People who attribute everything to God have homes with lots of crystal and diamonds.  

This is why attitudes are so important.  Positive attitudes create a positive environment.  Negative attitudes create negative surroundings.  This world is the place where we learn how to make our heaven beautiful.  How do we do this?  We do it by cultivating a love of God, love of other people, honesty, kindness and respect for truth.   When we work on developing these positive traits we create a beautiful world inside our own mind and begin work on creating a lovely and delightful environment for ourselves after death. (See Heaven and Hell #485-490)

#37 Our Facades     

People were preparing to go to a class reunion.  Some were very concerned about what they would look like and wondered what the other people would think of them after all those years.  They thought a lot about what clothes to wear for each function and rehearsed the things they planned to say.  They were fearful of the comparisons they expected as to who looked better, who had the best jobs, what people thought of their weight and even the car they were driving.  Of course, they were very interested to see what other people would be wearing and what kind of car they could afford.   

Others were preparing for the same class reunion.   They had not thought of their high school for years.  They were very much wrapped up in life as it is in the present.  They had been doing spiritual work, trying to rise above critical thoughts, making an effort to live in the present, looking beyond appearances with other people to think of the deeper aspects of their life.  They did their packing at the last minute, simply putting in their favorite clothes, hardly even thinking about whether other people would approve or not.  They thought that there was no point in trying to impress their classmates.  Their purpose in going to the reunion was to be with friends, share something of the reality of their life and learn something of the reality of the lives of others. 

When people die and go to the spiritual world there is also a kind of reunion.  Shortly after death people find themselves in a world much like the world they left behind.  They dress in a similar way, put on similar fronts and still attach importance to external things.  This is helpful, enabling them to make contact with others who may have died years before.  Usually husband and wife meet, even though one may have died decades before the other.  Being in this external state they can recognize each other and make some kind of contact.  Eventually they want to go a little deeper.  That happens when they put off the facades, and speak what is really on their minds and in their hearts.  Then couples can see if they are meant for each other or not.  Other relationships also change as true feelings are brought out. 

Like class reunions these meetings in the spiritual world have to begin on a fairly external level.  Later they can move closer to their true life.  Our facades are a temporary way of dealing with others.  When the facades are put off life continues on a deeper level.               (See Heaven and Hell #491-498)

 #38 Our deeper selves 

Class reunions can be artificial and frustrating.  They can also be very real and fascinating.  It all depends on how much the people are willing to be transparent with each other.   If a reunion lasts long enough, some people get tired of the games, throw off the masks and take the risk of saying just what they mean and doing just what they want to do.  If more and more people were to do this, it could lead to some interesting changes.  They might find that people they had thought of in high school as nerds were some of the people they were most drawn to now and those who were popular felt like strangers to them. 

We know how tiring it can be to live behind masks and how scary it is to be open and honest.  But in the long run, the masks create tremendous distance and loneliness. People who take the risk of being honest can find true bonds of understanding and love. 

The same is true after death.  People cannot wear masks forever.  It is a wise aspect of providence that when we die we not only put off our material possessions and our earthly bodies, we also put off many of the pretenses of life and become more openly the person we are inside.   

To some people this shift to openness is very refreshing.  It comes as a great relief to finally be yourself.  To others it might be terrifying.  But it must happen to all, because in the life after death we can no longer fake it.  Life is real and our true nature will come to light.  As Jesus said: “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.”  (Matthew 10:26, compare Luke 8:17, Mark 4:22)                            

We can begin the process of becoming more truly ourselves even here on earth.   It will make our life more real to others and to ourselves and will bring us closer to the qualities of heaven.  (See Heaven and Hell #499-511)

#39 Orientation        

If a person takes on a new job or enters a school for the first time, it is likely that there will be a period of orientation.  The person needs to be able to get around in this new location and understand the systems and rules that operate there.  It is similar after death.  Before arriving at their final home in heaven, newcomers need to have a time of instruction or orientation.   

There is one major difference between this kind of instruction and much of our education on earth.  When I was in High School I remember the groans that went up when we tried to tackle some new problem in mathematics.  “Why are we bothering to learn this?  I will never have any use for this in my life.”  Various things were said to quell the student revolt, to the effect that learning math was teaching them how to think and that these things would come in handy when they built a house.  But we could see that most of us would never build a house, and would forever forget the things we learned in High School math.   

Whether that is valid or not is debatable.  The scene shifts to Bible study with adults looking at some part of the Word.  The question could be raised again: “What is the use of learning this?”  One answer is that although much of the material is of no immediate practical value, some principles are so important that they need to become part of our life at once if they have not been so already.  The command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” is one of those principles.  This is not just some theory that can be learned and as quickly forgotten.  It is something to be incorporated into the fabric of a person’s life.   

When people learn after death they learn in this spirit.  The knowledge goes into action. It does not just go into the memory.  Knowing the truth does not bring people into heaven, but living the truth in a useful life does.  And, of course, only those who live the truth really know it.   (See Heaven and Hell #512-520)

#40 Why doesn’t God just let us all in? 

“God must be very cruel” the person said, with some bitterness. 

“Why is that?” was the answer. 

“He is all merciful, right? Then why doesn’t He use that mercy to open the gates of heaven to everyone?” 

“Get serious.  You remind me of the eager sophomore who kept pleading with the coach to let him play the game.  Finally the coach relented and let him on the field.  He was not only a hopeless player, he soon got injured because he had no idea how to protect himself.  The coach finally had to explain to him that it was not merciful to let him play when he wasn’t prepared, and couldn’t handle it.  God is the same way about heaven.” 

“But heaven is not a football game! I would love to be in heaven.  I’m ready.  Send me in.” 

“You think you are ready, but suppose you find that you don’t like it there?” 

“Wait a minute. Why would anybody think that heaven wasn’t nice?” 

“Because they are not ready for the life of heaven.  God does everything He can to prepare people for heaven, and to help them to love the qualities of heaven, but He does not open the gates to everyone because He knows that some people cannot survive in heaven.  They wouldn’t like it, and wouldn’t even be able to breathe in that atmosphere.” 

“Are you saying that God can’t MAKE people fit for heaven. He can do anything, right?” 

“Well, sort of.  God can do anything that is orderly.  He uses orderly means to help people prepare for heaven.  He is merciful and He is wise.” (See Heaven and Hell #521-527)

#41 It is not all that difficult to get to heaven    

Two people were talking about the fact that they were both getting older, and that eventually they would be leaving this world for the next.   

“I am a very imperfect person. You have to be so good to get into heaven.   I do not expect to be some high and wonderful angel. All I want is to scrape into the outer gates.” 

“I don’t understand.  It is not difficult to get into heaven.  And why would you want to just scrape in?  Why not go all the way to the highest level?” 

“I feel so unworthy and flawed.  I am afraid I won’t get into heaven at all.” 

“Look, we are all imperfect.  That isn’t the point.  The point is, do you love goodness?  Do you want to do the right thing?  That is all it takes to get into heaven.  Just try to live a good life.” 

“I do, I do, but I keep backsliding, and making mistakes.” 

“So long as you regret your mistakes you are fine.  The problem is with people who prefer to make mistakes, who really want to be evil. If you want to get into heaven, all you have to do is do the best you can – believe in God and try to do what is right.” 

“I thought that people had to suffer and deprive themselves if they wanted to get to heaven.  Some people reject worldly pleasures and eat the most basic foods.  They even inflict pain on themselves to make themselves worthy of heaven.” 

“I can just see an angel looking down on them and saying – What on earth are those people on earth doing?  Preparing for heaven?  How do they think they can prepare for heaven by being miserable?  Heaven is a place of great joy.  You don’t have to do great things to get into heaven.  Just live in the world, but keep an eye on heaven and try to bring God and spirituality into the things you do.  This is not difficult and does not require people to deprive themselves.”  (See Heaven and Hell #528-535)

Who is God?


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Who is God

1 What is Providence?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is Providence

The divine providence is the government of the Lord’s divine love and wisdom.
Divine Providence1 

I was once talking with a woman who shared her doubts about the existence of God.  I asked her if she saw evidence of love in the created universe.  She said that she saw it in the warmth of the sun, in the tender care animals give to their young, in human kindness and nurturing.  There is plenty of evidence of love in the universe.  I then asked if she saw evidence of wisdom in creation.  Yes, she saw it everywhere – in the intricate pattern of veins on a leaf, in the marvelous sequence from seed to plant to fruit and back to seeds again, in the marvels of the human body (she was a nurse).  She could see that everything in the universe is from love by means of wisdom.  I then explained that her doubts might be based on the fact that there are some things about life that seem very harsh, and even unloving.  Before attempting to square these bitter experiences with our picture of God, we need to remember that the divine love operates wisely.  Sometimes the love is evident.  Sometimes it is not.  There are aspects of life permitted by God out of wisdom, because in the long run they lead to some good end.  God operates according to principles of wisdom, or divine laws.  It is as if the divine love says: “I want to give the gift of life to others and share my love with them”, and the divine wisdom answers: “These are the principles to enable you to accomplish this.”  The Lord runs the universe from love, using wisdom, and this government is what is called “providence.”   
Implied in this is the idea that creation has a purpose, which means that the universe was created out of love.  The love behind the universe is infinite – and so is beyond any idea of love we can grasp.  Just as it is hard to imagine the intensity of the heat of the sun, so it is impossible to grasp the intensity of the love that resulted in creation.   It is not just some blind energy or force – some overpowering love.  That kind of love can be terrifying.  We tend to avoid people who are affectionate but have no common sense.   We can feel smothered by this kind of love.  It is reassuring to know that the divine love always acts intelligently, wisely and following principles of order.  We live in an orderly universe, at the heart of which is love.  When people doubt the existence of divine providence because they see pain and evil in the world, they are questioning how their experience can fit in with the idea of a loving God.  Remembering that love operates wisely, we can then ask a different question: how does life as we know it fit in with the idea of a loving and wise God?  Viewed more deeply, things that otherwise do not make sense might be evidence of a more profound love than we ever realized, and a greater wisdom than we suspected.   
Now a loving and wise God would be just as concerned about the unfolding of the universe as in its original creation.  It is a simple step to say that not only is creation an evidence of love operating wisely, but also that the way the universe runs reflects the same combination of love and wisdom.  God is concerned about the way the universe runs, and this ongoing care is what is called “divine providence”.

Divine love and wisdom go forth from the Lord as one.
The purpose of the divine providence is that every created thing,

 in general and in particular shall be a one;
and if it is not, that it shall become such.
                                                           Divine Providence 4, 7 

As I child I used to love tinkering with junk.  My father went to auction sales and brought back a seemingly unlimited supply.  Occasionally the treasure would include an old clock, and I would try my hand at fixing it.  Some of them were easy enough to take apart, and almost impossible to put back together, especially the ones with powerful springs that had to be wound tight before being inserted into their casings.  Sometimes I had a few pieces left over, and felt like just putting them anywhere inside the casing and closing it up.  But, of course, the clock did not work unless every piece was in its intended location.  On those rare occasions when I actually got a clock to work, it was as if the clock no more consisted of individual pieces.  It was one single entity.  It could only function if it was unified in that way.   
Some people have compared the universe to a clock.  This principle of divine providence says that the universe itself has to operate as a unity.  Where that unity is broken, divine providence works to have it restored. 
The same is true of the human body, with its trillions of cells, and numerous organs and parts.  When a person is injured in a car accident, some of the parts are damaged, some are separated from their special place, and the unity of the body is injured.  The medical experts work to sew the bits and pieces together, and the body immediately sets to work restoring that unity.  It repairs damaged tissue, re-grows sections of bone, flushes out dead or damaged cells, and the body is healed.  Interestingly, the word ‘heal’ means to make ‘whole’.  Also, the word ‘whole’ is related to the word ‘holy’.  All three words – heal – whole – holy – have the idea of oneness.  There is something sacred about having all of the elements of creation acting as one. 
This same principle applies to the human mind.  There are times when we feel fragmented, with our thoughts and feelings somehow disconnected, and we are in need of mental healing.  Again, it is a matter of restoring unity. 
In personal relationships, there is a similar need for unity.  When there is a distance between two people they feel uncomfortable, and might want to do what they can to restore the connection.  This is not always possible.  Where it can be achieved it can take a considerable effort, but it is worthwhile because the whole of providence strives for harmony and unity, not just in the universe as a vast structure of creation, but more importantly in the world of human beings and their thoughts, feelings and their relationships with each other.  
The heart of the prayer of Jesus, recorded in John 17, was a longing for unity: He prayed that “they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). 
This is the overriding purpose of providence, to preserve the universe, spiritual and material, as a unity.  Why is that?  Because, without unity, the universe could not exist.  The heaven of angels is unified under the all-embracing spirit of the love of God.  There is a spiritual connection between all believers called the ‘communion of saints’.  We need unity in our relationships, and where it does not exist, we need to work toward it.  It is vital to have integrity in our mind and heart.  The word ‘integrity’ means ‘wholeness’ or ‘oneness’.  As human beings, we tend to break the connections with each other, and even break the integrity within ourselves. The providence of God constantly works toward restoring unity: in creation, in relationships, and in each human heart.

The Lord did not create the universe for His own sake, but for the sake of those with whom He is to be in heaven; since spiritual love is such that it wants to give what is its own to others.  So far as it can do this, it is in its being, in its peace and in its blessedness. . . . From this it follows that the divine providence, arising from the divine love, has as its end a heaven consisting of people who have become angels, or who are in the process of becoming angels, upon whom the Lord is able to bestow all the blessings and joys that belong to love and wisdom, and to communicate these from Himself in them.  Divine Providence 27     

Creation arises from the divine energy that radiates love, and seeks to bring happiness to others outside of itself.  This is why God created the universe – so that beings would exist that could benefit from this love.  There is nothing selfish in God.   
In trying to grasp the immensity of this concept, I imagine a kind of dialogue with God.  This is put into ordinary language not to be irreverent, but to communicate this deep concept in a simpler form. 
We can imagine a conversation something like this: 
Interviewer:  God, we marvel at Your creation.  Why did You create such a vast and complex system?  What is the point of it all? 
God:  Because of the intensity of my love.  I care, and I want to share my love with others. 
Interviewer:  What does this do for the people You have created? 
God:  They are filled with happiness and bliss.  That is the point of creation – to spread happiness. 
Interviewer:  Unfortunately, some people find life really difficult.  They aren’t particularly happy. 
God:  I know, and it grieves me. I love it when people are happy, but I am willing for them to go through unhappy times if they lead to a deeper and more lasting happiness.  My main concern is not with people’s happiness on earth.  I am interested in their long-term happiness, and I mean really long-term.  I want them to be happy forever. 
Interviewer:  Don’t people have any say in the matter? 
God:  Of course they do.  I gave them freedom, and this means that I will not force happiness on them.  They have to learn how to find it.  They have to search for it.  
Interviewer:  Suppose they choose not to be happy? 
God:  I will let them have whatever life they choose, but I will always seek to guide them to a higher happiness than they would settle for by themselves. 
Interviewer:  Where do they find that happiness? 
God:  It’s my happiness, and so they find it by making a connection with Me.  As long as we are connected, I can share my joy with them, and make it full.   
Interviewer:  How do You do that? 
God:  By sharing myself with them, and by entering their hearts.  When I am in them, I can fill them with joy from the inside out.   
Interviewer:  Is that something people can only get after they die?   
God:  No, it’s available to them here on earth, but not to the same extent that they will experience after death. 

Love, joy and happiness are at the heart of the universe.  It is reassuring to know that we were created by a God who loves us totally (even with our faults) and wants to share His joy with us.   We might reject Him, but He will never reject us.  All He asks is that we learn about the path the leads to heaven, and walk that path to the best of our ability. 

No one becomes an angel, that is, comes into heaven, unless he or she carries angelic qualities from the world.   And in angelic qualities there is a knowledge of the way from walking in it, and a walking in the way through a knowledge of it.  Divine Providence 60 

Sometimes when I am walking along my favorite mountain trails I think about this passage.  How do you really know a trail?  From walking it.  How do you find a trail to follow?  By learning about its existence.   
Usually before I lead a hike in a new area, I study my growing collection of maps.  I want to know where to find the trailhead.  I look for the starting altitude and elevation gain or loss.  I want to know the trail’s total distance and something of the nature of the terrain.  Some of this information is in books.  Some I have to work out from a study of contour maps.   
By the time we set out on a new trail, I know something about it.  Without that knowledge, I would not know about the existence of the trail, and I might not be willing to walk on it.  But do I really know the trail?  Not at all.  There have been times when I made the mistake of describing a hike to potential hikers.  After I assured them it was easy, we all found that it was not easy at all.  Recently, we went along the “Mint Spring Trail”.  I told people that it is “relatively flat”.  How did I know that?  Well, I knew that the trail started at 7960 feet above sea level, and finished at exactly the same altitude.  What I did not know was how much ‘up and down’ took place between those two points.  It turned out to be a delightful trail, but more strenuous than I had originally thought.   From experiences like that, I have grown more cautious.  And I still make mistakes. I realize that I can learn many things about a trail from books and maps. 
But I don’t really know the trail until I have walked it. Walking gives me a completely different kind of knowledge than I could ever get from books or from other people.  There is only one way to learn a trail – and that is from walking it, not just once, but many times. 
The same is true of our spiritual journey.  We know about the life that leads to heaven from books – especially the Word.  This knowledge enables us to set off on a direction in life, and follow what we consider to be a right path.  We walk in that path from knowing about it.  As soon as we actually follow the steps that take us along that path, we know it in a totally different way. We know the path from walking it.  This is how we learn to become angels, even while living our earthly lives.   

There are laws of the divine providence that are unknown to people.
It is a law of the Divine Providence
that people should act in freedom according to reason.
Divine Providence 70, 71 

When people hear that God is all-powerful, they take this to mean that God can do anything.  However, that is not really true.  It is more accurate to say, “God can do anything He wants.”    
At once, this sets limits on the way God operates, because He chooses to follow His own laws of order. The divine love operates wisely to achieve its ends.  Getting to know something about these spiritual laws helps us to make sense out of our experience.   
Many people find it hard to reconcile life (as we know it) with the concept of a loving God.   The existences of war, disease, pain and disorder makes them wonder if God knows about human suffering.  If He does not know, then His knowledge is limited.  If He does know, but is unable to do anything to make things better, He is not all-powerful.  The alternative, that He has the power to improve things but chooses not to, is unthinkable.
It is so refreshing to think that there is order in the universe, and that the painful and difficult things of life can be understood once we gain some idea of the spiritual laws of creation. 
The study of science is based on the idea that there are laws that govern the way matter behaves.  Continuing developments in science assume that there are many laws not yet known, but that can be discovered.  If someone were to convince us that the universe is a totally chaotic system without any laws, we would consider abandoning science altogether.  What is the point of studying something that can never be understood? 
It is similar with our efforts to understand life.  If someone were to convince us that there is no order to the course of human life, we would abandon any effort to understand God, and might eventually deny God altogether. 
There are spiritual laws.  We can learn about these laws, and in doing so, we can make better sense out of life. 
The first law governing how God deals with humans is that people should act in freedom according to reason.  We have been created with two marvelous faculties – the ability to love and the ability to think.  The ability to love gives us freedom, and the ability to think is what we call reason. 
God works with us having total respect for these two faculties.  This involves allowing people to make mistakes and grow from their mistakes.  It also involves allowing people to think for themselves.  Only the things that we do freely and with some understanding become part of our character. In all that God does with us, leading us through life to our spiritual home, these two faculties are carefully protected.   
Some say that the gift of freedom is too dangerous.  People can and do misuse their freedom.  But imagine if that gift were taken away!  If we had no freedom, we would have no interest in life, goals, or anything else that we really cared about, since love and freedom go hand-in-hand.  Since God wanted to share love with us, He gave us the ability to feel love and respond to it.  This also means that He gave us the freedom to do with life as we will.  It might seem like a terrible risk on God’s part.  But it was a risk worth taking, because it opens for us the possibility of a free and loving enjoyment of life.  

People ought to put away evil things from the external level of their life, as if of themselves.  Then the Lord cleanses them from the cravings for evil on the internal level, and from the evils themselves on the external level.
  Divine Providence 118, 119 

The word evil covers the character defects that are harmful to ourselves or to others.  It includes the aspects of our lives that we would like to change.  Suppose a person has a problem with hatred and contempt for other people, and wants to change.  How is that change going to happen?  Sometimes we think that if we only pray to God, He will somehow wipe problematic things away in an instant.  However, we find that it is not as simple as that.  Suppose one person has a problem with deceit, and still another is troubled with lust. What are they to do about it? 
The first step is to acknowledge that these things are a problem.  Most of us find difficulty with that.  We can see things in others that need to be changed, but are not so clear about the faults within ourselves. 
Once the problem is seen, the question still remains: What can we do about it?  We might change our behavior.  Perhaps we could talk more gently and kindly, even though we are seething with anger inside.  Maybe we could try to be more honest.  We might even try to clean up our lusts, but chances are that we would never resolve the problem. 
Once I was with a group of children at the beach, and the children became fascinated with the grasses that grew out of the sand dunes. One child suggested that we dig down until we got to the base of the roots.  After several hours of digging, we had to give up.  We never did trace the roots all the way back to their beginnings.   
If we try to trace back the sources of our personality problems, we would have an even more difficult search.  Some of us spend years in therapy, and never get to the root of our problems.  This therapy can be immensely valuable, and help us get important insights into our behavior, but of itself, it does not go to the core of the problems, since the core is really beyond our conscious knowledge. What are we to do then? 
The answer is very simple.  In the case of the grass growing in the sand dunes, if we cut off the grass to the depth we could trace, and did so repeatedly, eventually the grass would die back.  This illustrates a law of spiritual life.  We do not have to go back into the deepest aspects of our spiritual life to find the source of the harmful things in ourselves.  We simply have to deal with the things we notice in our conscious minds and in our actions. If we clean up our behavior, and check the conscious thoughts that we see to be negative, the Lord will weaken and finally remove the inner cravings for those negative things. 
We need to use our freedom and our ability to reason (protected by the first law of providence) to deal with as many of our shortcomings and problems as come into our awareness. As we do so, the Lord works an inner miracle, removing the longings which lie deeper than we could ever find.  Eventually those negative things become less and less a part of our lives, leaving more room for what is positive. 

It is impossible to force people to think what they are not willing to think, and to will what their thought forbids them to will, thus to believe what they do not believe and certainly what they are unwilling to believe.  It is impossible to force people to love what they do not love, and certainly what they are unwilling to love because the spirit of people or their mind is in full liberty of thinking, willing, believing and loving.  Divine Providence 129  
When our first child was born, I soon noticed that although he had a tiny little body, he had a fully developed will.  We soon learned that we had to take into account his desires and work with them.  We found the same with all of our children.  We could lead them, encourage them and strongly suggest things to them, but we could not force them.  
This is in keeping with the law of divine providence related to people not being forced in spiritual matters.  A look at the history of various denominations in the Christian world shows that this law has not been well understood in the past. Priests and ministers try to force people to be good. They use threats and warnings about hell fire and damnation.  Do those threats to any good? They may be successful to some extent in getting people to follow the customs of the church, but at the same time, they generate resentment and rebellion.   
It may be possible to force people to do certain things, but we cannot force them to feel or to love.  I learned recently that the Nazi Army in World War Two was not to be feared as much as we might have thought.  Many of the artillery shells were duds, and many of their soldiers surrendered at the slightest opportunity.  Why?  Because slave laborers made the weapons, and many of the soldiers were non-Germans who were forced into military service by the threat of death.  They wore the uniform, and they did a minimum of fighting, but their hearts were not in it, and they seriously weakened the German Army. 
There are many examples in history of the resilience of the human spirit.  The Romans killed countless Christian martyrs, but the threat of death was powerless against their spiritual beliefs.  Joan of Arc was burned alive, but she refused to renounce her visions.  The human spirit insists on being free, and this freedom is protected by God as our most precious gift.   
In the olden days, people were practically compelled to go to church.  Imagine what those services were like!  Forced worship is external, dead, lifeless and sad.  Free worship is spiritual, living, clear and joyful.  By allowing people to worship (or not), we are taking a risk that people might choose something else.  But we are also opening the possibility of a far more vibrant and living worship than is possible under some system of coercion. 
Anything that destroys freedom or reason is harmful to people’s spiritual development.  Ignorance is also a barrier to spiritual growth.  How can a person progress without knowing something of the nature of spiritual life and how to achieve spirituality? 
In marriage, two equal people enter into a relationship in which neither one is boss of the other.  Everything they do to build the relationship depends on the principle that people can only be led in freedom and according to reason.  Some people prefer a marriage where one is boss and the other humbly complies, but whatever that is, it is not a true partnership. 
Amazingly, although pressure from other people may be harmful to our spiritual state, the pressure we put on ourselves is a sign of health and freedom.  I often think of this when I see people jogging on a cold November morning.  Part of them would love to be in bed.  However, another part gives an internal command that says, “get up and get moving!”  A person is most free when he or she is doing something from internal compulsion.

It is a law of the divine providence
that people should be led and taught by the Lord from heaven
by means of the Word and by means of doctrine and preaching from the Word,
and this to all appearance as if by themselvesDivine Providence 154 

Occasionally you hear people complain about the way God runs the universe.  Could we do it any better?  Imagine that you were God and had the care of a small group of people.  You realize that to leave them in freedom, they must not be consciously aware of your existence.  As God, you want to lead and teach that group.  How would you do it?   
Let’s take the two tasks separately.  You realize that the leading would have to be done very carefully, so gently that the group does not notice it.  When we want our children to behave, we talk to them, give them orders, make conditions, threaten them, set up consequences for their actions, and so on.  However, as God, you would not be allowed to use any of those human means.  What you would have instead is the ability to flow into the heart of the people, activating various feelings and desires.  You want the people to eat, so you provide an appetite for food.  You want them to learn, so you create curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. You want them to care for their children, and so you plant a love for children in their hearts.  So long as you work through these appetites and affections, you can lead them without their realizing it.  
Suppose they followed other appetites, such as the desire for revenge.  What would you do then?  You would have to teach them the difference between right and wrong.  How can you teach if you are not allowed to make your presence known?  You would need to have messengers, and prophets.  You would need to be able to communicate indirectly through written revelation.   
Of course, people can read the Bible without understanding it.  They can also read it and twist its meaning to suit their own ends.  Just providing the Bible is not enough.  It is one thing to read the Word of God.  It is another thing to understand it.  This is where another divine power comes in – specifically, the ability to turn a light on inside a person’s mind. 
This explains how it is that we can be reading the Word, at times, and not getting much out of it.  At another time, we might find ourselves reading the very same passages, and finding them full of meaning.  Some people study a part of Scripture, and find that it doesn’t make sense to them.  Later they might hear a discussion or a sermon on the same text, and experience that internal sight.  A light goes on inside them.  They might even say: “Oh, now I see.” That internal sight does not come from the preacher or the people who are talking.  It is a gift from the Lord, who has the power to enlighten the mind. 
Obviously, if we are to be led and taught by the Lord, we need to cooperate.  We respond to the desire to do the right thing, which glows inside our heart.  We ponder and reflect on the meaning of life.  We search for an understanding of the Lord’s will.  In all of this, God is leading and teaching us – leading by flowing into our interests, and teaching by enlightening our minds.  In all of this, it seems as if we are making our own choices.  It appears that it is from our own ideas to search for the truth. The reality is that we are being led and taught.  
The Lord has promised that those who seek Him will find Him, especially as they read the pages of the Word with enlightenment.  Those who take on this search are not only helping themselves.  By bringing light and warmth into the world, others also benefit. 

People are allowed to see the divine providence in the back but not in the face. 
Also they are allowed to see it when they are in a spiritual state of mind,
but not when in a natural one. Divine Providence 187 

Imagine yourself in some science fiction situation where you are told that you can be transported into the future.  You have a little time to think it over.  At first, you think how wonderful it would be.  You would have the answers to so many questions:  Did I take that job?  Did I marry that person, or was it someone else?  Did I move to some new area, or stay put?  Then you might ask yourself: Do I want to know the answers to those questions?  Do I really want to know the details of my life ahead of time?  If I knew certain things, wouldn’t that change the way I behave in the present?  For example, if I learned that I would not be marrying the person I am now dating, wouldn’t that have an immediate impact on our relationship?   
Now imagine that you decide to take the risk.  You allow yourself to be transported into the future, and you find, to your horror, that your parents were killed in a car crash sometime between the present and that future time.  Wouldn’t you want to go back to the present, and immediately set to work to make sure that your parents never traveled in a car?  How could you avoid trying to rewrite the story of their lives, and of your own?  Then you stop to think: If I go back and change the story of my life so that the future is different, what will that do to the lives of other people?   
This little exercise might convince you that it is perfect that God keeps us in the dark about how providence is operating in the present moment.  It is wonderful that He operates with great care so as to preserve our freedom and reason. 
Knowing every step of providence as it happens would be like watching a suspense movie for the fifteenth time.  You know every twist and turn of the plot.  You are not as tense as you were the first time you saw it, and you are not as involved in the story.  If we knew precisely how God was working with us in the present and exactly where we are being led in the future, doesn’t it seem that our own present choices and future planning would make no difference? 
Looking back is a very different matter.  It is very safe to review the past with the question, How did providence help me?  I believe that most people could easily come up with a list of ways in which God led them.  They could relate certain events that seemed to be accidents, and yet had profound effects on their lives.  They might be able to identify some time in their lives in which a powerful thought came to mind (seemingly from nowhere), which led them along a brand new course of growth.  I have talked with people who went through a very depressed and discouraged time, and then, for no obvious reason, experienced a change of mood.  They found themselves with new hope for the future, and afterward found that their lives did improve.   
To look back wisely, we need to think not in terms of worldly success or physical health.  We need to see our lives in terms of our spiritual development.  In doing that, we are looking at our lives from a spiritual point of view. 
People who have near death experiences often report having a life review.  In a few moments, they see the whole course of their lives, and many see very clearly how God had been leading them, even through times when it seemed as if God was totally absent.  At the turn of the year, people sometimes review the course of the past twelve months so that they can give thanks to the providence of God.  We may not be able to see God’s face or His workings in the future, but we can, at times, see His workings in the past, and rejoice in His wise providence.  

Every change and variation in the state of the human mind produces some change and variation in the series of things in the present, and so in the things that follow. . . .  It is like an arrow shot from a bow, which, if it should depart in the least at its start from the line of aim, would go far wide of the mark at a distance of a thousand paces or more.  This is how it would be if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment.  Divine Providence 202 

Chess is a nerve-wracking game.  It is not enough to make one good move.  You have to anticipate one of several moves your opponent might make, and think of possible responses to each one of them, and that is just looking one move ahead.  No player can anticipate all the possible moves an opponent will make through an entire game.  This situation involves only two people for a very limited time.  Imagine if you tried to plan all the moves of your life ahead of time!  You would soon throw your hands up in despair.  You cannot predict what one person will do, let alone the many people you have contact with in a typical week. 
Some students like to plan their academic careers.  It is wonderful to see people lay out projects that will take years to complete.  Some of them will follow the path they have set out for themselves.  Most will find that some unforeseen circumstance arises that changes everything. 
As the quotation from Divine Providence suggests, the slightest error in the original aim of an arrow will result in a huge error at the target.  This is where divine providence comes in.  Using our finest reason and best-laid plans, we are not capable of anticipating every possibility in the future.  It is amazing to think that the divine providence can do just that.   
Rather than try to figure this point out rationally, I find that I only have to look at the sequence of events in my own life to notice marvelous ways in which I am being led.  An example of this occurred recently, when someone missed an appointment.  Rather than worry about it, I relaxed.  A few moments later, someone else just happened to walk in the door hoping to find me free.  The timing was perfect, and was not at all what I had expected.  When I lay out a plan for the coming week, I realize that some things will take place as anticipated.  Others will just fall into place at exactly the right time.  Having observed this for many years, I find myself content, knowing two things: 1) I cannot possibly plan every detail of my life, and 2) God is still in charge.  All I have to do is to use my mind and heart to the best of my ability, resist negativity and lies, and let providence do its work.   
There is one weakness with the bow and arrow illustration.  Once the arrow leaves the bow, it continues on its course with very little to alter it.  There may be a puff of wind, it may deflect off of a branch, but once the arrow has been sent on its way, these changes are beyond the control of the archer.  It seems that the divine providence does not just launch us into life with an infinitely perfect aim.  It is more a case of the divine providence working with us every moment, subtly guiding us along the way, and making adjustments for our errors so that we can get back on course. 
The modern day arrow is something like that.  When a rocket is sent into space, great care is taken to launch it in the right direction, at the right time and speed.  There are also rocket thrusters and other means of making corrections along the route.  Without this capability, it would be impossible to land a vehicle at a precise point on a distant planet. 
In terms of our spiritual life, we cannot know the course of future events with all of their complexities.  All we need to know is that it is important for us to do our best in the present moment, resisting the negative, and attempting with all of our power to do what is right.  The Lord will do the rest.  This is the way we cooperate with the divine providence.  

The divine providence looks to eternal things. 
It looks to temporal things only to the extent that they agree with eternal things. 
Divine Providence 214 

Suppose a couple had a baby and a Fairy Godmother showed up explaining that she could give one blessing to the child.  “I can give your child wealth, or I can give it happiness, but I cannot give both.”  What would the couple choose for their child?  I think most parents would choose happiness. 
We have all heard stories of people whose lives were ruined by money.  The love of money is even called the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). 
In spite of this, many people get obsessed with the idea of gaining more money, as if their happiness depended on it.   People with that kind of attitude think that a windfall of money is proof of the existence of God.  The opposite side of this, obviously, is that a lack of money would be evidence that God does not exist, or does not care. 
The reality is that money is not high on the list of God’s priorities.  Of course God wants to give good gifts to His children.  Our happiness is a high priority in the divine plan.  The angels have an abundance of good and beautiful things.  Having wealth in this material world is not bad, unless it is at the expense of more valuable things.  If, for example, a person acted contrary to conscience and integrity in order to gain money, the money would become a curse instead of a blessing, since the cost of gaining it was so high.   
God wants to bestow blessings on us.  The test of whether riches and the finer things of life are blessings or not lies not in their inherent value, but in what they do for our eternal spiritual welfare. If a person ends up among the blessed in heaven, then whatever income he or she enjoyed on earth was somehow right and good.  If a person ends up in another place, those external things may have been curses.  
There is an old saying: “Redeem and lift.”  It means that, for some people, finding redemption means also finding a better standard of living.  Although not always the case, one would expect that people who are living a more spiritual life would also pay more attention to living with integrity in their work and in their relationships.  It would follow that they would become more desirable employees (unless they have a spiritual objection to the work they are doing or the morality of the firm for which they work, in which case they would probably seek employment elsewhere).  A spiritual person is more likely to pay attention to living a good and healthy life than one who is not very spiritual.   
Divine providence has very clear priorities.  The number one concern is the eternal happiness of people.  External things like wealth, fame, status, and possessions are of much less interest. 
We can align our priorities in the same way.  We can pay the most attention to the wealth of the spirit.  We can acquire good habits and strong virtues.  We can seek the kingdom of God.  If we do so, as Jesus indicated, all these other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).  Then, because these external things are in their place, they are more likely to benefit us.   

People are allowed to go deeply into the true things of faith
and the good things of charity only to the extent
that they can be kept in them until the end of their livesDivine Providence 221 

Looking back on my spiritual journey, I notice times when my life went through a profound change for the better.  I can remember being worried that I would somehow lose the progress I had made.  Some of the initial euphoria associated with change has worn off, but it seems as if there has been a significant shift.  I have not gone back to the person I was before.   
One of our great fears about spiritual growth is the possibility of backsliding.  If we could enter deeply into a spiritual path, and then later turn around and deny everything that we had learned, our last state would be worse than our first.  Some people are hesitant about spiritual growth for this very reason.  As the saying goes, when ‘ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’.  Or, as Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin” (John 9:41). 
Once the spiritual process starts, there is not supposed to be any turning back.  This is the principle of the ratchet.  A ratchet is designed to keep things going in one direction.  The escapement mechanism in a watch ensures that time will not go backward.  The ratchets on the trams in San Francisco are there to keep to cars from drifting back down those long and steep hills.  Winches have ratchets on them to keep them from slipping back.   
Since ratchets are so important in these mechanical devices, it would make sense that there is a kind of divine ratchet to prevent us from slipping back in the vital upward path of spiritual growth. 
The Lord provides a spiritual safety net – a kind of basic protection that prevents people from going backwards spiritually.  It works very simply.  People are allowed to progress spiritually only according to special laws.  They may have times in which their thoughts soar to great heights, but they are not able to live up to these new thoughts.  In such times, they seem to fall back in their beliefs.  On the emotional side, they may have moments of great inspiration and peace which they do not understand and cannot yet incorporate into their lives.  These moments of inspiration can be lost.  If a person is to have a permanent step forward, all aspects of the mind need to work together in supporting each other, so that the change is gradual, and once made, is permanent.  This is possible when thoughts and feelings move forward together.  
We need to take our spiritual journey seriously and at a gradual pace.  We do not want to progress beyond our ability to sustain whatever growth we may achieve.  We do not want to slide back.  God watches over us to make sure that this does not happen. At times, we might appear to slide back, when our forward movement is still being protected. This is one of the great principles of the workings of providence.  

The laws of permission are also laws of the divine providenceDivine Providence 234 

Two people were talking about life.  One was having considerable difficulty reconciling a belief in God with human experience. 
“If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world?  How can you believe in God when you read about little babies dying of Aids?”  The questions went on and on. 
The friend said: “Think of your own life.  There are things that you are responsible for as a teacher.  Why is it that you let some of the students cheat?” 
“I don’t let them cheat.” 
“Well, you don’t exactly let them, but you know it happens.  Why don’t you create a situation in which cheating is totally impossible?” 
“Look, this is a school, not a jail, in spite of what the students say. I am not willing to teach in a system that is so rigid that the students can’t make mistakes.” 
“So you see, what you want to provide for the students is a good learning experience.  And you tolerate some of the abuses.  There is a big difference between what you want and what you tolerate.  Why can’t it be the same with God?” 
“Talk about a big difference – there is an enormous difference between having children that goof off from time to time, and the terrible wars, famines, diseases and evils that affect the human race.” 
“Admittedly, the scale is very different but the principle is the same.  God values human freedom so much that He tolerates the abuse of that freedom.  God does not love evil, but is willing to allow people to do harmful things rather than make their lives so controlled that they can only do good.” 
“You make it sound as if God is so determined to allow people to be free, that He allows a situation where people hurt each other.  What about the victims of crime, doesn’t God care for them?” 
“God cares for the victim and the criminal, and is able to turn any situation to some good end.  Suffering has a part to play in our spiritual growth.” 
“Well, I still wish that I lived in a world without so much evil in it.” 
“Suppose you found a perfect world.  Wouldn’t you be afraid to be part of that world?” 
“Why would I be afraid of that?” 
“Do you consider yourself to be without any faults?  Since you are imperfect, you would spoil a perfect world if you entered it.  Maybe the deeper question is ‘Why does God permit evil to exist in your own heart – you who are so concerned about evil in the world?’” 
“Now wait a minute, I am not that bad.” 
“I didn’t say that you were bad, just that you were imperfect.  Why do you think that God allows you to make mistakes?” 
“I would hate to live in a world where I was so controlled that I couldn’t make mistakes.”  
“Then you see – God permits your mistakes, and provides for your spiritual growth.  These are the two sides of the divine providence. And the laws that govern what the Lord provides are the same laws as the ones that deal with what the Lord permits.  This is the beautiful consistency of the way God operates.”  

People are allowed to think about evil things, even to the point of intending to do them. 
This is so that the evils may be removed.  Divine Providence 283 

A mother was talking to me about her child.  “I can’t understand it,” she said, “we have never lied to him, or told him any falsehoods, but one day we noticed that he was lying to us!  Where did he learn that?”
The answer was very simple.  He didn’t learn from anyone but himself.  It is similar with cruelty in children.  Where do they get their cruelty?  Is it from other people being cruel to them?  No, not necessarily.  These negative qualities arise out of self-centeredness.   A child thinking only of self will eventually learn to lie to get away with things, even if it involves getting someone else in trouble.  A child operating out of selfishness will lash out at anyone who is seen as a threat to self.   
This does not mean that children are born evil.  In a sense, we are born neither evil nor good.  Our first experiences of life are good, since tiny babies are in the presence of angels in a very special way, and are impressed with the goodness of the angels.  Eventually the self-centeredness of the child will assert itself, and the child will have times of cruelty and deceitfulness.  In adult life, we have to come to the point where we see this aspect of our lower self very clearly. 
There was a girl who grew up to be a very nice young lady.  Through the efforts of parents and teachers, she had become very polite and hard working.  Everything was seemingly perfect about her except for a tendency to feel holier than other people.  She thought that she was better than her friends.  At times, she despised others in comparison with herself.  Then she found herself in a situation where she felt threatened.  She noticed herself lying – in a very polite way – but it was still lying.  She also found herself being really hurtful toward some other people.  This all came as a great shock.  She went to a trusted friend and said, “I don’t know what came over me.  I noticed myself being really catty and cruel to my parents.  I found myself cheating in my work.  Something is terribly wrong.” 
The friend said, “Welcome to the human race. You are just discovering that you have in you all of the things that you so despise in other people.  This discovery is not to make you give up and throw in the towel.  It is to make you realize that you have work to do in your spiritual growth.” 
That example involves a person who seemed to be very good.  The principle holds equally well with people whose lives are obviously in a state of disorder.  Consider the drug addict who is stealing in order to support his habit, who is neglecting spouse, family and friends, who is totally irresponsible at work and whose life is a mess.  Some people in that condition can go through years of denial.  They seem to be totally blind to the problem, until things get so bad that they can’t escape it any more.  It is to be hoped that they wake up some day and realize how destructive, selfish and out of control their life has become.  Once they have seen this, they can begin to do something about it.  The initial motivation might be fear of imprisonment or even death.  A later motivation might be that they see the importance of living a moral and ultimately a spiritual life.  Whatever the motive, one needs to see that there is a problem and must have a strong incentive to change.  
It seems as if we all have to go through this kind of awakening, to the point where we come face to face with our own darker side.  Why does providence allow this?  So that we can take responsibility in dealing with our character defects. 
Our first motivation for cleaning up our act might be fear.  It could be a fear of being discovered, a fear of punishment, or even a fear of hell.  Later fear may be replaced by love.  We want to improve the quality of our inner life because we love others and would not want to hurt them, and we love ourselves, and want the best for ourselves.  This spiritual progress can only take place after some of these negative parts of ourselves have come into our awareness.  We can seem them in our thought patterns.  We can see them in our negative behavior or unkind words.  Eventually, we have to see these things, and realize that it is up to us to do something about them.   As the saying goes, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.  It would be more accurate to say, “There go I, and it is by the grace of God that I have come to realize it.  Now I can do something about it.”  

The divine providence is just as much with evil people as with good ones.  Divine Providence 285 

Two people were discussing the Lord’s care over our lives.  One said: 
It feels good to know that if I try to do the right thing, providence will look over me. 
The friend said: What if you go astray?  Will providence look after you then? 
I suppose not. 
If not, what chance would you have of getting back on the right road?  Providence is not just for good people.  It is for everyone. 
Does that mean I might as well be bad? 
No.  The way providence operates is very different with the good and the bad. Let me give you an example.  Consider the laws of nature; who are they for? 
Well obviously, they are for everybody. 
Right.  So what is the difference in the way those laws work with different kinds of people?   
Well, a person who defies the laws of nature by – let’s say – a continual abuse of the body, will eventually end up in hospital or in the morgue. 
That’s right.  These are the same laws that affect the life of a health- conscious person.  But in the one case, the person understands the rules and works with them.  In the other, the person ignores the rules and has to face certain consequences.  These consequences could become a means of helping the person to take more responsibility for his own health. 
 Are you saying, then, that because I try to follow the rules I don’t get any special favors?   
God grants complete favor to everyone, so He can’t give more to one than to another.  It’s just that certain people appreciate the favors more.  Your life will definitely be better if you work with providence rather than work against it. People who live according to the order of creation receive more from life and from God.  But whatever you do, the providence of God will always be with you.   

If people believed, as is the truth, that all goodness and truth are from the Lord and all evil and falsity are from hell, they would not appropriate goodness to themselves and make it meritorious, nor appropriate evil to themselves and make themselves guilty of it.
Divine Providence 320 

A beautiful goblet can hold healthy liquids.  The same goblet can contain poison.  Would you say that a goblet containing nourishment is a “good” goblet, and one containing poison is an “evil” one?  The goblet is neither good nor bad.  It is just a vessel.  In a similar way, human beings are not life; we are vessels that receive life.  Admittedly, the way life flows into us, activating us and working through us, is more complex than the way a liquid rests in a vessel.  In both cases, the vessel is distinct from what it contains. 
If human beings could only grasp the concept that we are vessels of life, we would avoid most of life’s great pitfalls.  Two great ones are false pride and guilt. 
False pride involves taking credit for something that is not really your own doing.  If someone complements you by saying that “you have beautiful eyes”, you might feel a flush of pride.  It is fine that you have beautiful eyes.  Can you take credit for the way your eyes look?  I hardly think so! 
There is a difference between physical characteristics and the way life and talents are used.  Suppose you do a kind, loving and wise deed for someone else.  When you are thanked, don’t you feel a certain humility?  Don’t you feel that it was a privilege to be able to do something nice, but that you can’t really take credit for it?  Sometimes we can be very conscious that God does wonderful things through us.  We behave as if we act on our own, but we know deep inside that we have been led to act wisely, and say loving things by a power higher than ourselves.  So long as we keep that in mind, we will not be able to fall into the trap of false pride? 
Often when people do kind things, they resist being thanked.  They might say, “It was nothing,” or “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”  Occasionally you even hear people say, “God inspired me to do that.”  This last phrase might sound a little pompous, and we might hesitate to put our thought into those kinds of words, but still the idea might be very much in our hearts – “thank you, Lord, for working through me.” 
The other pitfall is guilt.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get rid of guilt feelings in life?  Wouldn’t it be great to accept the fact that at times we say and do cruel things, without wallowing in self-rejection because of it?   
Suppose we took the same attitude with guilt as we do with pride, but in this case we say, “the devil made me do it.”  I realize that the comment has been made into a great joke, so much so that it is hard to use the expression with a straight face.  However, the Bible does use expressions about the devil putting an evil thought into someone’s heart.  If good forces can operate through us, so can evil ones.  We cannot take credit for the good, or blame for the evil.  
It is possible for a person to be horrified at the mean and hateful thoughts that come into the mind, and even more so when they express themselves in words.  It is possible for a person to do some harmful and destructive act, and feel deep remorse.  It is healthy spiritually, to return repeatedly to the idea that we are vessels of life, and this means that both positive and negative forces can work through us.   
Does this mean that we should never take responsibility for our deeds and actions?  Does this mean that we should never attempt to do what is good, or say what is right?  No.  We need to behave as if we are fully responsible for our actions, keeping in mind that there are always powerful forces working through us.  Knowing this, we strive to increase the amount of good things operating through us, and reduce the negative. 
We are like goblets, although we are not the healthy drink or poison that the goblet contains.  We may not be the healthy drink or the poison, but of course we prefer to have our life mostly contain healthy things.  We want to reduce the poison.  Just knowing that we are vessels gives us power to do this.  For if we remember that we are only vessels, we can say, “I choose to receive only what is good.”  We could not do this if we were the nectar, or if we were the poison. 

Everyone was created to live in a state of blessedness to eternity….The One who wills that people should live to eternity also wills that they should live in a state of blessedness.  What would eternal life be without that?  All love desires the good of another. The love of parents desires the good of their children.  The love of bridegroom and husband desires the good of his bride and wife.  And friendship’s love desires the good of friends.  Why not, then, the divine love?  And what else is this good but delight?  And what is divine good, but eternal blessedness?…Thus everyone was created to come into heaven.  This is the purpose of creation.  Divine Providence 324:6,7 

We like the idea of heaven, even if we may not know much about it.  What about the other possibility?  Most of us prefer not to think about hell, and certainly would not like the prospect of ending up there.  We might even wonder why some people go to one place and other people go to the other place.  Over four hundred years ago, John Calvin advanced the idea that God decides ahead of time who is going to heaven and who to hell.  According to Calvin, a person’s fate is determined before birth.  This is the idea that God decides ahead of time who is going to heaven and who to hell.  Obviously, this implies that people have no choice.  Most people find this idea utterly repugnant!  They cannot imagine how a loving God could choose to condemn some people to hell.  They find it hard to believe that human beings have absolutely no choice in their spiritual life. 
The book, Divine Providence, contains a much more positive teaching. It is very simple.  People are indeed predestined, and they are all predestined to heaven  Every human being born is destined for heaven.  This is because it is the nature of the divine love to give of itself to others, and to bless them.  The only destiny God has for us is a life of happiness in heaven. 
Does this mean that everyone goes to heaven?  Sadly, no.  It is possible for people to reject that destiny.  Not everyone accepts the gift of eternal happiness.  Although God has created a place for each one of us in heaven, it is up to us to accept that gift or reject it.  This gives each one of us a task in life – the task of choosing heaven.  It involves a good deal of spiritual work.  The main point is that heaven is an attainable goal, because our place in heaven is already prepared for us.  God wants us to be near Him, embraced by His love. It is not as if we have to convince a reluctant God that we are fit for heaven.  We simply have to come to value the heaven already destined for us, and take responsibility to do our part in preparing for it.   
Why is it that some people get involved in a life that is selfish, grasping and evil?  Why choose a life that is other than the life of heaven?  A simple answer is that these people become so attached to the pleasures of material possessions, and so wrapped up in their own selfishness, that they block out the possibility of enjoying life on a deeper level.  In a sense, one could say that they get their reward.  They obtain the happiness they are looking for.  Unfortunately, it is much less than the supreme happiness willed for them by God. 
Talking to the descendants of Israel, Moses put it this way:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.  (Deuteronomy 30: 19,20) 


The operation of the divine providence for the salvation of people
begins at their birth and continues until the end of their life
and afterwards to eternity.  Divine Providence 332 

In front of the architect was an empty field.  As he stared at the space, he could see a magnificent edifice rising over the plain.  He looked for hours and hours at this spot, thinking of one detail after another.  He could picture the great tower, with tall stained glass windows letting in a rich and varied pattern of color.  He could see the nave, with its pillars and pews, leading up to the high altar.  He had an idea of the composition of the floor, the placement of the organ, and could hear in his head its magnificent chords echoing through the building. 
For months he sketched and planned.  He needed to estimate very carefully how much material to order, from the sandstone blocks down to the hardware for the doors.  Gradually the building took shape on his drawing table, with the general features of the cathedral, down to the last details.   
After the many drawings were complete, it was necessary to work with suppliers and builders to make sure that all of the elements would be there, and at the right time.  It would be no use to have the foundation materials arrive after the walls started to go up.  The stained glass could not go into place until just the right moment, to reduce the risk of breakage.  He was a very fussy architect, and paid attention to every aspect of the plan.   
Soon a small army of workers was on the site, with supervisors going back to the plans to make sure that everything was done according to specifications.  Inspectors checked everything to make sure that the edifice would stand up to the rigors of weather and usage. 
Walking around the site, the architect would see stone masons cutting out pieces of stone, and he knew exactly where each one was to go.  Wood carvers were working on items that would be brought into place once everything was ready.   
When all was finished, the architect could look at the field now dominated by the beautiful structure that had begun in his mind.  
The building up of a heaven of angels from the human race is similar in many ways, though the structure is far more complex, and is designed not just for a few centuries, but forever.  The way God watches over the process and guides every step of the way is called ‘divine providence’.  The building materials are not stone, wood and glass, but human beings with a multitude of talents and abilities.  These materials are shaped not by some physical tool, but by the very process of life, beginning with birth and continuing through all of its phases.   
In the case of the cathedral, the attention to detail is a reflection of the importance of the project and the quality of the design.  Consider now the design of heaven itself.  All of life is part of this magnificent project, and each person is vital.  It is reassuring to know that the Lord has a place for us in this heavenly mansion.

Thinking About God From Spiritual Ideas Rather Than Natural

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A natural idea of God is that God is invisible, shapeless, and everywhere. This is not different from the natural idea of space or energy force. Space is everywhere and energy is everywhere, hence God is some kind of force that’s everywhere. But thinking this way about God is antithetical to the fact that God has revealed that He is a human person who loves, thinks, and acts from his love through His Wisdom and Intelligence. If God thinks and loves, He must be a human person for only a human thinks and loves. Rocks don’t think and feel, and while animals love things they are not capable of thinking rationally. They act from their love instinctively, not by having to figure it out, like human beings. Children are taught to be human, that is, to speak and to use their thinking to satisfy their loves and intentions. An animal that grows up to an adult in an isolated state will act normally like the other animals in that species. All its ability to survive is innate or instinctive. It doesn’t need to be taught what to eat or how to get to the food. Human infants cannot grow up on their own, do not know how to think rationally or how to survive, do not know what to eat or how to get it. Every skill a human being develops must be taught. As a result human act not from instinct or innate knowledge, but from rational thinking, from a plan that leads to a goal that satisfied one’s needs and wishes.
So the definition of “human” is to act from desire or motive in accordance with a rational plan that leads to the goal that satisfies the need. God acts from love according to rational intelligence and wisdom. God created the universe from a desire to share the good with human beings. God desires to make human beings happy and proceeds to achieve this goal by rational order of all things created. It is revealed in the Writings that God created the universe as a home for human beings. Every human being that is created is immortal and God intends that human beings live in a state of heaven to eternity, in which humans are in a state of endless joy endlessly increasing in intensity. To achieve this state of eternal joy human beings must be born on some earth, raised by other human beings, and prepared to die and resuscitate for heavenly life in an immortal spiritual body. Humans must have free will and rationality in order to achieve this heavenly state. It is not according to God’s rational order to create human robots in heaven who are always heavenly in character. Those angel robots would not be able to act as if from themselves, in liberty and choice. Angel robots made in heaven would only act from God directly and would not have a self of their own. Without a self, there is no human being but only an organic robot activated by God as so many artificial extensions of Himself.
In the same way God would not be a human person if He did not act from free choice of love by means of rational reasoning. We need therefore to develop the spiritual idea that God is a human person in whom infinite things make one. Being human means that God must have organs like the created human beings:
That in God there are infinite things, any one may convince himself who believes that God is a Man; for, being a Man, He has a body and every thing pertaining to it, that is, a face, breast, abdomen, loins and feet; for without these He would not be a Man. And having these, He also has eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and tongue; also the parts within man, as the heart and lungs, and their dependencies, all of which, taken together, make man to be a man. In a created man these parts are many, and regarded in their details of structure are numberless; but in God-Man they are infinite, nothing whatever is lacking, and from this He has infinite perfection. This comparison holds between the uncreated Man who is God and created man, because God is a Man; and He Himself says that the man of this world was created after His image and into His likeness (Gen. 1:26, 27). (DLW 18)
Because in God-Man there are infinite things which appear in heaven, in angel, and in man, as in a mirror; and because God-Man is not in space (as was shown above, n. 7-10), it can, to some extent, be seen and comprehended how God can be Omnipresent, Omniscient, and All-providing; and how, as Man, He could create all things, and as Man can hold the things created by Himself in their order to eternity. (DLW 21)
In other words we are human because God is Human. Swedenborg uses the title the Divine-Human to refer to God. The idea that God is a Human is difficult to accept as long as you think of God as invisible and everywhere in the world, knowing all, seeing all. This is thinking about God from a natural concept, limited by restrictions of time and space and matter or energy. God is not energy or force for two reasons. First, because energy is a natural concept restricted to time and space. God creates energy, therefore God cannot be energy. Second, the idea of energy or force annihilates the Human nature of God. Energy or force does not love or think rationally. Only a human loves and thinks rationally. So, if we are willing to abandon the natural idea of God, we are then able to see God from a spiritual idea.
A spiritual idea of God is that God is infinite love and intelligence or wisdom. It is known that only humans can love and think rationally. Therefore a definition of what is human is to say that human is that which loves and thinks rationally. According to this definition therefore God is Human. And this makes good sense within the positive bias and dualism. God is the creator of everything that exists, and since God cannot change and has always been perfectly Human, every thing created by God must have an “image” or representation of God within itself. The entire universe is therefore a representation of the Divine-Human and this is true of every object in it, from molecule to galaxy, and from earthworm to human beings. his scientific principle was well known to the ancients, as reported by Swedenborg who had access to the earliest generations of humans on earth by being able to visit with them in their heavenly habitations where they have been for a long time.
Since God is Human and has a human anatomy just like ours, it is rational to talk to God and to love God, striving to come spiritually nearer to God by learning to act lovingly and rationally all the time. This greater closeness to God allows us to receive much more in terms of happiness, intelligence, and productivity. This closeness to God is not possible if God is an invisible force that cannot be understood by human minds. A love for some invisible energy is no love of God. Swedenborg proved this when he interviewed recent arrivals to the world of spirits about their idea of God. Those who came with the natural idea that God is an invisible force permeating the universe, now recanted and rejected any idea of God. When they were instructed that God is a Human, they found it preposterous and were unwilling to accept the idea. Their lifestyle in the spiritual world is unenviable and awful. This is because in this world we can be atheists and deny God, yet still be equally loving, moral, and decent as those who profess a belief in God, yet hardly live like what God wants and commands for their own sake.
It is extremely important to remember that only in this life on earth can we modify our basic loves. Once the physical body is dead and we are no longer in the natural world, we are awakened as “spirits” in a spiritual world. This is the continuation of human life for everyone, as part of being human. When we thus begin our new life in eternity, outside time and space, the rules of living and of reality are different. For example, we can see each other’s thoughts or intentions, not always in particular detail, but in a general form, as if from a distance. Still, it is enough that we can monitor features such as whether someone intends evil to us, or whether they are harmless. Also, what the other person is thinking is instantly reflected in the surrounding presence, so that all of a sudden it gets dark, or an awful smell is detected, or dangerous animals appear on the horizon, and so on. As a result only those people or “spirits” can be in each other’s presence or company who are similar to one another. This means that life in eternity is within communities that are distinctly different from each other, but within each community they are similar variations of each other, even though each is completely unique.
Swedenborg observed that those who are unwilling to accept the idea or truth that God is Human with all the human body organs, sink down into the corporeal mind where they filter out all rationality and love that they receive through the Spiritual Sun which permeates every human mind there. Swedenborg proved this experimentally by asking some of these people to repeat sentences after him that were rational and true. For example, “God is a Human,” which they repeated as “God is not a Human.” Or, “angels are good, devils are bad” which he repeated as “Devils are good, angels are bad.” And other ways, as for instance someone in the heaven of their mind wrote a sentence on a piece of paper which was then passed down to someone in the hell of their mind, who was asked to read it. And he read the opposite of what was written. This is because he filtered all incoming truth and rationality and turned it into its opposite. This is also interesting because it shows that those who keep themselves in the hell of their mind actually retain all their rationality so that they can read a sentence and say its opposite. This takes rational skills. So it is the perversion of their love that gets them to use their rationality to defeat it. Their evil loves defeat their capacity for rationality not just once and for all, but continuously, moment by moment. So fiercely do they hold on to these evil loves that no amount of suffering and agony they experience can convince them to come out of their evil loves.
You can see from these actual reports and experiments how important it is to have a spiritual idea of God, since this will be the basis of our reality to eternity. Our happiness, intelligence, and creativeness depends on this idea of God as a Human. Therefore you can see how important it is for all of us to really understand scientifically how it can be that God, as a Divine-Human Person, can be omnipresent.
This can only be understood with rational ideas put together rationally. Namely, that God is present everywhere not in space but apart from space and time. This then becomes our challenge: How do understand fully the idea of “apart from space and time.”
I have struggled with it for years and I’ve made steady progress understanding this idea more and more fully. You can begin now, and as you read more and more of the Writings, you will develop a gradually a fuller and fuller understanding of this rational principle about God and the reality of the universe we live in.
For now you can review again what was said above about our dreams: What if you could evolve the ability to be present in my dreams, not as a character I’m dreaming about, but the real you. You will be able to see my dreams, all the landscapes and people and events. But I the dreamer will not see you or know about you. Your ability makes it possible for you to be present in all my dreams. Thus, you will be omnipresent in my dreams. We could say therefore that you are present in all my dreams everywhere, but not in my dreams but apart from them. Your omnipresence in my dreams would not be possible if you were in my dreams rather than apart from them. Here we have an inkling of the spiritual meaning of how God as Human can be omnipresent in the universe. God is present everywhere not in time and space but apart from them.
And in this way we can continue expanding our understanding of God, and how God manages the universe on a continuous “online” basis by means of rational laws of management and engineering. The more rationally we are able to develop our understanding of God and God’s management techniques, the more we can receive from God the good things and the true things of life, such as the love of being useful and the wisdom to learn from the endless life of experience in eternity. But if we fail to develop this spiritual understanding of God we put a quick limit to our intelligence and humanity. This is because all intelligence and humanity comes to us from God, moment by moment. We do not possess any of it ourselves, so that if we cut off the online input or “influx,” we develop into a sub-human person that immerses the individual in awful experiences that never end.
Much is at stake here, correct?
Look at the fallacies one can fall into when considering God from a natural idea. quoting from student reports:
Negative bias is a major roadblock to the study of theistic psychology. Negative bias is often a trait shared by many atheist and agnostics. Their inability to prove the existence of God leads them to the conclusion that God is an impossibility. In the article “A Christian God’s Contradictions”, God is professed to be a contradiction of ideals and therefore a universal impossibility. The article claims that a being who is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent, cannot possibly exist because each of these traits contradicts the other (www.anatheist.com/Articles/god_contradictions.html ). Of course the author does not explain how these things contradict each of, but merely states it as fact. The article discusses the concept of the law of non-contradiction, and how this proves the non-existence of God, since He is not composed of atoms and matter. The law of non-contradictions states that nothing can exist without matter or some form of substance, so since God is said to exist in the spirit world He must be without substance, thus fully embracing a negative bias. ( www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/clark/report1.htm )
The two main standards to deciding whether or not a theory is scientific are its testability and compatibility to natural law. In the case of a theistic approach, its spiritual nature makes it impossible to be tested and confirms its incompatibility to natural law. Furthermore, in reference to Theistic Psychology, Swedenborg’s journeys to the spiritual realm, as far as we know, cannot be repeated. Therefore, it is not a guarantee that he undeniably talked to God and interviewed spirits. ( www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/le/report1.htm )
In the following passage from Swedenborg “the doctrine of faith” refers to the understanding of scientific revelations in sacred scripture or “the Word” which refers to the Word of God or Divine Speech. There are two approaches, one valid the other not. It is not valid to “regard the doctrine of faith from rational things” which is “not to believe in the Word.” This is the negative bias. The correct approach is to “regard rational things from the doctrine of faith,” and this “is first to believe in the Word, or in the doctrine therefrom.” This is the positive bias, or the “affirmative principle.” In other words one must first believe that sacred scripture is Divine revelation, and then one can confirm rationally that it is so. But the negative bias is first to examine sacred scripture to see if it fits our rational assumptions before we accept it as Divine truth. With this approach one remains in the negative bias or the “negative principle”).

As regards man it is one thing to regard the doctrine of faith from rational things, and altogether another to regard rational things from the doctrine of faith.
To regard the doctrine of faith from rational things is not to believe in the Word, or in the doctrine thence derived, until one is persuaded from rational things that it is so; whereas to regard rational things from the doctrine of faith is first to believe in the Word, or in the doctrine therefrom, and then to confirm the same by rational things. The former is inverted order, and results in nothing being believed; whereas the latter is genuine order, and causes the man to believe the better. (…)
[3] These things are much treated of in the Word in its internal sense, especially where Asshur and Egypt are spoken of; for the reason that while the doctrine of faith is regarded from rational things, that is, while a man does not believe until he is persuaded from them that it is so, it then not only becomes null and void, but whatever is contained in it is also denied; whereas when rational things are regarded from the doctrine of faith, that is, when a man believes the Word, and afterwards the same things are confirmed by rational things, the doctrine is then living and whatever is contained in it is affirmed.

  1. [4] There are therefore two principles; one of which leads to all folly and insanity, and the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in the heart that we cannot believe them until we are convinced by what we can apprehend, or perceive by the senses; this is the principle that leads to all folly and insanity, and is to be called the negative principle. The other principle is to affirm the things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within ourselves that they are true because the Divine-Human has said them: this is the principle that leads to all intelligence and wisdom, and is to be called the affirmative principle.

[5] The more they who think from the negative principle consult things rational, the more they consult memory-knowledges, and the more they consult things philosophical, the more do they cast and precipitate themselves into darkness, until at last they deny all things. The causes of this are, that no one can apprehend higher things from lower ones, that is, spiritual and celestial things, still less Divine things, from lower ones, because they transcend all understanding, and moreover everything is then involved in negatives from that principle. On the other hand, they who think from an affirmative principle can confirm themselves by whatever things rational, by whatever memory-knowledges, and whatever things philosophic they have at command; for all these are to them things confirmatory, and give them a fuller idea of the matter.

[6] Moreover there are some who are in doubt before they deny, and there are some who are in doubt before they affirm. They who are in doubt before they deny are they who incline to a life of evil; and when this life carries them away, then insofar as they think of the matters in question they deny them. But they who are in doubt before they affirm are they who incline to a life of good; and when they suffer themselves to be bent to this by the Divine-Human, then insofar as they think about those things so far they affirm. As this subject is further treated of in the verses which follow,. it is permitted of the Divine-Human’s Divine mercy to illustrate them more fully there (see n. 2588). AC 2568.
Note especially this sentence: “The more they who think from the negative principle consult things rational, the more they consult memory-knowledges, and the more they consult things philosophical, the more do they cast and precipitate themselves into darkness, until at last they deny all things.” It should be noted that “to consult the rational” refers to the rational part of the natural mind or the “natural-rational” way of thinking. This is as different from the “spiritual-rational” as the spiritual is superior or higher to the natural. What is the difference?
The natural-rational way of thinking consists of knowledge built up from the physical senses and its abstracted principles such as we find in materialistic science or monism. If we let this type of reasoning judge the truth value of sacred scripture we will always reject revelation and remain in the negative bias forever. Hence it is said that this natural-rational “ought not be consulted.” But if we accept sacred scripture as Divine truth we are thinking in the mode of dualism in accordance with scientific revelations. We are thus in the positive bias. When we then examine sacred scripture we can confirm its truth rationally by thinking of how the natural events are mere effects that are caused by spiritual events. The knowledge and understanding of spiritual events described in sacred scripture builds up our spiritual-rational thinking so that it filters down and conditions the natural-rational thinking. This leads to enlightenment which is the ability to think and reason in the dualist mode of sacred scripture.

Divine Providence & Evil

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Divine Providence & Evil